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How to Make an Easy DIY Flash Diffuser for Macro Photography

Last updated: November 12, 2023 - 5 min read
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Flash diffusers are game changers in almost any lighting situation. They add depth, softness, and definition to the light.

They can also take your macro photography to the next level. You can find small, low-cost diffusers and softboxes that can be attached to your flash on Amazon.

But what if you only have a built-in flash or forgot to bring your “real” diffuser? I’ll show you how to build a DIY flash diffuser from stuff you can find in a kitchen or a grocery store! It’s a one-dollar project, but you can still achieve beautiful, smooth lighting in your photos with this DIY diffuser setup.

Effective Light Diffusion
Altura Photo Flash Diffuser Softbox
Altura Diffuser Flash Softbox
Switch your DIY flash diffuser for a professional-grade light modifier with this softbox diffuser. Evenly spread light and reduce harsh shadows for better macro photography.

What Is a DIY Flash Diffuser?

A DIY flash diffuser is a basic yet powerful light modifier. It is a “do-it-yourself” attachment for your external flash. And it increases the surface where the light originates from.

It allows softer, less unidirectional lighting. Even if you only diffuse your built-in pop-up flash, it will be less harsh and distracting.

What Type of Diffuser Is Best for Macro Photography?

An efficient macro diffuser is best for macro photography. You rely on artificial lighting more than in most other genres of photography. But because your subjects are small, you can use smaller lights and diffusers to achieve the same relative effect.

So, thankfully, you don’t need to carry huge softboxes and other large light modifiers. For portraits and some product photos, you would need those bigger ones. For macro, not so much. You can create a macro diffuser!

How to Build Your DIY Macro Diffuser

This diffuser is very DIY. I experimented with more advanced designs but ultimately dropped them. I aimed to create the cheapest, simplest, and most effective macro diffuser.

You can adapt and transform the idea to fit your gear and preferences because only the concept is key. I made this diffuser for the pop-up flash on a Canon EOS Rebel T7 camera. You can use your external flashes, too.

What You Need to Make a DIY Diffuser

As I mentioned, this list is very flexible. So, use what you can find. Here is what I used:

  • Some white paper
  • White-colored adhesive tape
  • A hollow tube (I used an empty Pringles chips can)
  • Scissors

The chips can, in my case, was reflective on the inside. I advise you to choose similarly because inner reflections further soften the light. You can also cover the tube’s inside with aluminum foil.

Materials and tools needed to make a DIY flash diffuser


How to Assemble the DIY Flash Diffuser

Ideally, the tube of our DIY diffuser should be around the same length as your camera lens. If it’s too short, the lens will shadow some of the light. If it’s too long, it will fall behind the macro subject.

Illustration to show the ideal placement of the diffuser surface
The ideal placement of the diffuser surface

First, cut the tube to be the length of the lens. Leave it longer than the lens on one side to direct the light downwards. On the opposite side, cut it so it’s the same length as the lens.

A paper tube cut to make part of a DIY flash diffuser

If you need to, wrap the inside with aluminum foil. I also covered it in red paper on the outside to hide the chip’s branding.

Then, grab a piece of white paper. Fold it in half and tape it to the tube. It doesn’t matter if the paper covers the sides or not. Tape it so the paper follows a smooth curve without sharp edges.

A DIY flash diffuser

Open up the pop-up flash on your camera. Next, tape the diffuser to the flash, aiming to minimize wobble. It should look like the setup pictured below if you’ve done it well.

DIY flash diffuser attached to a camera


What Can You Expect From a DIY Flash Diffuser?

Surprisingly, you can expect a lot from a DIY flash diffuser. In macro situations, a piece of paper and a can of chips transform the behavior of your flash completely!

Without it, you only have direct, harsh light from your pop-up flash. But after you attach this photography diffuser, the light becomes flattering, smooth, and more balanced. Here are a couple of examples.

Giph of image with and without flash diffuser Giph of image with and without flash diffuser


Conclusion: DIY Flash Diffuser

Macro photography offers plenty of opportunities to experiment. And this DIY macro flash diffuser costs only a few dollars and a few minutes to make, so why not build it?

Doing small projects like this keeps your creativity and inspiration fresh. And it makes for more enjoyable photography and better photos.

Are you looking for more flash photography tips? Check out our posts on using a wireless flash trigger or how to improve your bounce flash photography next!

Effective Light Diffusion
Altura Photo Flash Diffuser Softbox
Altura Diffuser Flash Softbox
Switch your DIY flash diffuser for a professional-grade light modifier with this softbox diffuser. Evenly spread light and reduce harsh shadows for better macro photography.