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Lightsphere Flash Diffusers Review

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp)

Keywords: flash, studio, lighting, filter, guides, tips, gary_fong, lightsphere

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The Lightsphere Flash Diffusion System

We are often faced with complex lighting situations when we want to balance the light coming in from several sources into a scene and our subjects. Weddings and social events at noon time in large rooms, or churches, with large windows can become a nightmare with its mix of harsh light and strong shadows. After using for long a white card with a rubber, various solutions came to market and I have successively used most of them. Although each one represented an improvement results varied, even if just for filling in shadows. Most of them, close to useless in exteriors.

Adobe Lightroom Export screen

The Clear and Cloud Lightsphere II units with inverted dome on

With the development of the Nikon D2 DSLR's series came the revised Nikon Creative Lighting System (CLS) that now makes it all so much easier. TTL turned into i-TTL and the "i" from intelligent turned into incredible.

Not only we don't have to take out the laser rangefinder and laptop loaded with light balancing algorithms for optimal distances and individual light source power output, we can always count with good results, well beyond the advantage of wireless control the Nikon SU-4 gifted us with. However, when under complex conditions, how good always seems in direct proportion to the number of SB-800 units one puts up to the task, as proven by our own Nikonian Hal Becker (username HBB) for 1<SB-800<12 (number of SB-800's deployed from one to 12).

What to do when we can't carry (or we don't have) the trunks with speedlights -a la Joe McNally- and/or lightstands, strobes, soft boxes, umbrellas and assistants?

Below is a series of illustrations with the best solution I've found so far for common conditions: the Gary Fong's Lightsphere II Diffusion System, using a single SB-800. In case you are wondering how come we carry this product at the shop, this is why.

Session I. i-TTL.

The series below was made from a Nikon D2X set at Aperture Priority exposure mode, at f/2.8. The lens is an 85mm f/1.4D AF Nikkor. The speedlight, a single SB-800 hotshoe mounted on camera with five fresh Energizer batteries, set at i-TTL. ISO 200, White Balance on AUTO. Color space sRGB (I). No levels nor curves adjustments were made except for D-Lightening on Nikon Capture 4.4.0 This diminished the color saturation differences between the CLEAR and the CLOUD lightspheres.

The room in the back is sunlit through its side windows facing east, at times obscured by moving clouds. A bright sunray comes from another window into the back of the sofa where my favorite model seats in the early afternoon to watch cartoons. This sitting area at front is a room lit with multiple incandescent light bulbs from a ceiling lamp, its own windows shutters closed.



Yes, I know I should have made at least one image without flash and one with flash without diffuser. Next time.

What proved very hard was to keep a young subject as mine here in the same pose. The head angle changes the light drastically, although in all cases pleasing for my taste, and mostly natural.

When with dome, the bounce was kept upwards.



In these samples, the face is up, getting more bounced light from the ceiling, so the differences are hard to see. However, again, pleasing and natural, softer with the inverted dome on and affordable since the distance is short.

You may have noticed there are no harsh shadows behind the subject.



The model soon got tired from the session and readied himself for a well deserved nap. So I moved on to another subject crossing my fingers, for she was coming out from her own nap.

At right, levels and curves adjusted.


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Originally written on November 2, 2012

Last updated on December 31, 2020

J. Ramon Palacios J. Ramon Palacios (jrp)

JRP is one of the co-founders, has in-depth knowledge in various areas. Awarded for his contributions for the Resources

San Pedro Garza García, Mexico
Admin, 46140 posts


Art Hopkins (artnik99) on April 24, 2014

very informative articles. good future references, art

Gary Worrall (glxman) on April 19, 2014

Awarded for his high level skills, specially in Wildlife & Landscape Photography

Great review JRP! Thank you, I'm the "photographic dinosaur' here, haven't had a "real" flash for nearly 40 years, then I had a couple of Metz 60's with lead acid battery packs, how things have changed Just purchased an SB700, wow! What a steep learning curve I have ahead of me, been looking at the Gary Fong Light-sphere for a while now, not sure if I will really need the whole kit though Regards, Gary

Zita Kemeny (zkemeny) on September 2, 2013

JRP a very good article. I like the idea with the text on paper which gives details on how was the photo done. Good article as usual :-)

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