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DIY Digital Camera Diffuser

I recently volunteered to take photos for an event and would've preferred to use my nice film camera with a pro flash, but film would've been cost prohibitive, so I decided to take my little digital camera. My Fujifilm FinePix S700 has been a handy digital camera for family photos and whatnot; but is a basic consumer level camera with a harsh built-in flash -- which I try not to ever use. The event was at night, indoors in an art gallery with loads of artificial lighting - there were large windows in the front, but one can never count on sunlight in Seattle - so I knew I'd have to use the flash. ack. So after some quick internet research, and only an hour until the event (!), I came up with this solution...

If your camera has a small enough flash, a simple solution is a white/translucent film canister. For larger flashes, I've seen people use rubbing alcohol bottles.

Simply hold the canister up to your flash, trace the shape with a fine point sharpie onto the canister, use an exacto knife to cut out a hole snug enough to just slide over your flash; this plastic was thin and easy to cut.

This amount of diffusion may be fine for some situations, but I found that there was still too much contrast & glare, so I tried adding a sheet or two of plain printer paper inside the canister -- just enough to cover the inside surface, but not over the cut hole.

Then I tested the camera without the diffuser, with it & with one and two pieces of paper inside:

I did have some ambient natural light, but very little since it's a cloudy day (go figure), and no artificial light. I think I'd be fine using just one piece of paper, and it'll probably depend on whatever the lighting conditions are -- but I think it's a nice little trick for basic shooting needs. Plus the pop-off lid makes it really easy to change how much paper is in the canister ;)

Unfortunately for the event I shot (Seattle's Etsy Craft Party), I hadn't yet discovered the paper trick, and shot with just the canister - so I ended up with more glare & harsh shadows than I wanted, but it turned out okay, especially with some photoshop tweaking... here's a shot from the night featuring artwork by Zoe Williams:

see the rest of the photos here

Happy Shooting!!


  1. What a trick! I'll have to try this for my own photos. I never get a chance for outdoor photography time, or space with nice natural lighting.

    I think that art may end up being nightmare fuel, though. It's neat but also kind of scary!

  2. Good tip! I've been using regular printer paper haha but it isn't that good because you have to hold it and it's uncomfortable.
    Thanks for sharing this!:))