Build a DIY Gaffer Grid: Flash neutral density filter for under a dollar!

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Above: This is one of the most genius and cheap MacGyver hacks I’ve ever seen. The credit goes to one of my assistants (thanks Maté!).

Have you ever wanted to shoot with studio strobes and a fast lens but found your lights were too powerful? Yeah, me too!

The work around is to use a neutral density filter on the camera or neutral density film on the light to knock back the exposure. The downside of this technique is those little suckers are very expensive and they often add a colour cast to the image.

When I was first shown this technique I was amazed at just how simple, cheap and effective this little hack is, and best of all, it involves my favourite MacGyver staple – gaffer tape!

image02cThis cheap little hack is almost neutral with very little colour cast, my reading above registered a shift of approx 50 kelvin or a bee’s peepee. Not bad for a DIY job.

The close proximity of the gaffer to the flash also means that the gaffer grid will not add shadows to your image.

So if you have one of those $20 speedlights that don’t have variable power controls and you want to lower the power so you can add a small pop or “dook” of light to a shot, or have a studio strobe that is too powerful to shoot portraits with fast lenses with, try this hack.

Cover 50% of the reflector in a grid pattern to reduce the power by 1-3 stops.
If you are using a speedlight you can apply the gaffer tape directly to the flash head.
Add more gaffer to further reduce the output of the flash.
Keep your grids, fine and evenly spaced to avoid hotspots.

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