Digital photography has advanced beyond film photography in many ways, but they both need light to register an image on the digital sensor or a frame of film. That makes it critical to understand the principles of light as well as practical lighting techniques if you expect to improve your photography and capture the photos of your imagination. Many of these techniques can be found in the PhotographyTalk.com Articles section, including basic and more advanced tips. Typically, it requires a substantial investment in lighting equipment—fixtures, stands, umbrellas, remote triggering system, etc.—to benefit from advanced methods. This is usually the domain of serious or professional photographers that operate studios and need multiple light units for their kind of digital photography.
Another advantage of photographers who have professional-grade lighting equipment is that the larger flash heads are usually modularized, so power packs, flash heads, tubes and reflectors can be removed. (The components of economy-priced, beginner flash heads are generally self-contained units.) This leads to an interesting lighting technique called “bare tube.” Because the reflector can be detached from the flash unit, the light is spread 360 degrees, giving the semi-pros and pros a rather amazing, single light source.
The bare-tube effect benefits photographers in three ways.
Covers an entire room.
Since the light radiates in all directions equally, one bare tube flash will light an entire room. You can photograph excellent group portraits with two bare-tube heads, each elevated on stands higher than the group and at a 45-degree angle. Then, set one head a stop lower than the other.
An automatic fill light.
Not only does the light from a bare tube cover 360 degrees, but it also bounces off the walls, ceilings, floor, etc. It creates a fill-light effect, eliminating and/or softening shadows.
Perfect lighting for small spaces.
When the bare-tube head is placed close to a subject or in a small space, it will provide all the light needed to illuminate the area; and the subject can be at any angle to the light source.
For the great majority of digital photographers that don’t have professional-grade lighting equipment, the bare-tube effect is still possible, with one of two options.
Option #1: Sto-Fen Products makes the Omni Bounce. It is a small plastic box that fits over your flash head to create the bare-tube effect. The company has a long list of models, so the Omni Bounce is compatible with approximately 100 different flash unit brands.
Option #2: Without too much work, you can also modify a plastic kitchen container to cause the same effect. Try various containers’ bottom portion to find one that will fit over your flash head. Another solution is to cut an "X" in the lid approximately the same size as the cross section of your flash head, place it on the bottom portion and slide the closed container on the head. Use a colorless plastic container, since the color of the plastic could affect the color of your images.
Once you’ve rigged your flash unit for the bare-tube effect, practice the technique in various places with various scenes and subjects until you learn how to manipulate the light to your advantage.