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Thread: DIY Gary Fong Lightsphere

  1. #1
    It's all about the Light!
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    DIY Gary Fong Lightsphere

    I have to be 2nd shooter at a wedding on Saturday. Decided I needed a softer flash.
    I had a look at the Gary Fong Lightsphere but a)I could not get one in time b) they are an expensive piece of plastic.

    Hmmmm... Googled and found the following DIY version...
    DIY Gary Fong Lightsphere- instructions

    Then I checked the local IKEA...
    RATIONELL drawer mat - transparent

    A few dollars later I have one!

    I took a few test shots of Nel (who won't let me publish them, no makeup and in her jammies ) - and it works a treat!

    So I also still have a good length of the drawer mat left over, any SA locals that are interested can have a strip
    regards, Kym Gallery Honest & Direct Constructive Critique Appreciated! ©
    Digital & film, Bits of glass covering 10mm to 500mm, and other stuff



  2. #2
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    FYI: The drawer mat is tougher and thicker than bubble wrap, holds it shape very well, and the 'bubbles' don't have air in them (and are smaller than bubble wrap).

    Interesting material - there is a grey version - make sure you get the transparent one.

  3. #3
    Good to hear you saved a lot of money and did your own..

    i was lazy and just bought one off ebay for like 5 bucks or something..

    yea do post pics when you get the chance

  4. #4
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    These days most professional photographers tend to just bounce directly off a wall or ceiling. It tends to be much less cumbersome and gives quasi-studio results because you get directional lighting and don't end up with direct flash that you do when you use tupperware "diffusers". The trick is to get a surface in front of the subject (e.g. a wall/ceiling area behind you), and to get as large a surface as possible (e.g. intersection of 2 walls and a ceiling)

    Actually I think Dennis Reggie the fairly famous U.S. photographer was the one who popularised the directional bare bounce technique, he calls it "foofing", the fact that he doesn't use a Gary Fong (or similar device) even though he was like his best man at his wedding tells you something
    Last edited by pollen; 06-07-2009 at 12:21pm.

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    when King Gillette invented the safety razor, he was only interested in the money. the world didn't need a new razor, as straight edge (or cut throats as we Australians call them) still to this day provide the best shave. he was an inventor and had no more interest in razors or shaving than the next man.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by pollen View Post
    These days most professional photographers tend to just bounce directly off a wall or ceiling. It tends to be much less cumbersome and gives quasi-studio results because you get directional lighting and don't end up with direct flash that you do when you use tupperware "diffusers". The trick is to get a surface in front of the subject (e.g. a wall/ceiling area behind you), and to get as large a surface as possible (e.g. intersection of 2 walls and a ceiling)

    Actually I think Dennis Reggie the fairly famous U.S. photographer was the one who popularised the directional bare bounce technique, he calls it "foofing", the fact that he doesn't use a Gary Fong (or similar device) even though he was like his best man at his wedding tells you something
    Sure - bounce when you can!

    But there are many times where the ceiling is too high, wrong colour, wrong texture (straw types) etc.
    This device is still a major advance in soft light on raw flash or the Stofen type attachments.

    At the wedding on Saturday it helped in a big way at the service as there were no decent bounce surfaces.
    The main two tog's had a couple of assistance holding umberllas etc. for some of their work and set-up portable lighting for some of the formal shots.

    So if the choice is no bounce and using this sort of device - its simple!

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    Kym you do have another choice when you can't bounce: direct flash. This will be practically the same as using a Gary Fong when you can't bounce.

    I understand the point you're making but I have a major disagreement with what you say, because in my mind the Gary Fong is a Bounce modifier. It too relies on bouncing otherwise only the direct flash component of it goes through. So in the absence of a bouncing surface (e.g. outdoors into the sky) the only flash will be direct flash. In those situations, you may as well just point the flash straight ahead, it will be identical. (Try going outdoors and photographing a person first with direct flash, then with the Gary Fong. The images would be near identical assuming you keep the parameters constant and are within the range of the (range crippled) flash. Theoretically, because the tupperware diffusers like the Fong are slightly larger than the bare flash head, you get a very slightly softer light but this is not noticeable in practice because the difference is so small.

    With your other concerns, colour, high ceiling, texture, I have described the workarounds below:

    Ceilings can rarely be relied upon, because of the shadows it casts and also because as you say it is often too high. Instead, you should try and find other surfaces to bounce off, such as people, poles, furniture etc. Here there was a brown, very high ceiling so I roosted the camera up on a Monopod and bounced off a window blind):


    Here's another photo, the top photo is the scene showing where I was standing and where the models were coming out of. Normally fashion shoots are flash-less, but this one they had these awful spotlights which made available light photography unusable, so I had to use flash (nearly burned out my flash units too from the heavy usage). As you can see the ceiling was pretty gruesome (had slits and stuff that reflected back towards me (not evident in photo) so in the end I ended up bouncing off the silver poles you can see on the right. They provided a nice surface that reflected the light back (sample photos below). More importantly, they went in the direction I wanted.


    In this one I did bounce off the ceiling (kind of, more like the intersection of celing and wall) Colour of the ceiling or texture is irrelevant because you can just colour correct the White Balance in RAW. You can't tell from this photo because I colour corrected it, but the ceiling was actually Gold and Textured Flowers (in this photo it looks silver/grey because I colour corrected the whole image):


    Or a more extreme example, bouncing off a red painted wall (not visible in photo but it was actually more like crimson red) (excuse the poor quality photo it was just a test shot at a wedding):


    As long as you photograph in RAW, colour correction is easy. The only problem is when you allow your ambient light to mix with the bounced flash too much (e.g. if you overexpose the ambient), then you get the mixed lighting effect which is correctable only by gelling your flash or by time consuming work (best to avoid this)

    So yeah, you don't have to use diffuser/flash modifier if you don't want to. Most wedding and event photographers don't use them anymore.
    Last edited by pollen; 07-07-2009 at 12:50am.

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    Interesting discussion. In the end it is up to each photographer to do what works for them, and certainly just cause every other wedding photographer is doing something at present doesn't make it the perfect solution. Sometimes doing something different to the 'crowd' is the best approach. After all, go back 10 years and I am sure everyone was talking about, the then current, 'best way'. Give it another 10 years and in 2020, people will be saying stuff about how the current trend was a silly way of doing it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by pollen View Post
    Kym you do have another choice when you can't bounce: direct flash.
    The point I'm making is very simple...
    I constructed a device that gives much softer light than direct flash, especially when there is no bounce surface.
    Easily adjustable by varying the angle and only a few dollars and 10 minutes to make.

    This is not a debate about GF LS vs bounce - its just a helpful idea to members that they will find useful.

    I'm not against bounce of any other form of lighting - you use what you need to to get a good result.

    There is no point to your post - you are making a vacuous argument over a non issue.

    Bottom line - it works!

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  10. #10
    Who me? dbax's Avatar
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    thanks Kym, going to make my own and give it ago
    Cheers David.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dbax View Post
    thanks Kym, going to make my own and give it ago
    Have fun. If you were local I'd give you a strip of the plastic

    I've found I can vary the light by tilting the flash head.
    As far as I can tell this particular plastic (with the nobs) seems to spread the light very well and the light is dispersed over a much larger area then just the flash head.

    Mine is 16cm x 40cm (slightly bigger) and Velcroed like the article.
    I also stapled the edge of the Velcro to the plastic (the sticky velcro can pull away otherwise)

  12. #12
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    I'd like to try it too.. my problem is getting to an Ikea store! I hate most stores unless they stock the D700, but that's beside the point



    As for the argument of bounce direct and bounced modified or FF (fonged flash).. every situation calls for a different approach, as sometimes direct flash just looks plain awful, with bad shadows and too harsh for the required look.

    The SB800(and 900) come with a diffuser dome, which then aoutomagically set the flash zoom setting to 14mm in width. So the flash aoutmatically spreads the light more evenly. Sometimes(last time at my sisters house shoot) I remember I didnt; want that, I wanted the light to be more concentrated, but still soft and diffused, and I had to adjust the elevation of the flash head, as well as slightly unclip the diffuser dome(to undo the 14mm fixed zoom setting) and it worked kind of OK.
    If the Fong lightsphere thing was a lot cheaper then it'd make some sense in a price performance perspective.. but from memory it costs something like $80!!

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  13. #13
    nice thread Kym, I'm a fan of DIY solutions on the cheap, especially when the results are excellent, thanks for the heads up mate
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  14. #14
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    Might have to try this myself now I have a flash- was playing with bouncing off the ceiling last night No ikeas near here though :/
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    Some great advice here, Ill be watching this for more replies and maybe some personal experiences.
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    Cool very interesting info.

    Never thought of bouncing off poles or peopel.... or my girlfriend
    lol I'll dress her in white though.

    Great ideas


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  17. #17
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    Very cool idea Kym, have been playing around with bubble wrap - this is so much better.
    Regards
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  18. #18
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    Wish I had seen this thread 2 months ago, BEFORE I bought the GF Lightsphere.
    Comments.......Yes it does work well
    Yes it is a REALLY expensive piece of plastic
    It's also bloody cumbersome in a camera bag.
    I'm going to go to IKEA and have a go at the home made one, just for the sake of it.
    If it works just as well, I may ebay the GF

  19. #19
    Bird-Aholic feral1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kym View Post
    I have to be 2nd shooter at a wedding on Saturday. Decided I needed a softer flash.
    I had a look at the Gary Fong Lightsphere but a)I could not get one in time b) they are an expensive piece of plastic.

    Hmmmm... Googled and found the following DIY version...
    DIY Gary Fong Lightsphere- instructions

    Then I checked the local IKEA...
    RATIONELL drawer mat - transparent

    A few dollars later I have one!

    I took a few test shots of Nel (who won't let me publish them, no makeup and in her jammies ) - and it works a treat!

    So I also still have a good length of the drawer mat left over, any SA locals that are interested can have a strip
    I might just take you up on that Kym, I am looking at some photos of the Grand kids and bouncing is not always the solution I have noticed.

    Peter
    Any comments and critique always welcome
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  20. #20
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    i bought some of the ikea drawer mat if any melbourne locals want some for free. there's plenty in a roll.
    Thanks,
    Nam

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