Lighting – Diffusers
There are many reasons why it isn't advisable to point a flashgun at your subject without some type of light modifier attached to it. The short answer is that you are never going to get a flattering or pleasing shot this way - the light with be so harsh. The flash is going to explode straight onto your subject with all the harshness of an erupting volcano. When you begin to understand about light you will realize that harsh light isn't the photographers friend. Harsh light is bad - a diffuser will soften it.
A diffuser modifies the light from the flashgun so that it is soft and flatters your subject far more. It eliminates sharp lines, harsh shadows and contrasts. In short it sounds unimportant, but it is hugely important if you want to take good photographs. By way of example we never used our beginner external flashgun, because we couldn't get good pictures from using it. As soon as we bought a diffuser - all that changed. Now we have a reliable "pocket sun" (well two of them, but who's counting...), to carry around with us when the light is poor.
It is possible to diffuse your light by "bouncing" it off a ceiling or wall - but ceilings and walls are not always available. Here are two really simple low budget solutions for the beginner to intermediate. There are more advanced options with more advanced budgets, but we'll deal with these when we get to talk about advanced kit. For now, you might want to look at the following
Flash Diffuser For Pop Up Flash
You can buy all sorts of diffusers for a built in "pop up" flash - very cheaply. Holding our hands up honestly, we don't own one because we don't use a pop up flash. The same laws of physics apply to all light so the same principles apply as with an external flashgun, so they work in the old familiar ways. Anything that is going to soften the light hitting your subject (even if it just some grease proof paper from the kitchen) is going to improve your image. You can buy diffusers which will give you a "normal" light (white), a warm light (yellow / orange), or a cold light (blue), which will easily fit in your kit bag. Given the low prices we recommend buying one which will fit your camera model and see how you get on with it. Which kind is right for you is a personal choice. The links above should give you all the options you need.
Flash Diffuser For External Flash
Bart's sidekick C S Wimsey has a couple of flash diffusers which work on the principle of the one pictured. They cost £10 each and make a huge amount of difference to the final picture. They fold flat and easily slip into your kit bag. You are basically adding a "portable softbox" to your flash-gun.
If you want to you can spend a heck of a lot of money on external flash modifiers, but you can obtain something for every budget which will work nicely. Obviously the more you pay, the more durable the product.
The links above should give you lots of ideas and options.
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