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Jan 22 / Nick Teel

Photography Tip: Let’s Diffuse the Situation

If you are anything like me, you have most likely run into some photography flash  issues in your day.  One common occurrence that arises with flash photography is the appearance of harsh lighting or over exposed/blown out subjects.   When dealing with real estate photography, I have come across plenty of photos with harsh flash results and extremely blown out or hot areas.  Kind of like a bad hair day for portrait shoots, not always the most appealing look.

There are several techniques you can apply to overcome these flash issues.  One easy fix that I would recommend is using a diffuser for your flash.  Essentially a diffuser dilutes the light for a softer look with less hard shadows.  This can create a warmer look to some over lit or dimly lit rooms.

Now, don’t get ahead of me yet.  You probably are thinking, “Well, I don’t have a fancy DSLR with an external flash.”  You don’t need an external flash.  You don’t even need a DSLR.  There are some simple around the home items that you can use to diffuse your point and click flash.  Items I tried out: Paper Towel, Wax Paper, clear plastic film case,  and a coffee filter.

All worked pretty well.  I walked around my office and shot a couple darker rooms that may cause some issues.  I used the coffee filter the most.   I had a lot of filters laying around, me being a big coffee drinker and all.  By folding the filter over once and wrapping around the camera, over the flash but not the lens, I created the effect professional diffuser would create.

Below is a mild sample of what a coffee filter can do for diffusing some bad lighting situations.


(Conference Room shot using normal flash settings)

coffee filter

(Same shot using a coffee filter as the diffuser)

If you look at the samples, the differences are not outwardly apparent.  By looking at the back of the chair that is in the forefront of the photo you can see with normal flash the blown out effect and the opposite with the shot with the diffuser.  The walls also act as reflectors that can send back a lot of light and with the diffuser the shot appears more warm and natural.  The diffuser works wonders for  rooms that may have a lot of reflective surfaces.

Here’s my tip of the week.  Hope it helps.  Try this technique and let me know what you think.  If you have any questions feel free to comment and I can hopefully answer any questions you have.