- The White Card Trick
With your TTL flash extended to bounce mode (pointed to the ceiling), take a 3x5-inch index card and attach it to the flash with a rubber band. Have the card extend 3 or more inches up the flash head. When you fire the flash, some of the light bounces off the ceiling, while more light kicks off the white card to throw some light into your subject's eye sockets.
- The Spoon Trick
Similar to the card trick, this method involves attaching a plastic spoon in the same way you attached the white card to your flash. The curvature of the spoon throws the light in a pleasing effect onto your subject.
- Aircraft Aluminum
For the mechanically minded, another idea is to take a piece of aircraft aluminum (scrap please, don't try taking it off a plane that is being used), white or copper colored, and cut it in a roughly squarish or 3x5 shape. Use hook and loop tape (Velcro) on the square and the back of your flash head. Store the card by attaching it upside-down when not in use and then just pull it off, flip it, and reattach for use. Although white is pretty standard, using a copper-colored piece can warm the color of your light a little. (Let me know if you ever find a place to buy this!)
- Bottle Diffuser
Get one of those white frosted plastic bottles of rubbing alcohol (one whose waist is about the same diameter as your flash head). Remove the alcohol (this is important), and then cut along the bottom of the bottle about two inches down the waist. Then snug the waist (the end with the bottom) over the flash head. You can now shoot with the flash head angled almost vertically with a much softer light. (This method is similar to using a product known as the Sto-Fen Omni-Bounce, just a little less expensive)
- Film Cannister
This idea is great for your small, fixed (fixed as in won't pivot or tilt, not fixed as in repaired, though if your flash is broken, this method won't work either). These flashes are usually a pop-up variety. Take an old, clear, or frosted, 35mm flim cannister and tape it over the flash head. Variations of this trick involve placing a sheet of tissue paper inside the cannister to diffuse (soften) the light a bit, or using colored tissue paper to change the color of the light the flash produces. This isn't a big deal if you use a comuter-editing software on your pictures, but it is an idea to try if you aren't too comfortable with using the computer, or just want to experiment while taking the shot. (At any rate, you finally have a use for those empty cannisters from your film or film days, and if you don't have any, I'm sure you know someone that does!)
There are many inexpensive ways of improving the quality of your artificial light. Even the simple White Card Trick combined with bounce flash gives you much better results than bombing away with direct flash. Keep this method in mind even when your available light is enough for a good exposure; the light kicked forward from the white card is a great way to fill in shadows from ball caps and other similarily billed haberdashery items.
Plus, think of all the conversations or jokes you can tell about your flash accessories when photographing people! These things can double as accessories and objects to put your subjects at ease, and give a natural smile!
"Flash Tricks" taken from "Digital Photography All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies" pages 235 & 236. (Italics mine)
Do your have any money-saving photo ideas? Share them with us in the comment box!