One of the biggest trends in photography over the last few years has been the rediscovery of flash photography. While Nikon and Canon have had exotic wireless flash systems for a number of years that enable the use of flashgun ‘off-camera’ it’s only the writings of Americans Joe McNally and ‘Strobist’ David Hobby that many photographers have been truly inspired to use small flashguns creatively.
Before a small flashgun was a ‘problem solver’, used on-camera for the dash of fill in daylight or bounced from a wall or ceiling indoors where ambient light was insufficient. By going off-camera, small flashguns can be used as mini studio lights – not as powerful but portable and convenient.
There’s been an explosion the manufacture of modifiers for photographers using flashes in this way from double-fold umbrellas to softboxes, the ultimate ‘studio’ light softener. Some of the small softboxes are so small and dinky that it’s hard to see how the soften light at all, but Lastolite’s Ezybox Hotshoe is available in a useful 60cm size, which is about the same as a small studio softbox. It pops open instantly and provides a soft wraparound light just like its studio counterparts. As you’ll lose a stop or more of light a pretty powerful hotshoe flashgun is advisable – Canon’s 430ex and 580ex or a larger Sigma Super DG 530 is ideal and will allow you to work at decent apertures, especially if the Ezybox is used up close.
The downside to the Ezybox is that it’s relatively pricey at around £100 and you still need to buy a ballhead on top if you want full positional flexibility. Chinese clones have appeared over the last year for as little as £40, including a positionable ball head. These often appear on eBay as ‘EzFold’ softboxes. Build and look and feel is very similar to the real McCoy Lastolite products and the quality of results indistinguishable.
But is either worth having? Oh yes. With one-light, a decent flashgun and a little skill you can create studioesque results practically anywhere. It’s one of the easiest ways to add a new dimension to your photography.