DigitalCameraReview.com
DCR Workshop: Essential Creative Accessories for Your Flash
by Chris Gampat -  3/8/2011

Now that you've learned a bit about bounce flash, you should know about the little items that let you harness the light even more. There are numerous reasons to use them. For starters, maybe you don't always have walls to bounce your flash off of. Additionally, maybe you don't want to hire the armies of Mordor to carry really bulky photography lighting equipment. If this sounds like you, then here's a round up of great items to take a look at.

Rogue Flashbenders
What can't these things do? Available in different sizes, Rogue Flashbenders are flexible panel-type modifiers that wrap around your flash head. Once they put the bear hug on your flash, they can be bent into nearly any shape you can think of, even those that would never even come to mind.

Flash Accessory

This is great for photographers that really want to stay mobile and light such as photojournalists, wedding photographers, event photographers, concert photographers and portrait photographers out on location.

Here are a few tips on using them:

Combined with wireless flash control from your camera, you should be able to conquer most situations that you run into. Of course, that isn't always the case.

The Orbis
The Orbis is a ring flash designed for photographers who want to keep their flashes liberated from their cameras. The special design positions the unit over your flash head. This doughnut shaped design of the Orbis allows you to mount it around your camera's lens for full use. If you choose, the Orbis can utilize a bracket to hold your flash in place.

Flash Accessory

In order to trigger the flash, you'll need to use a cable of some sort for most situations. Of course, if your camera can wirelessly trigger flashes then this tactic can also work well.

Because of the large, flat surface area of the Orbis, it can be used as an excellent softbox. When I tested it, a favorite tactic of mine was to use it camera left with a large Rogue Flashbender on the other side being used as a reflector. Additionally, I liked being able to use it as a fill light for portraits where I used ambient lighting as the main light. By doing this, I was often able to mix the ambient lighting in with the flash output for very pleasing and subtle looking results.

ExpoImaging Ray Flash
This is another ring flash on the list, but has a much different design than the Orbis. The Ray Flash allows users to keep their flash mounted into the camera's hot shoe. The user then affixes the Ray Flash onto the flash head and shoots with it in place around the lens.

Flash Accessory

It gives off a very different quality of lighting than the Orbis. In my tests, I found the Ray Flash to be cooler while the Orbis gives off a subtle warmth. The surface area of the Ray Flash is also much smaller than the Orbis. When used off-camera, it tends to mimic the look of a snoot a bit.

Additionally, I don't feel that any one of them is particularly "better" than the other. They both have great qualities about them and serve different purposes. If I was shooting portraits with nothing else but ring flash, then I'd want the Ray Flash for ergonomic reasons (since it stays in one place rather than having to use a bracket). If I wanted more versatility when I'm shooting, I'd gladly reach for the Orbis.

Gary Fong Lightsphere
The Gary Fong Lightsphere tends to suffer from lots of critique, but it's not your ordinary piece of plastic. When attached to your flash, it gives off a bare-bulb lighting type of look. It is extremely versatile, but the Collapsible version of the Lightsphere is perhaps the most utilized.

Flash Accessory

It snugly hugs the head of your flash and can be collapsed down if you do not want to use it. Besides being more portable due to the collapsible nature of the product, because of the clear plastic design it will usually render cooler images on your camera.

The Lightsphere has some weird uses. First off, when your flash is mounted onto your camera, it is recommended that your flash be positioned down and to the side and that you shoot vertically. Gary himself recommends this for portraits.

After over a year of use, I've found that the Lightsphere can be used as an overhead light or as an off-camera softbox when positioned in the right spot.

Gary Fong Origami
The Origami is another one of those interesting and discrete flash modifiers that may just end up permanently attached to your camera. Like the Lightsphere, it is recommended that you shoot vertically with the flash attached to the camera. The curious feature about the Origami is how it modifies the light output of your flash.

Flash Accessory

The Origami has a flap that goes up and down. The package comes out of the box with two different flaps: one is amber colored and the other is opaque (white). Placing the amber flap on the Origami and moving it around will adjust the warmth levels of flash output. Indeed, it can get very warm. Placing the opaque flap on can help to adjust the flash output by cooling it even more. However, the Origami can already provide a healthy amount of coolness to your flash output.

In combination, they are very versatile and would make great accessories in a studio, at events or at a wedding for single portraits of attendees.

Which One Is Right For You?
To be quite honest with you, the Rogue Flashbenders (if you purchase all three of them) can conquer nearly any situation. However, the Orbis's quality of light output perhaps reigns supreme on this list (no matter what the situation). If you want a dedicated Ring Flash look though, then I would, hands-down, award that to the Ray Flash; especially because there is only a 1-stop loss of light.

The Origami is the most specialized unit on this list, and perhaps would be best for portraits of some person or items. In contrast, the Lightsphere Collapsible can be thought of as a bulb of light that you are placing anywhere around your subjects. Because of this reason combined with the highly portable nature, the Collapsible also gets a high recommendation for everyone that wants to modify their flash's output.

Do you use any of these? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.