Introduction: DIY Digital SLR Built In-flash Diffuser

About: I'm an engineer. I problem solve all day, problem solve all night. I LOVE learning, and I love teaching what I learn. I want to post more, but time constraints stop me.

I hate built in flashes. They're super bright, blind people, and they make spotlights for my wide-angle lens on my Canon XTI. With my wide-angle lens, it's quite noticeable; the lens shadow is in the picture, the edges are dark.

For taking pictures of parties, I wanted something that I could use so people don't look like rabbits in headlights and softened the lighting.

I also needed something with simple light weight construction that I can slip into my already heavy camera bag. I'm also broke from spending around 1800 dollars on camera gear. I have no more money left for an external flash. Paper is a tolerable diffuser.

This instructable inspired me, but I don't want to be branded a smoker (even though I do occasionally):
Cigarette Packet Flash Diffuser


Step 1: Testing

I tested with a piece of printer paper to find the best location for the diffuser. I'm not working with the best materials, so i figured I'd try to find the optimum location.

I later gave up and made the diffuser modifiable for your needs. You can find one location and leave it there.

Step 2: Print Out Template, Cut Out and Tape

I used a CAD software program and made two versions of the template - one is a larger version for more light, I've never tested the smaller version. it just seems more compact.

Just cut out the print out, mount the bottom square part to a card stock/reused plastic with glue and cut out the slits

Cut out the top portion and fold on the lines. Tape the top portion to the bottom portion in the back. Fold on the back and tape the folded part down. This acts as a hinge for the top portion and keeps them together easily. Don't let it get folded or crumpled, this will not let it stand up correctly.

I originally had the idea to use all card stock and cut out a hole in front to glue diffuser material on it. If you do this, you can play with different materials. You can mount gels, different colored office paper, or make slits to act as barn doors for your flash.

It's up to you.

Step 3: Go Shoot Yourself (with Your Camera)

For testing purposes, I went to the darkest room in my house, the bathroom and turned off all the lights. I then shot photos of myself and my bathroom.

The first one is with my 30mm 1.4. Since it's a really fast lens, it doesn't have any problems with taking pictures with low light.

However, it is possible to see the difference in the lighting. Without the flash, the highlights are far more brighter, and the lighting is harsh.

With the diffuser, my features are softer and the lighting is more natural.

Remember , this effectively cuts the distance your flash will work, you'll need to slow down your camera speed to get the further distances. This might require you to go to manual mode because the camera is expecting a certain power output from the flash and won't adjust for the lower output.

For closer pictures, this works well.

Step 4: Take Pictures of Your Bathroom Sans Lights

The wide angle lens is a 10-20mm 4.0-5.6 so it can see three corners of most rooms in my house. This lens I have a problem with most when using the flash. When trying to take pictures of people, I end up throwing away all of my pictures because this lens isn't fast enough to take a party scene.

The following pictures are taken at f4.0 1/60 ISO100.

If I bump up the ISO, I could get more light here, but I wanted to see what the diffuser would do in worse case situations. I'm still afraid of noise from the higher ISOs (I know I'm an idiot since this camera doesn't generate much noise, but whatever)

You can see the shadow caused by the lens solidly outlined in the first photo, and the edges are vignetted.

In the second photo, the lens shadow is still visible, but it's diffused and not as harsh. The edges are less vignetted.

Step 5: Go Have Fun!

You can fold this up and stash it in your bag. I have a zippered pouch that I hold my manuals in, this fits perfectly in it and doesn't get crushed. If it does, I'll print out another and make another one.

The tab on the back part slips into the hotshoe - if you use something sturdy, make sure that it doesn't damage the contacts on your hotshoe, for when you actually do get a real flash.

I used scotch tape to thicken up the plastic piece that I use as the bottom piece. The plastic is left over from a marker case that I used to have, so it's a little hard to cut, so card stock might be a better choice.

Let me know of any changes you think of!