Hughes Soft Light Reflector

By Karen Linsley, CPP
Soft Light Reflector


Those of you who use on-camera flash might be interested to hear of a relatively new product called the Hughes Soft Light Reflector. This light modifier, made by Jerry Hughes, joins the ranks of Gary Fong’s Whale Tail and Lightsphere, and a homemade foam modifier created by Ron Jackson, a frequent contributor to the OurPPA.com community.

The Soft Light Reflector has many advantages, the most obvious of which is portability.  The Soft Light will fold up or lay flat, and can be stuffed into your pocket or nearly any nook or cranny of a camera bag. It comes out ready to install on your on-camera flash quickly and easily.

The Soft Light attaches with two pieces of Velcro that you stick  to your flash and to corresponding spots on the Soft Light to attach it. If you're hesitant to stick Velcro on your flash, Hughes provides a Velcro strap that simply wraps around both the head of the flash and the Soft Light.

I took a test photos using on-camera flash with no diffusion or modifier at all, on-camera flash with built-in diffuser, Gary Fong’s Lightsphere, Jackson’s foam, and the Soft Light Reflector.

All of the test images are jpeg files converted straight  from the raw images with no retouching and no adjustments of any kind. I shot all of the images vertically, with the flash on a bracket so it was above the lens for each image. Each exposure was at f/5.6 for 1/60 second, ISO 100. The only thing that changed in each image was the light modifier.

The Soft Light Reflector provided the best results in this test, yielding softer shadows and the most flattering light. The Lightsphere gave a color cast to the images, the foam created some harsh shadows in this test, and the built-in diffuser also created some harsh shadows.


No diffusion

 


Built-in diffuser

 


Jackson foam

 


Lightsphere

 


Hughes Soft Light Reflector

 

At weddings, the Soft Light Reflector was easy to use and provided some good modification to on-camera flash that can sometimes be very harsh. The Lightsphere is bulky, falls off the flash easily, and has a tendency to invoke remarks from guests. The foam is very easy to use at weddings, lightweight and flexible, but does not seem to inspire much confidence in wedding guests who see nothing but a piece of foam attached to the flash with a rubber band.

Inventor Jerry Hughes describes his Soft Light Reflector as “a totally unique product for photography,” mostly because of its flexibility. Most light modifiers are not very flexible. Umbrellas and light shades all have basically one shape, while the Soft Light Reflector can be bent into different directions.

The Soft Light Reflector comes resonably priced at  $29.95. You can purchase one at www.takegreatphotos.com.

This example uses a technique where you bounce the flash into the Soft Light, then against a wall, then into the subject.

Hughes provided the following diagrams that illustrate the technique. Click for a larger view.

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Comments (11)

I have tried all except the Hughes, which is still very similar to the Lumiquest modifiers. My suggestion for using the Hughes (Lumiquest) (in conjuction with velcro) is to turn the upper part of the flash sideways and then mount the Hughes facing forward. This allows you to do verticals with no bracket by just turning the camera and flipping the flash..... you will be surprised how well it works.

Mark Barnett
Barnett Photography

Have you tried the Demb. I have had wonderful results with it. I am also using Gary Fongs new Whale Tail,but find it cumbersom and the parts fall off.

David Rolle:

Thanks for the review! I hope you'll add Joe Demb's Flip-it to your comparison.
http://www.dembflashproducts.com/flipit/

Don Chick:

What do you do when you want a vertical image? Won't it cast a shadow way off to the side?

Regarding the soft light diffuser... The Lightsphere, which I own, does NOT fall off my flash unit. Also, I do get comments from folks. However, it does the job and those doing the commentating didn't pay for it.

Thanks and all the best,

Jonathan Smith:

I find it unconscionable that the seller of this item is referred to as the "inventor". Chuck Gardner, a former associate of Monte Zucker, developed this design and published plans for it on DP Review and Fred Miranda forum as far back as 2002.

I am the "inventor" of the Soft Light Reflector. To address the gentleman who questioned my claim vs Chuck Gardner. I called Chuck and had a conversation with him. Very nice person who has a love of photography. He said he was not upset at all and had posted his idea to help other people and more power to me with mine.

The idea for using polyurethane material was forwarded to him after I had given out samples of my Soft Light Reflector at the PMA convention. The Soft Light Reflector is a flexible reflector which has an adjustable reflective surface. It can be attached using velcro or a strap. It rolls up to fit in your pocket and takes almost no space in the camera bag.

I will try to get a video posted on my website in the next month with its different features as well as comparison photos using other light modifying devices. I am a professional photographer who created this to use myself. I have had many other people enjoy it as well. My photography website is www.artiststudio12.com If any one has questions I would love to hear them. Hope this helps. Take care.
Jerry

I have been using Gary Fongs light sphere and have been geting the color shifts as seen in the test above. What's up with that? thanks Bill

Mr. Smith was off base with his comment. People have been bouncing flash off of things to diffuse it for about as long as flash has been around so there is certainly no monopoly on the idea and the first "inventor" who thought to rubber an index card to redirect some of a ceiling bounced flash forward is probably long dead by now.

My approach, while looking similar to Jerry's is actually entirely different in concept. I don't bounce light off the ceiling, I try to avoid spill and bounce so performance is identical indoors or out, with or without a ceiling.

With a single flash I rely on a flash bracket to hide most of the shadows instead of trying to apply the band-aid of diffusion to poorly placed shadows. What you don't see you don't need to diffuse. I also never use a single flash unless it can be avoided.

I learned flash back in 1972 using two direct flashes - no diffusion -during a two-year apprenticeship with Monte, who introduced and championed the dual-flash technique. Using direct flash taught me the importance of precise light placement and patterns and the role fill plays in creating the illusion of "softness" in lighting. It comes mostly from the shape and lightness (detail) of the shadows, not how fuzzy the edges of the shadows are. Bounce is useful in some situations but I think the best way to control both "softness" and lighting pattern is to use two flashes, not bounce one off the ceiling and hope for the best.

Diffusion is a function of how many directions the light which hits an object comes from. The more different directions the softer the shadows will be. That's why bouncing off a ceiling and bouncing a bit forward works, when there is a ceiling. What works better is light from two separate flashes from diffusers which direct 100% forward. That's how the ones I made are designed to work.

I started experimenting around 2003 with diffusers. My starting baseline was a DIY mat board copy of a Lumiquest pocket bouncer, to see how it worked vs direct flash. Not wanting bounce off the ceiling I extended the top to completely cover the vertical flash head so all the light from the flash changed direction and bounced forward - it is far more efficient that way. With two flashes I control softness via the fill and lighting ratio, not just diffusion.

I posted my experiments on DPReview. A guy posting under the name of MikeM saw them and made a similar device with "Fun Foam" he found at WalMart, but like most diffusers his where designed for single flash and relied on bounce off the ceiling.

I tried and liked the foam material because it solved the storage and transportation problem. But I adapted it to my "bounce it all foward" concept and added a stiffener in the middle so the top flap would stay down and prevent the light from hitting the ceiling.

Invention in the patentable sense is about improving "prior art" Jerry took the card bounce in the direction of making the card flexible. I took it in a different direction, trying to fold the "card" into a shape like a soft box which redirected 100% of the flash output forward. Jerry told me he actually went though the expense and hassle of obtaining patent for his idea, so obviously the Patent Office though it to be an improvement over the prior art.

I have a web site full of free tutorials to share stuff I've learned over the years from a variety of sources and experimentation. A tutorial on making a diffuser is just one of them. I was not aware of Jerry's efforts until someone saw this article and told me about it. I wish Jerry all the best, but still think a bracket and two flashes, direct or diffused, flash is better than one bounced.

Chuck Gardner

Paul:

Chuck. What a great service you did! Amazing site.

CN:

try the super scoop

http://www.litegenius.com/

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on October 1, 2007 9:05 AM.

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