Diffusing Flash and Speedlites

I think that many stills photographers limit their creativity by only using translucent white umbrellas or soft boxes as a means of diffusing their studio flash or Speedlites. Cinematographers and video professionals have been modifying and diffusing their hard often hot incandescent or tungsten light sources for decades with the aid of no more than simple diffusion materials.

The advantage of working with Rosco Cinegel diffusion materials is the ability to control the apparent size of your light source in relation to your subject modify how the shadows look.

Shown here are just five of the many and varied diffusion materials from the Rosco Cinegel range.

CONTROL - Elinchrom Ranger Quadra RX head without diffusion

When looking at the following images look carefully at the density of the shadow behind Fred and also the hardness or softness of the shadow edge. The quality of the light on the face and shadows will also change. Click on the images to view larger.

 # 3007 Light Tough Spun

Spun diffusion materials give a feathering effect to the light beam with minimal beam spread.

# 3008  Tough Frost

Frost difusion materials give a more diffused effect with moderate beam spread.

 #3011 Tough Silk

Silk diffusion materials give directional diffusion and may be used with Rosco Photofoil or Cinefoil to create slashes or streaks of light. Notice the unidirectional lines in the material.

#3032 Light Grid Cloth

Grid cloth diffusion materials give dense diffusion with a wid ebeam spread and equate to the material used in soft boxes and translucent umbrellas for stills flash photography.

 #3030 Grid Cloth

Just about all Rosco diffusion materials are available in differing densities allowing you to fine adjust the look and feel of your images. For those of you wanting to experiment with the materials Rosco supply a pack of 10" x 12" mixed sheets. The materials are also available as 20" x 24" cut sheets and 48" wide rolls.

I use #3030 and #3032 Grid Cloths as a means of creating a broad soft light source where others would use a cheap shower curtain. The materials are very colour stable so do not discolour or fade over time. By placing one or two flash heads or Speedlites about 3 feet behind a large sheet of Grid Cloth I can emulate the look of broad diffused light as if coming in through a window on a cloudy day.

Lighting Notes:
Elinchrom Ranger Quadra RX head with standard reflector.
Gel frame approximately 8 inches from light source.
Light 4 feet from Fred, at 30 inches above eye level to camera lef, roughly 45 degrees.

Watch this space and I will publish some worked examples with BTS images and lighting design diagrams sometime soon.

All the products mentioned here are available from The Flash Centre. Contact Simon Burfoot by email to place your order simon@theflashcentre.com


  1. Great post Ian! Interesting to see how each material affects the end results..
    Are they easy to store and re use?

  2. Very interesting and informative. I may have to get some of this for the fresnels! Thank you.

  3. Hello Simon, What are the results if you move Fred to a position where there are no reflective light sources. Right now the you have a significant amount of bounce from the floor. As you diffuse the material you will get more angles of light which is only amplified of other surfaces on the floor and in the room.


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