The LightSphere is a decent diffuser for on camera light indoors when you need to wash a room with light. Period.
Soft light is a relationship between the size of the light source and the size of the subject. The larger the light source is, the softer the light will be. A lightsphere isn’t a very big light source. If you bounce it into a white wall or wall and low ceiling then the walls and ceiling become the main light source. Those light sources are larger and thus create softer light.
When you’re in a large room like a wedding reception and the light can only really hit the ceiling then you are creating a large light source from above. The LightSphere then adds a bit of kick from the front to fill in the shadows a bit created by the light falling straight down from the ceiling.
Shooting with a LightSphere outdoors with nothing to bounce off of is damn near useless. It’s still a small light source. It is technically diffused but it’s still small and is still going to be a hard light source. Go outdoors with a LightSphere and point it up and you’re just burning through batteries and heating up your flash while you try to bounce light off the sky.
I hate the LightSphere more because how it is marketed than what the thing actually is. I’ve heard Fong stand in front of hundreds of people and say “You no longer have to think about your light.” Really? That’s kind of our whole job in some ways.
His web site once touted that you no longer need softboxes and umbrellas. Ummmm. Bull shit.
His site currently says, “These MONEY SAVING kits contain everything you need to produce studio quality lighting with your on-camera flash…”
Really? Studio quality? What effing studio are you going to? Wal Mart?
Here’s the thing. Folks just getting into photography are typically intimidated by lighting. Studio lighting is a deep abyss that folks are terrified to jump into. It’s hard to even know where to start. So along comes a company that says this $50 product has been meticulously designed to produce those results for you. No stands. No big strobes. No softboxes. No studio. Just awesome soft lighting from your on camera flash. Fits in a bag. Costs less than $100. Yay!!!
Well… See…. It ain’t studio quality. It isn’t even “soft” light in a lot of situations. In some situations it is. In most it isn’t though. For folks who don’t really know light yet it seems like a great thing. They’re being told by other “pros” that it really works. So more and more people buy them. More and more and more people use them. More and more people don’t take the time to figure out that their light is fairly mediocre and boring because their photos are starting to look just like that pro’s photos on the blog they follow. That “pro” has 10,000 followers on Twitter so they must know what they are talking about.
Now 8 or 9 out of ten wedding photographers are all running around with one of these things on their flash. They’re all producing the same exact light. That light is fairly boring and drab. It become homogenous. Very few are breaking away from it and trying something different. Everyone’s photos are looking just like everyone else’s photos. Blah.
So I come along and say “Burn your LightSphere.” It isn’t doing that much for you. It’s a tool that sort of works in some situations but in those situations you can typically just use the little diffuser cup that came with your flash. Or you can bounce off the ceiling and pull out that little white fill card that many flashes have built in. If you have that little pull out white card on your flash and the diffuser cup thing then you can do most of anything a LightSphere will do.
The next time you’re at a repair shop walk up to your mechanic and tell them they don’t need all those tools in their tool box. Hand them a Leatherman multi-tool. Tell them that’s all they need. Take note of the look on their face. That’s the same look a photographer who knows light has when he or she hears someone say the LightSphere is studio quality light.