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How to diffuse light

How to diffuse light

Macro photography is one of those genres where equipment really matters. Even in ordinary photography, it’s all about light, and in macro photography that goes double, especially when it comes to light diffusion.

Everyone who’s ever tried to shoot macro has asked themselves this question: Why aren’t my pictures as good as the ones out there that I admire? The answer is often simple. Often it’s just about a lack of the diffuse light that makes a photo special. Composition also plays an important role, but in this text we’ll concentrate just on diffuse light.

Different photographers appreciate different kinds of diffuse light; some prefer sharper shadows and higher-contrast light, while others prefer a minimum of shadows and lower-contrast light. Personally I’m among the second kind.

How to Diffuse the Light from a Flash

So how do you diffuse the light from your internal or external flash? One possibility is to buy a specialized diffuser that you mount onto your flash. If you buy one of these, you have to take into account that it’s a commercial product that’s made to sell, but maybe not to serve your needs. I personally own two of these commercial diffusers made for mounting onto an external flash.

I’m not satisfied with either of them, because I can’t affect the light diffusion enough to get the results I want without having to interfere in the intensity or direction of the flash.

How to diffuse light Here you can see the most basic diffuser, mounted onto a flash to diffuse the light. But in macro photography it doesn’t at all work the way it should. How to diffuse light In my opinion the result from a plastic diffuser is just awful; the shadows don’t have enough detail, and the picture’s overall lighting looks as if the flash was used without a diffuser at all.

As you can see in the picture above, even after developing the RAW file, the results just aren’t right. Even though I used a basic diffuser, the light from the flash was sharp and “killed” the picture. The outcome of using the diffuser: light with too much contrast and not enough detail in the shadows. So here the plastic diffuser was no use.

Another option is diffusers made of cloth and reflecting foil that generally direct all light into one white square or rectangle. In other words, small softboxes for external flashes. These are much better at diffusing light. But they’re still not quite right.

How to diffuse light A small diffuser for external flashes in the form of a softbox, made of cloth and a reflective material. It reflects light better than a plastic diffuser, but it’s still not “it.” How to diffuse light The picture I get when using a small softbox, where the harvest mite is bathed in light that, while relatively softened, still can’t sufficiently draw details in the shadows, and so in certain places they’re too dark or even underexposed.

Based on my experience, I can’t recommend even one of these diffusers. The main reason why is that they diffuse the light from a spot too close to the flash, and so they diffuse and soften the light too weakly. Another problem is the diffusion of the light before the lens. You can end up with your picture having an unwanted shadow from the lens or the lens hood.

The Solution to Bad Light Diffusion

So how do you avoid these problems? There’s a variety of ways to improve the diffuser you’ve bought and to spread out the light more and make the shadows softer. You can add another layer: tracing paper, white cloth, or even paper tissues. To tell the truth, the best choice is to throw out all the diffusers you’ve bought and make your own.

To get good light diffusion that makes your pictures look the way you want, you have to take into account both of the factors mentioned above: the need for the diffuser to be far enough from the flash source, and the need for the light to be diffused behind the lens, not in front of it. So where should you put your diffuser? Don’t place the diffuser on the flash; instead, put it on the end of your lens, and ideally on the start of your lens hood, so that it’s pointed in front of the lens, as you can see in the picture below.

How to diffuse light My makeshift diffuser “mounted” right on the lens. It’s an awful sight, but it does a great job.

By locating the diffuser on the lens, you avoid the problems I mentioned. You get a major advantage in that you can adjust the angle of diffusion, and through that the shadow intensity as well. The perfect angle of diffusion is 45°; that gives you enough diffusion and ideal shadow softness. To minimize the shadows, tilt the diffuser so it’s almost parallel with the lens. For sharper shadows, increase the angle of diffusion to 90°.

The Diffuser Itself

You can make your diffuser out of any material with a thickness of 0.5 to 1 cm. It just needs to be white and translucent. My diffuser is made from the foam filling of a tablet case: I cut a hole out of it for the lens hood and along the sides of the hole I placed a rubber band, to catch it onto the lens. You’ll need to practice a bit at first to keep your diffuser from scaring away the bug you’re photographing, but over time you’ll find that despite the very amateur look, there’s no better diffuser.

This diffuser naturally also has the advantage that you can use it with both internal and external flashes. But if you want a handy diffuser made for internal flashes directly, use a white film can and cut a hole for the internal flash into that. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results, and the purchase price is zero.

How to diffuse light Using a homemade diffuser makes the light diffuse enough that there’s detail even in the shadows.

So why use diffuse light in macro photography? In the end the answer is simple: So that your pictures look the way you’d like. Never forget that light is your foundation, and that it’s important to work with it, and above all to know how to work with it.

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Introduction: How to Diffuse an LED

How to diffuse light

How to diffuse light

How to diffuse light

If you just got a bunch of cool LED’s and you want to diffuse them (for various reasons) this is the instructable for you! Lots of LED’s only come in those “waterclear” lens, not diffused. Diffusing makes the LED appear dimmer, but gives a wider viewing angle of the light. I recently bought color changing LEDs that only came in a non-diffused lens, that’s when I made this instructable.

Step 1: Supplies

The LED (duh)
fine sandpaper (I used 400 grit and ist worked great, but i haven’t tested other sandpapers)
about 5 minutes of your life per LED

Step 2: Grasp the LED

grab the LED by the beginning of the terminals and base of the LED

Step 3: Rub It on the Sand Paper

pretty self explanatory, keep on sanding everything until everything looks opaque or covered in a white dust.

Step 4: Rinse It

rinse the LED under water for a couple of seconds and dry with a towel.

Step 5: You’re Done!

see the difference!

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58 Comments

How to diffuse light

THE BEST way is to spray the LEDs with a light coat of Matt/Flat ( not glossy) white spray paint.TIME EFFECTIVE. Sanding each and every led is a tough and time-consuming job. The Leads could also get damaged due to mishandling While sanding.BEST thing to do is to line up all the LEDs and cover up the leads with something and spray a light coat of White paint

How to diffuse light

wow, so simple yet so effective! Thank you so much, exactly what I was looking for.

How to diffuse light

I do this to most of mine! My way is faster though, I just squeeze the leads together on each LED and make a big pile of them! Then I stick them in my power drill 1 at a time! I use a fine grit sanding sponge and if u get it really wet you don’t even have to clean them off!

How to diffuse light

Amazing! This totally worked like a charm.

How to diffuse light

How does this affect the lumen output?

How to diffuse light

Awesome, yet as simple as it gets!! I’ve been racking my brain for the last 2 days and this was in front of me all the time!!

How to diffuse light

I would suggest that if you have a large LED display, instead of sanding each LED why not put a couple of pieces of brightness enhancement (prism) film from a dead LCD monitor? Those are the thin white plastic sheets in front of the thick glass/plastic plate. It diffuses the light very nicely, plus it hides the LED’s from being seen when the device is not on. If you have no clue what I am talking about, go to youtube and check out the engineer guy’s video on lcd monitors.

How to diffuse light

This worked pretty well for me. I have a whole bunch of slow fade RGB LEDs that I needed to diffuse for the Eternal Flame project on makeprojects, and I just went at my LED with a fine grit sanding sponge. Turned out great

How to diffuse light

Great Ible thanks I’m making a few led light bars in parrellel for my very first led project and needed a way to diffuse.. I didn’t know 400 grit would work though.. So thanks! I thought I needed like 1000 grit paper but nevermind! PS if anyone wants to know how to make the led bar I will be posting an Ible on it after my first one is a success.. But anyway thanks a lot! 🙂

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Introduction: 10 Minute Light Diffuser

How to diffuse light

How to diffuse light

How to diffuse light

Make your own light diffuser to enhance the quality of your photos!

This simple design costs less than $5 and can be put together in 10 minutes!

Step 1: Materials

Piece of foam core or cardboard – 30″ x 20″
Piece of white tissue paper – 24″ x 20″ use colored tissue paper to change the light color
Exact-O Knife
Ruler
Gorilla Glue – or other adhesive

Step 2: Draw Lines

Draw lines on the foam core indicated by the dotted lines in the image.

Draw a vertical line at 1″ on the foam core. Draw a vertical line at 24″ on the foam core. Now draw another vertical line at 23″.

Draw a horizontal line 1″ from the top of the foam core and 1″ from the bottom of the foam core.

At the end, round the corners as seen in the image.

Step 3: Cut With Knife

Cut along the solid blue lines with the exact-o knife.

Step 4: Glue Tissue Paper

Align the corners of the tissue paper with the corners of the foam core and glue them together. See second picture for final product.

The extra foam core on the end will serve as a handle.

Step 5: Use With Photo Station

Use light diffuser to lessen the harshness of the light, block shadows, and more!

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8 Comments

How to diffuse light

can i use white crepe paper instead of tissue paper? how much paper should i use to diffuse light

How to diffuse light

Having done quite a bit of light design for theatre I would be a bit concerned that the tissue could be flammable, of course depending on the bulbs you’re using and how close you want the diffuser to be to the light source. Parchment paper might be a good alternative as it is used for baking so would hold to higher temperatures.

How to diffuse light

Cool! And the diffuser looks like my brand new iMac too! 😀

If you buy an extra piece of foam core board, it can be used as a reflection screen.

How to diffuse light

11 years ago on Step 5

Do you have to hold it there, or did you make a frame out of wire to do that? Looks great. Now I gotta make one or some. GR I!

How to diffuse light

great instructable , i was thinking about making some studio lights for my brother and will need to make diffusers. i was wondering though , would it be a good idea to make them out of parchment paper, the stuff u can put in the oven.

That way the lights wont be able to spontaneously catch it on fire.

or would the paper even get the hot ?

How to diffuse light

11 years ago on Step 4

Are you adding glue only on the corners of the paper? Or all around the sides? Great instructable, btw! 🙂

How to diffuse light

This looks good- I’ve been needing something like this- thanks!

How to diffuse light

I arranged 4 LED strips to a old laptop display but still the light is not diffusing. I am looking for a cheap setup of LED which will illuminate the entire screen with white light like a LCD backlight will do.

Is there any way to do so?

I am looking for something like this.

How to diffuse light

1 Answer 1

Talking Dirty (Optical Engineers do this in small groups at OSA 1 conventions in foreign cities): Evenly diffuse irradiance patterns made from discrete (separate) points of illumination such as LEDs must be placed in a pattern that fulfils the requirements prescribed by “Sparrows Criterion.”

That is fulfilled when they are close enough so their irradiance patterns (light beams) overlap enough to appear diffuse rather than discrete. This typically happens when the centres of the LED light pattern are a tiny bit closer than the point where the intensity drops to 47% of the light cone. The intensity diagram looks like this: How to diffuse light

Here’s (finally) the hack: You must either increase the distance between the LEDs and the diffusion screen or push the LEDs closer together until the beams intersect to form a continuous source. (or both)

Find a piece of translucent plexiglass to better diffuse the LEDs light cones.