Thursday, 8 January 2009

Using a StoFen omnibounce

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The StoFen omnibounce is a very useful piece of kit but many people don't use it correctly.

I've seen quite a few 'professional' wedding photographers with an omnibounce attached to their flash in the above manner shooting outdoors. I presume they imagine that passing light through the plastic results in it being softened but it doesn't make any difference to the quality of the light. Softness depends on the size of the light source and that is not being affected by the presence of the omnibounce. What it is doing though, is reducing the output of the flash, since a lot of light is being directed elsewhere by the other four sides of the unit. If your shot looks better when you use the omnibounce in this way, it's because your flash has reached the limit of its power output, and you're seeing less light than the camera thinks is required to expose the shot - the same effect as negative flash exposure compensation (FEC). If you take the omnibounce off the flash and dial in negative FEC you should get exactly the same result, whilst also saving your batteries and extending the life expectancy of your flash unit!

The StoFen omnibounce can't work in isolation. It needs surfaces to bounce light off - as illustrated by the above diagram (taken from StoFen's website - note that they recommend using your flash at 45 degrees if less than 15 feet from your subject so that front-lighting doesn't dominate the shot). Omni refers to the fact that light is sent out in all directions (well, almost) and bounce that it then needs to be bounced back. Use it indoors and, provided the room isin't too big, you'll see a huge difference to your shots. The light is now being softened as the effective size of the light source is increased by light being bounced back from all directions. Your flash unit is effectively transformed into a bare bulb - great for off-camera flash.

I also use a Lumiquest ultrabounce which does exactly the same thing, but folds up flat and can be more easily attached to flash units covered in velcro.

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Richard said...

I've got a lightsphere II. This works much better than my stofen, probably becuase it is larger. I've also used it quite well pointed forwards becuase it's dome shape curves push light outwards through the ribs inside. This action also removes the hotspot I find.

For outdoor use I'm sure the Lastolite Apollo is better. I'd like to try one and compare.


David said...

Hi Richard,

Thanks for your comment.

I imagine that, like the StoFen, these devices work well in an enclosed space. The drawback is that they significantly reduce your flash output.

I just had a quick look at the website for this product and saw some group shots, lit in a manner that would be hard to achieve in a typical wedding venue with a single flash unit.



David said...

My earlier post seems to have disappeared - let's see if another post forces it out of hiding!

Matt said...

I read that a head on sto-fen is used to remove specular highlights in outdoor shots?

Is your choice of diffuser (Lastolite) effective at large distances. - do you take it off for group shots for example?

Thank you....

David said...

Hi Matt,

I've no direct experience of this but, waiting to be proven wrong, I'd be surprised if it did - a StoFen isin't changing the quality of the light.

I leave the Lastolite on for group shots.

Just as an aside, if you want to use your Speedlite at a distance manually set it to complement a focal length of 105mm.



m3kw9 said...

Whats the point of even using sto-fen if all it does is reduce output of the flash?

Same as what you said, just reduce the compensation and volla, flash output reduced.

I can see stofen bouncing a little light internally through the extruding white cover, also, distributes the flash light a little more evenly than the reflectors in and on the flash, but how significant I'm not sure.

David said...


There's no point using it outdoors as there are no surfaces for light to be bounced off. Indoors is another matter though. It does make a surprising difference - much softer than just bouncing flash light.

I suggest you conduct the experiment to convince yourself (or otherwise!). If you don't want to buy a StoFen you could always fashion your own diffuser using a bit of white tupperware.



Anonymous said...

i do use my stofen outside at times, though only because i find it is far better than my flashs' own catch light reflector.

David said...

If you take the StoFen off and reduce your flash power you ought to get an identical looking catchlight.