Over the last few years I’ve acquired a lot of flash accessories. Recently, three items in particular have been a part of every shoot:
1) Gary Fong Lightsphere
2) Shoot-through umbrellas
3) Sto-fen Omni-Bounce
Today I’d like to talk about the Lightsphere. Some people criticize it as expensive, unwieldy, and more light-inefficient than something like a bounce card. I rely on the Lightsphere as my on-axis fill light, usually camera mounted, for two reasons: 1) I like the quality of light, and 2) it solves a problem more important to me than the issues above.
The Lightspehere scatters light in all directions. In a smallish room with white walls and a low ceiling, the Lightsphere produces a very pleasing soft light. In rooms with a high or dark ceiling, I attach the Lightsphere’s inverted dome lid to create my own low ceiling. It’s not perfect, but very handy for on-camera walk-around flash. But why do I use it for on-axis fill in a multi-light setup? Because I like the quality of the light and because it scatters light in all directions.
You see, I use Nikon’s wireless CLS (Creative Lighting System) to trigger my remote flashes. CLS uses infra-red signals to communicate between flashes, which means I have to maintain a line-of-sight between the Commander unit and the remote flashes. I believe the Lightsphere helps me get those infra-red signals to remote flashes a little more effectively because of the way it scatters flash output. With the SB800 and Lightsphere as my Commander unit and fill flash, I get a nice diffused fill and more flexibility in placement of the key and accent lights.
Of course, if I used radio triggers for my remote flashes, I could place them anywhere and fire them reliably. But that would cost at least another thousand dollars, require that I keep track of that many more batteries, and I would lose the ability to control the flash output from my camera, which is a critical convenience of the Nikon CLS system. So for now, I’m sticking with the Lightsphere as my go-to tool for on-axis fill flash.