Friday, November 28, 2008

Nikon CLS and Home-made softbox

First of all, you need to make a home made softbox. There are various ways to do this. This is the home-made softbox that I used for this article. Here are two other versions, both made from an old cardboard box and aluminum foil.

DIY Photography, Strip Light

DIY Photography, Cardboard softbox

Here is the one I made, (left) using the instructions from I have it mounted to a Nikon SB-800 and set it on an old tripod of mine. The softbox also works when the flash is mounted directly on the camera's hot-shoe.

The second thing to work on is setting up Nikon CLS (Creative Lighting System). This is a feature of Nikon DSLR cameras that allows the user to trigger an off-camera flash without any wires or cables. You have to enable it in the camera first. (On the D300) it's Menu--> Custom Setting Menu --> Bracketing/Flash --> Flash cntrl for built-in flash --> Commander mode. This allows the user to choose certain options that control the way CLS is implemented. There are many details surrounding this feature, consult the User's Guide for all the various options. The key thing to get right is the channel and group, as these setting must match the corresponding settings on the Speedlight (off-camera flash).

You can set it up so that TTL flash control is used, but this creates a slight delay right before the sutter is released. For still life this is acceptable, but for people or pets this is enough time to let the eyes blink. For this shot, I have everything set to manual, and I have the on-camera (built-in) flash set to -2 stops to act as a fill flash and lessen the harshness of the shadows. This is the resulting setup (right).

Another benefit of using the on-camera (built-in) flash in the shot is the catch light in the eyes. The small glint in the eyes makes the subject look more alive and aesthetically pleasing.

This is the resulting image -- Sasha and her toy in nice, soft light.