I’ve said before, “it’s not how many Speedlites you have, it’s where you put the ONE Speedlite you have that matters.” Right after light position, it is the size of the source that determines the character of the light. How do you make a Speedlite seem bigger or smaller? You modify it. Each of the three headshots above was created at the same exposure. The difference is created by the position and modifier on the single Speedlite — in this case, the Sto-Fen OmniBounce and the Flashpoint Q Dome Diffuser. Dome diffusers are simple, inexpensive mods that can create surprisingly beautiful light.
The Flat Light Of On-Axis Flash
The telltale look of a headshot lit entirely with a small flash that sits above the lens is that both sides of the face are lit evenly. While there is nothing wrong with the shot above, there’s also nothing dramatic about it. Remember, if you light everything equally, then nothing will stand out.
Also note how the light that flew past Alora illuminated the background. The other two headshots in this series were made at the same camera settings. So the difference in the tone of the background is created solely by the Speedlite.
Sto-Fen OmniBounce – Boxy, But Good
This is my favorite of the three shots in this series. I like it because of the dramatic falloff. You may not like it for precisely the same reason. That’s O.K. Note how the shadows on the cheeks and under the chin make Alora’s face appear more slender.
I almost always carry a Sto-Fen OmniBounce dome diffuser — which is a translucent plastic box that slips directly onto the Speedlite (as shown below). When you buy one, be sure to get the model that is specific to your flash as they are custom molded for each design. The Sto-Fen does not significantly increase the apparent size of the flash — rather it just throws the light out at more random angles than a bare Speedlite.
The dramatic fall-off (“chiaroscuro”) is created by the position of the flash. As you can see just below, I mounted the Speedlite on the arm of a C-stand and positioned it just out of the frame. Since the light was much closer to Alora’s forehead that it was to her shoulders, the light falls off into a natural vignette. One point to watch when you’re lighting aggressively like this is that you don’t blow out the detail in the forehead. I went right to that line and then backed off the power just a bit.
Flashpoint Q Dome Diffuser – Like An Ostrich Egg
The other dome diffuser I have in my kit is the Flashpoint Q Diffuser Dome — which is about the size of an ostrich egg. As you can see below, this mod definitely increases the apparent size of the Speedlite and sends light in a spherical pattern. As with the Sto-Fen, I positioned the Flashpoint Q dome diffuser just outside the frame. The falloff is less intense than the Sto-Fen because of the increased size of the source. Feel free to pick this one as your favorite over the Sto-Fen.
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