Now, I know that a lot of folks who read my blog aren't photographers so I'm going to try to explain this in laymen's terms...
There is a light modifier called an Omni-Bounce. It's a little white plastic cap that fits over the end of your flash. Here's one for sale on Amazon. I think that some Nikon flashes come with a free one.
The purpose of this little cap is to take the light that is shooting out from the flash and make it go off in every direction. The light hits the plastic and basically turns it into a lamp that shoots light everywhere, instead of just straight ahead. The light then "bounces" off all the surface in the room (walls, ceilings, etc) and fills the room with light. This is where the "bounce" comes from in the name.
When taking pictures outdoors, there are no walls or ceiling. So, if you put an Omni-Bounce on your flash, all it does is take some of the light and divert it away from your subject where it is lost forever because there is nothing out there to bounce off. Because you have "stolen" some of the light, the flash has to produce more light than usual to light the subject. Sometime twice as much. When you are working outdoors in bright sun, you are frequently squeezing every bit of power out of your flash because the shadows are so dark that you have to overcome. The last thing you want to do is cut the flash's power in half.
Yet, I see photographers shooting outdoors with these diffusers all the time.
It wouldn't be so bad except that the internet is full of posts just like this one: Professional photographers begging people to at least read the directions on the thing!
Here, let me show you. One of these picture was taken with the flash pointed at the subject and the other with an Omni-Bounce:
But wait! There's more!
Not only do I see people using these diffusers when they are outside, but (this is the best part) they use them wrong when they are inside!
Allow me to explain:
The Omni-Bounce and it's bretheren are designed to bounce light primarily off the ceiling, with the rest of the light bouncing around the room. Some is also thrown forward. If you read the directions it clearly tells you that your flash should be tilted at a 45 degree angle. I see people with their flash pointed straight at the subject, with an Omni-Bounce, all the time.
These diffusers are good for one thing only: Tilt your flash at 45 degrees, be indoors where there are surfaces to bounce the light, and you will get a wider, flatter light from your flash. Outdoors they do nothing but reduce the power of your flash.
I own one but only use it with off-camera lighting when I want to light a room. I never use it on my on-camera flash because it's never as good as true bounce flash, which is more directional and pleasing (I'm losing the non-photographers here... sorry ).
I'm not saying you have to learn to use off-camera lighting, etc., to be a photographer but please stop using these indoor tools outdoors. It makes you look like someone who doesn't care about their work. If you've been a photographer for less than 6 months, fine but after that you should have learned how to use the thing properly. There is no tool in photography that is an all-purpose, good no matter where you are, thing. You have to study and train constantly to get the best results from the tools you have. Start by learning how light works.
End of rant. :)
Booray Perry is an award-winning wedding photographer in Tampa Florida.
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