Introduction: Make Bounce Flash More Portable

Picture of Make Bounce Flash More Portable

This is a photo of a bracket I made so I can use my camera's direct flash to give a soft, omni-directional effect.

Step 1: A Photo Made With This Bracket

Picture of A Photo Made With This Bracket

This photo was made with bounce flash from this bracket. Light disperses by the inverse square law which means the strength of the light falling on a subject is one-fourth its previous intensity as the distance from the subject doubles. The resulting photo may have even light, but it may be at too low a level to give a pleasing or even a useful image. I wanted to be able to pick up my camera and get results like the photo above consistently, even if the ceiling is too high or too dark to reflect much light back.

Step 2: The Plan

Picture of The Plan

I have a Kodak z710 digital camera with a pop-up flash unit mounted on top of the camera. The photo shows it mounted to a double reflector bounce flash bracket I made. A smaller reflector just above the lens is set at about 45 degrees and bounces light up to a much larger reflector that is also set at about 45 degrees. I use this setup for Instructables photos usually taken within a distance of two feet or less. Through experimentation, I found I needed to make the reflective surfaces a dull gray to mute the light a little and prevent overexposure that washes out details. Years ago I got a photographer's gray card and used it with my handheld light meter. A gray card does not distort color. It is perfect for muting light while keeping colors true.

Materials

  • 1/2 x 1/2 inch square steel tubing
  • 1/8 x 3/4 inch flat steel bar
  • 1/8 inch steel rod
  • 3/16 inch steel rod
  • 1/4 x 20 bolt and wing nut
  • 10 x 32 machine screws
  • 1/8 inch fiber board
  • Gray spray paint

Tools

  • 4 inch angle grinder with a cutting wheel
  • Drill
  • Spring clamps
  • Flat bar aluminum to hold things while welding
  • Welder, preferably wire feed
  • 10 x 32 thread tap
  • Measuring rule

Step 3: Flat Bar

Picture of Flat Bar

Place a piece of flat bar over the bottom of the camera. Mark the location for the mounting hole. Drill the hole.

Bend a piece of 1/8 inch rod to fit around the bottom of the camera. This will keep the camera aligned with the flat bar. Mark its position. Remove the bar from the camera and weld the 1/8 inch rod in place. Bend the rod for fine adjustment.

Step 4: Cut and Bend the Flat Bar

Picture of Cut and Bend the Flat Bar

Use a tripod mounting screw (1/4 x 20) to secure the flat bar to the camera bottom. Mark the flat bar for cutting. Allow some extra for a vertical section that will be welded to the square tubing. Consider whether you want enough space for your hand to grip the square tubing as a handle. Cut the flat bar. Bend it. Weld the square tubing to the vertical portion of the flat bar.

I could give exact dimensions, but dimensions will be a little different if you have a different camera. I began at the tripod mounting socket on the camera and worked my way to the upper reflector, judging the size of each piece by how the assembly fit up to that point.

Step 5: Fitting for the Welds

Picture of Fitting for the Welds

I began with a piece of square tubing just under 30 inches long. My aim was to notch each joint to a "V" without cutting the square tubing off completely. Then I could simply bend the uncut side of the square tubing and weld where the edges from the other faces meet. A lot depends on how precisely you can calculate the angle of the "V" to be cut out, how well you can mark it, and how precisely you can cut it. I used my eyeball and held the grinder by hand while cutting. That meant I sometimes had to grind more on one side or the other before the joint fit as it should before I welded it.

The attachment point for the upper reflector will need to be set back a bit from where the camera mounts. The steel at the lower left of the photo is near the attachment point for the upper reflector.

Step 6: 45 Degree Angle

Picture of 45 Degree Angle

Getting the square tubing face at 45 degrees to the base of the camera required cutting and welding an extra joint near the upper end. See the right side of the photo.

Step 7: Mount the Fiber Board Reflector

Picture of Mount the Fiber Board Reflector

I welded a piece of square tubing that runs horizontally across the back of the upper reflector. Cut the fiber board reflector. Paint it gray. Drill a couple of holes for mounting screws and tap threads in the horizontal steel cross piece. (You can see the screw heads.)

Step 8: The Small Reflector

Picture of The Small Reflector

Make the small reflector large enough that light from the flash does not spill around it and show up in the photo as a bright border on one edge of the photo. Because the small reflector is mounted with a piece of 3/16 inch rod, I could bend the rod a little to adjust the position of the smaller reflector.

Step 9: Photos With the Wrong Hand

Picture of Photos With the Wrong Hand

The placement of the shutter button on my camera assumes I will hold and operate it with my right hand. But, sometimes I want my right hand to hold something in the photo. I can cradle the camera and my bounce bracket in my left hand and depress the shutter with my left index finger.

The upper reflector makes it difficult to get my eye to the viewfinder. I use the larger screen on the back of the camera to compose the photo. Even if I should move the camera a little during exposure, the flash is effectively the shutter and eliminates any sign of camera shake.

Grind the welds smooth. Paint the assembly, if desired.

I am still thinking about whether I want a tripod mount for this or not, and how I would do that.

Comments

craftclarity (author)2014-06-17

This is a nice application of the Inverse Square Law...never ceases to amaze me how many places in the universe it applies.
Nicely made, nicely done 'ible.....only recommendation I have is to put a picture of the finished object as your lead image, it will help people see what you've made....

Phil B (author)craftclarity2014-06-17

Thanks. I could do that.

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Bio: I miss the days when magazines like Popular Mechanics had all sorts of DIY projects for making and repairing just about everything. I am enjoying ... More »
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