How to Make a Simple Flash Diffuser for FREE!

From left to right: A bottle of rubbing alcohol, a relish container, and a vinegar bottle.

When using a flash the light produced is very hard (let's just call it what it is–ugly) without a lighting modifier.  We have written before about what each lighting modifier does differently to impact the quality of light, but I still get a lot of questions about what little on-flash diffusers do to impact the light quality.

These small (usually hard plastic) diffusers are intended to spread light, make the light source slightly larger, and get a slightly softer light quality.

There are DOZENS (hundreds?) of different simple flash diffusers for sale in all different shapes and sizes.  Some of them, like the Gary Fong Lightsphere, are expensive and don't do any better than Tupperware.  My point in that article was simply to show that I see no difference in the resulting photo when using an expensive specialized light diffuser when compared to any old simple chunk of plastic.  The light quality in my testing is the same.

So I have written before with some great home-made options for simple lighting diffusers, but this idea is absolutely free!  Before showing you how to do it, I have to credit Ed Cord.  Ed Cord is one of the most active (and helpful!) readers who (like a few other readers) is kind enough to answer all of your photography questions on the Facebook page.  If you are a part of the Improve Photography Facebook group, you probably already know Ed.

Anyway, let's get down to business.  How do you make this amazing little flash diffuser for free?

Step #1: Take a simple frosted plastic container that is no longer in use.  Many different types of container can work for this.  Ed has used a 16 oz. rubbing alcohol bottle, a relish bottle, and a vinegar bottle.

Step #2: Cut around the edges of the container to get it to about the right size for a flash diffuser (see picture for an approximate)

Step #3: Glue on a simple strip of velcro around the edge of the container that you can also connect to your flash if you want to keep it ultra secure.  I've found that it often stays on just fine without even putting the other velcro side onto the flash, but your results may vary.

Step #4: Shoot some photos!  It's just enough to take the edge off the flash and make it look much nicer than the bare flash.  For samples of what adding a simple flash diffuser can do, check out the Tupperware vs. Lightsphere comparison.

If you are new to flash photography and want to learn how it all works and how you can get amazing results with inexpensive flash photography gear, you should really take a look at our 30-day online portrait photography class, where flash photography is a main focus of the course.

15 thoughts on “How to Make a Simple Flash Diffuser for FREE!”

  1. I made a diffuser out of a 50 cent plastic salad bowl from Walmart…silver plumbing tape on the inside, and glued sewing interfacing to the rim. Cut a hole to fit my flash. Works beautifully!

  2. I’ve been using an alcohol bottle bottom for at least 3 years. Got the EXPENSIVE dome and never use it….. gets in my way, I don’t know if it works better or not. I know it’s easier.

  3. How would something like this compare to the smaller diffuser that came with my SB700 flash? It came out with a pullout thing plastic one, and also a much bigger plastic one that pops on the front.

  4. Cool little post. Or pop up flashes, all I do is tape a tissue over the flash, and fold it either two times for things further away or four times for very lose range. Does WONDERS for the quality of light!

  5. I have also used coffee filters to diffuse the light from my pop-up flash…Just cut to size and tape over the flash. Cheap and works well.

  6. In your article, “Gary Fong Lightsphere vs. Tupperware” and here, you are showing an inexpensive way to use DIY diffusers instead of a “professional” diffusers that may just be ripoffs, but what about actual, valuable/innovative diffusers? I was wondering if you have had the chance to shoot with a Graslon diffuser (http://graslon.com/a-different-flash-diffuser/)? It looks like an interesting product and I would love your opinion/comparisons with a diffuser like this.

  7. I learned this 20 years ago in a continuing ed photo class. After I cut the alcohol bottle, I put it in the oven at a very low temperature just to make it pliable so it could be molded to fit the flash.

  8. I made a diffuser away from home of a 50 cent plastic salad bowl from Walmart…silver plumbing tape on the inside, and glued basting interfacing to the frame. Cut a abyss to fit my flare. Works beautifully!

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