Tone down that pop up flash already!

Do you use your camera’s pop up flash? So how’s that working out for you? I’m willing to bet that your shots are getting blown out, cold looking, and any ambient light that is available is being lost. So what can you do about it? There’s a couple of solutions available.

First is to go out and buy a hot shoe flash, these run from $50 and up. Depending on what you want to spend will determine what features and power you get out of it. I know what your saying, “I know this Mark. If I had the money don’t you think I’d be owning one by now?”

Yes I know you would have done this but for those who haven’t here’s solution number two. Get a thin piece of white paper, nothing thicker than typing paper. Pop up the flash and tape the paper to the back of the flash. Now curl the bottom of the paper down and tape it to a non moving part of the lens or camera body. Keep the paper loose so that you don’t bring the flash down.

Now you have a nice “soft box” to calm down the flash and turn it into a fill flash. This will cut down the distance the flash is effective, so a normal or short lens will work best for this (50mm or below). All you have to do now is focus and fire without changing the cameras settings. Not only will your subjects be better lighted but the ambient light will give nice warm lighting to the background.

Here’s examples of the what you can get:

Ambient light only.
soft box 1

Pop up flash, no paper soft box.
soft box 2

Pop up flash with paper soft box (I used notebook paper in this shot).
soft box 3

You can experiment with different papers and get different results. Some will allow more light than others and color paper gives a gel like illumination. Happy shooting.


About Mark Birks
Professional photographer specializing in fine art photography and portraiture.

One Response to Tone down that pop up flash already!

  1. Bluestocking says:

    Ritz Camera sells a flash diffuser/ light box for pop up flashes. It works well. It gives a vignette look to the black and white photos.

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