Flash photography is often frowned upon. The blinding, flat light of an on-camera flash is about the least flattering light possible. Even with external flashes, such as those from Canon, Nikon, Sony and other camera manufacturers, the quality of light can be pretty dismal. Luckily, it doesn’t have to be this way.
If you own or plan to buy an external flash for your camera, here are a few accessories that will help improve the quality of your on-camera flash.
Rogue FlashBender – $35 to $60
Rogue makes a variety of flash modifiers, but the FlashBender is the company’s key product. Available in a range of sizes, the FlashBender is essentially a flexible bounce card that sends light forward as well as upward to bounce off a ceiling. Use it when you want soft, equal lighting in a room. It can also be molded into different shapes to direct the light more narrowly.
The newest version, the FlashBender 2 XL Pro, features an extra large, “Super Soft Silver” surface that offers a nice compromise between a flat white reflector and a contrast-oriented silver one.
The FlashBender attaches to any standard flash via a simple strap, is lightweight, and will easily stow away in any camera bag.
Westcott Micro Apollo – $30
Like any soft box, the Micro Apollo uses a large, white shoot-through surface with black sides and back. This provides an even, soft light compared to a bare flash, while controlling light spill. Use it when you want to light a subject without bouncing light around the entire room.
At 5 inches by 8 inches, the Micro Apollo is designed specifically for on-camera use. It fits virtually any brand of full-size external flash, sets up in seconds, and is very portable.
Fstoppers Flash Disc – $50
The Flash Disc works a lot like a soft box, only with a smaller profile. It provides a very even light and is great for portraits or product shots. As a bonus, the backside of the Flash Disc offers a built-in gray, white, and black card that can be used to dial in white balance and exposure on your camera.
Thanks to a collapsible design, the Flash Disc folds down into a carrying pouch that can fit in the palm of your hand.
Magmod Magsphere – $50 + $25 for required Maggrip
Magmod makes all kinds of flash accessories, from grids to gels to diffusers, and they’re all part of an integrated system. Each modifier attaches to a flash via strong neodymium magnets, so they’re incredibly quick to work with. The Magsphere is a diffuser with a much lower profile than the other modifiers on this list, which is nice when you’re trying not to draw too much attention to yourself. It also features better light transmission than other hard plastic diffusers. It works best as a catch or fill light, both indoors and outdoors.
A 3×5” card – $3 for a pack of 100
Let’s face it, sometimes the simplest solution is the best. Or if not the best, at least it’s the cheapest. With any old three-by-five-inch note card and a rubber band out of the junk drawer, you can have yourself one of the greatest flash accessories around. Try to find a card that is as close to pure white as possible, as off-white cards will lend a color cast to the flash output. Simply rubber-band one end to the back of the flash head, point the flash upward, and shoot away. Indoors, you’ll get a nice bounce off the ceiling plus some forward fill light from the card itself.
Yes, that suggestion is here partly as a joke, but many established wedding photographers have been known to shoot entire receptions with nothing else attached to their flash. So if money is tight, give it a try.