One of the most common search criteria on Google that coincides with photography is that of lighting. It’s no surprise as photography really is all about the light, and when making and taking photos (yes, there’s a difference), one of the key things that people can grasp quite easily is the success of a photo is often very dependent on the lighting.
To that end, it’s to our advantage to control the light as much as possible. An entire sub-industry has grown over the years catering toward controlling the light in your photos too. Everything from grid spots, to gels, strobes, reflectors, and so much more – we could spend hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on various light modifiers.
We’re not going to break the bank today though as we take a closer look at a certain kind of light modifier called a Flash Bender, from the folks over at Expo Imaging. Pricing for individual ones range from $30 to $40, or you can get the entire three-piece set for only $104, we’re certainly not spending exorbitant amounts of money. The question really is more of what they can do.
Taking a page from their own description on their website (which you can find here: Rogue Flashbenders), these devices:
“FlashBenders represent a new approach to controlling light. FlashBenders are positionable. You can bend a FlashBender into almost any position, and it will assume that shape, staying in position until you reform it.”
To see if these shape-changing devices really can deliver on controlling the light, I turned to my trusty, not-so-rusty model train for a little demo shoot, just to see what I could do with them. First up, I took a couple shots with a bare flash attached (580 EXII) and pointing full on the subject. The results were predictable:
Bright, shiny highlights, and some pretty nasty glare, right? But, like I said, to be expected from a full on-camera flash. Having set the barometer now, I decided to move to where I knew the light would be better. Off-camera. I started working with the light and found a good angle (around 45 degrees, camera right), then attached one of these benders and made a snoot out of it (a snoot is a circular funnel that restricts the light). Things were starting to look up almost immediately with a full wide angle, mid width and then a tight snoot. Take a look:
Nice! These Flashbenders really easily got my harsh light that just doused a scene and wrangled it under control pretty quickly with just the strap of Velcro around the neck of the 580, and shaping it around the front in a circle. It was time to start adding slight nuances to the shape of it to see just how much nuance I could get. Here’s the result:
Now we’re talking! About the only thing missing is a little bounce from the light as it shoots past the train to come back and fill the shadows a little. I tried holding one out to camera left and got the final effect desired:
I could keep going with all the different options and shapes here, but it’s sufficient to say that I was highly impressed with the Flashbenders. They fit the bill for me in three material ways:
1. Cost – Hey, it’s the economy right? Gotta keep costs down and at $104 for the trifecta, it’s almost a no brainer because you can get the Large Reflector, Small reflector, and the Bounce Card sizes in one sweet little package.
2. Space/Construction – Not only are these pretty durably designed with the bendable metal plates or fingers wrapped securely in the nicely padded and sewn-stitched outer shells, but they pack well, laying flat in the bottom of your bag or curled up snugly to fit on the edge (I put mine next the the flash and barely knew they were in there! Rock on!
3. Functionality – What can I say? They deliver and in a big way. I used one to wrap the light tightly, then the bounce card to hand hold and create a little fill on the opposite side. They serve their purpose, do so with space-saving design in mind, and at a cost that all but the most frugal photographer can afford!
These get my two-thumbs up seal of approval. If you don’t have a set, you need to go out and get one. If the full set is out of your reach, then at bare minimum, you could probably get by with the largest one as it has the most range and flexibility. It’s available through Expo Imaging direct, or if you want, you go through one of their many retail partners.
So, what flash control devices do you prefer to use? Are the Flashbenders something you’d consider adding to your gear bag? If not, what do you use for snooting, bouncing, and wrangling light under control? Sound off in the comments!