Photography hacks: Turn a Pringles can into a macro flash diffuser

Love macro photography? Use a Pringles can to make a dirt cheap diffuser for your pop-up flash!

We all try our hand at macro photography, at some point during our time taking images. And the secret to great macro images is to make use of supplemental flash lighting – but some photographers are put off by the idea of investing in or learning new kit. 

Well, if you don't want to investigate the best speed lights and best ringflash for macro photography, we've got a down and dirty photo hack for you involving your camera's humble pop-up flash!

All you need is an empty Pringles can, some tissue paper, a pair of scissors and some rubber bands. 

It's a little bit MacGyver, but these basic craft skills will pay dividends – the quality of light that's funneled through the DIY diffuser and into your subject is well worth the minimal effort!

01 Set up your camera

Obviously you'll need a macro lens for this, and you'll also need to pop up your camera's flash.
In the menus, select your camera's standard flash mode and drop the flash power to -1 stop.

02 Shape the can

Of course, your Pringles can needs to be empty, so step 02A should be to eat all those chips first! Step 02B is to hold the can to your camera's flash unit and work out the area you'll need to cut away in order for it to fit. Try tracing the shape with a pen so you know where to cut to size. You'll also need to cut off the front of the can, at an angle, so that the light is angled down in front of the lens. 

03 Add tissue paper

Now tape tissue paper across the angle you've cut, to diffuse the light and soften the shadows.
Don’t use too many layers, or the flash power will be significantly reduced and you won’t be able to light your subjects properly.
If you want something more robust, try a piece of shower curtain or shower cap cut to size.

04 Attach your diffuser

Make holes in the can with scissors, and poke rubber bands through them to strap the diffuser around your camera.
Using these bands makes it easy to take the can off when you want to shoot something other than a close-up (as we did while walking around this forest).

05 Get in close

Set an aperture of f/11 or f/16; depth of field gets shallower as you focus closer, but a small aperture counteracts this a little.
We’re using an ISO of 1250 and a shutter speed of 1/80 sec to ensure that the background that’s not lit by the flash is visible.

06 Experiment with composition
Try differing your composition and the direction of your light by turning the camera vertically – but if you’re photographing delicate subjects such as fungi, be aware of how close your makeshift diffuser is.
The last thing you want to do is bump into them and cause damage.