A soft light source is a better choice for portrait and glamour photographs than a hard one because it’s more flattering to the subject and, as a side benefit, requires less retouching in the digital darkroom. The shoe-mount flash that’s part of your camera system has one major goal: To deliver the most lighting output at efficiently as possible. Most of the time, that’s a good idea but sometimes a little softness will minimize the dreaded “flash on camera” look.
One of the best $20 bargains for improving on-camera flash photographs is a Sto-Fen Omni Bounce flash diffuser. It’s available to fit different flash unit from many different manufacturers. The flash diffuser easily slips on the front of the flash and produces a diffused “bare bulb” look that softens shadows and reduces the harsh effect of direct flash. It’s compact and easy to use in either direct or bounce mode and is the simplest, easiest way to improve the quality of your flash photographs—indoors or outdoors—without taking the flash off the camera.
I almost always have my Sto-Fen Omni Bounce flash diffuser mounted on my EX 550 flash, whether it’s outdoors or indoors where when you get even more soft light from light bouncing off the ceiling or walls. The image was made in the doorway between my kitchen and dining room; the fridge is at camera right by a few inches. Camera was Canon EOS 50D and 85mm f/1.8 lens with an exposure of 1/60 sec at f/4.5 and ISO 800.
You can learn more about using speedlights in Barry Staver’s book, “Master’s Guide to Off-Camera Flash” that is available from Amazon at prices for new books starting at $17.85 with used copies available for $12.97, as I write this.