Posted by: David Vernon | February 16, 2010

Two Flash Surprises

Behold the mighty flash – in this case a Nikon SB-800. Not much too see here folks – you might want to move along.

For what is really a pretty simple tool, there’s a lot of useful bells and whistles on these guys. Some of them are buried in the menus, while some are more commonly hidden in plain sight. So I’m often surprised when I explain two little hidden gems at the Business End of the Flash. Lots of folks don’t know these things are actually here (across brands and models too) and even if they do, they may have some misunderstandings about their practical use. But I’m telling you – there are two very useful assistants hiding at the end that delivers the photons.

Actually, let’s take a closer look at what’s hiding under the covers on a typical flash. And that means we have to take the proverbial covers off and look at one more image – the Hyde to the above’s Jeckyll.

Can you believe all of that is hidden up there. So if your flash has these – what do they really do? Let’s start by talking about the “Wide Angle Adapter”. A lot of folks think this flip out device is just a diffuser of sorts – a built in Sto-Fen Omni-Bounce. Okay – it will diffuse a little bit – but it’s main purpose in life is to disperse the beam of your flash to it’s widest setting – even wider usually then your widest zoom. My SB-800 optimally zooms to 24mm. When I pull the wide angle adapter out – it automagically zooms to 17mm – giving me even wider spread on my beam. If you’re shooting a wide group, say, or going for the biggest bounce you can get, the wide angle adapter kicks butt.

But I mentioned the Sto-Fen Omni Bounce earlier. Actually that’s often mistaken as simply a diffuser but it also has a greater purpose. When I stick an Omni-Bounce on my SB-800 – it actually trips a tiny switch right above the CE mark on the underside of my strobe that zooms my flash EVEN WIDER – to 14mm. The Omni Bounce’s true purpose is to actually spread light 180° from the flash head – and the widest possible zoom actually helps keep the light even. Nice.

Now what about the “Mini Bounce Card”? Well – bouncing your flash off the ceiling is a great trick to make softer light (the larger the light source, the softer the light). The ceiling essentially becomes your new light source but the change in directionality has taken something away – the nice catch light in the eye. The mini bounce card actually serves to just throw about 15% of the photons right at the subject – leaving a nice catch light right smack in the middle of the eyes and also doing just a little fill “assist” to boot.

Okay – got it? It’s pretty easy. Go grab your flash and see what you’ve got and see what happens when you mess with it. And then you won’t have to be so surprised when I bring it up.

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