black foamie thing / black foamy thing

I use the black foamie thing (BFT) as a truly inexpensive flash modifier to flag my on-camera flash to give me lighting indoors that looks nothing like on-camera flash. The piece of foam (Amazon), can be ordered via this link. I cut the sheet into smaller pieces of (very) approximately 6×7 inches.

The BFT is held in position by two hair bands (Amazon), and the BFT is usually placed on the under-side of the flash-head. I slide it up and down, and roll it back, as is needed to just give enough of a lip to block direct flash. So the effective size does vary!

The linked articles will give clearer instruction, especially the video clip on using the black foamie thing.



Also be sure to read the article on how to bounce on-camera flash.

The results with the Black Foamie Thing and proper bounce flash technique, can easily give you portraits like this with flattering light, where there is no hard flash shadow.


articles about the black foamie thing:

Of course, there is also a Facebook fan page for the black foamie thing.


photography books by Neil vN

Amazon USA
Amazon UK

newsletter / forum / photography workshops

If you find these articles of value, then you can support this website by ordering photo gear
via this Amazon affiliate link or any of the other affiliate links. Thank you!

If you need more direct help with photography, I also offer
photography workshops and individual tutoring sessions.

Join us on the Tangents forum for further discussions,
and stay informed of new articles via the monthly newsletter.

{ 30 comments. } Add a Comment

1 Aimee February 8, 2012 at 1:48 pm

Just wanted to let you know I got one of these. I used it and loved it! So glad I found your site and the instructions on how to use the black foamie thing! :)


2 naftoli February 8, 2012 at 3:19 pm

wouldnt placing a small grid-spot on ur speedlight accomplish the same thing?


3 Neil vN February 8, 2012 at 3:22 pm

Naftoli .. try it out and compare and see.

Neil vN


4 ANTHONY February 8, 2012 at 3:24 pm

Oh….but we want the Neil van Niekerk deluxe, autographed BFT, designed to exacting specifications with gold engraving and specialized band holding the BFT in place….and we want to pay $99.99 for it…..LOL!


5 Neil vN February 8, 2012 at 3:30 pm

Anthony, if there was a demand for it at $99.99 … then I’d definitely do it!

Neil vN


6 Joel February 8, 2012 at 3:43 pm

I like the idea of flagging the flash to create a softer light source. I recently bought by SB700 and i am gonna use a piece of the black side of the box as my BFT. I shall call it BCT, my “black cardboard thing”. That way excess light shouldnt be spilling over


7 Ali February 9, 2012 at 5:49 pm

Hi Neil,

I find your work just amazing, but above all, your honest and open sharing of your tremendously helpful knowledge and experience. Thank you.

Would you have any objections if I wanted to improve on the BFT design and sell it for profit on my website? Also, I would like to provide a link to your site from my website so that people can learn and benefit directly from the Master on the use of the BFT.

Please let me know.

Thanks again.



8 Lee March 7, 2012 at 2:37 pm

Hey Neil,
First, thanks for the outstanding advice and willingness to share your talents. On the BFG size… I understand its use is to stop the flash from going forward onto the subject, so, why would the length matter? I know its longer for when the flash is angled far over but does it have to go back short length on higher angles? Seems like I can just set it long and leave it. Does it matter?


9 Neil vN March 8, 2012 at 7:10 pm

If the BFT is larger than is necessary (ie, larger than juuuuust enough to stop the light from directly hitting your subject), then the BFT just eats up too much light. There is definite loss of light.

Neil vN


10 Michael March 13, 2012 at 8:30 pm

I just love that it has it’s own acronym! Reminds me of a “BLT” sandwich, except a “BFT” is slightly more functional. That aside, I’m glad I stumbled across your site via Flickr and hope to read through more techniques and advice on flash photography.


11 Claude March 15, 2012 at 9:58 pm

Hi Neil,
I use the BFT as often as I can. But I have one simple question. Is there a simple way to put that darn thing on the flash ? I always have some difficulties trying to put the elasting band around the flash and the BFT! :-)


12 Neil vN March 15, 2012 at 10:26 pm

Claude .. then you might like the Spinlight 360 for exactly that reason.

Neil vN


13 Harry July 1, 2012 at 11:12 pm

I recently purchased the Spinlight 360, because I loved the way the LBFT was working. . .Forward to this weekends wedding reception and I found myself falling back to using the LBFT on my 580. I suppose it is just a matter of it being what I was comfortable with, but I just wasn’t getting the 360 to produce the same results.


14 penndragonn March 19, 2014 at 1:19 am


You mentioned a 580, I’m assuming you mean a Sony 580 ? I’m also a Sony Shooter, as well as Nikon, but find myself migrating back to Sony. Have an A77, A99, and Nikon D7000. Looking to sell my a77 and pic up a good used A850. Just want to let you know there are other Sony shooters out here, just just CaNikon.


15 Edgar David July 25, 2012 at 1:47 pm

Hi Neil, love your photography and this site, is tremendous help. Two questions about your black foamie thing technique.

1. How high is “too high” for a ceiling being useless to bounce flash with your SB 900?

2. Do you adjust the position of the head for every shot?


16 Neil vN July 25, 2012 at 1:53 pm

Keeping to the idea that we want to approach this like studio photography in how we place that “bog softbox”, the bounced flash, then 30-45 degrees up and to the side would be best. Higher than that, then you rush getting shaded eyes.

It needs some experimenting.

“Too high” would also imply that you might not get enough light from your bounced flash, but this ties in directly to the size of the place (i.e., the distance you’re bouncing your flash), and your choice of aperture and ISO. Also, the color of the walls and ceiling will have an effect.

Again, you need to experiment.

And yes, you have to continually adjust the position of the head for however your subject is positioned. It can’t be static. Static doesn’t make sense, because then there is no consideration of the direction of light.

Neil vN


17 Eddy Bakker November 18, 2012 at 2:30 pm

Dear Neil, Thanks a million for sharing all your valuable knowledge will us all. This is really great. All your tips are incredibly helpfull. I am most certainly going to look for a BFT here in Cape Town. Many thanks. Eddy


18 Gina Zhidov November 27, 2013 at 11:50 am

My husband gave me your book Direction and Quality of Light and from it I discovered YOU! Thank you so incredibly much for sharing your years of Photography experience and knowledge. I am excited to try the BFT! I think you need a book entitled: “Brilliant.”

Gina Zhidov


19 Jim B February 17, 2014 at 11:32 am

First, thanks for being one of the givers in life. Very much appreciate you taking the enormous amount of time to teach what you have learned… and so effectively. A big thumbs up.

Second, does the front overhang of the installed BFT vary much from one situation to another? And if so, what is the max and the min in typical use? By front overhang, I mean the dimension from flash “lens” forward to leading edge of BFT.


20 Neil vN February 17, 2014 at 3:12 pm

It’s just enough of a lip to
– block the light from hitting your subject
– guide the light to where you want to hit the wall or whatever you are bouncing off
– not hit the person behind you with a full blast of flash


21 Jim B February 17, 2014 at 5:47 pm

Given the criteria, what are the typical dimensions?


22 Neil vN February 17, 2014 at 5:54 pm
23 Jeffrey Keyser March 4, 2014 at 7:10 pm


I made a “Black Foamie Thing” last week and pressed it into service at a relative’s wedding on Saturday – I was a guest and did my best to stay out of the official photographers’ way, hence the minimal number of images.

Given my $0.99 investment and two hairbands (compliments my daughter), I am very pleased with the results, but feedback and suggestions are always welcome.



24 Neil vN March 29, 2014 at 11:24 pm

Telmo from Portugal emailed me to let me know that the “black foam” is ethylene vinyl acetate, and is sometimes called EVA foam.


25 Dan Reid September 17, 2014 at 5:57 pm

Bounce flash with BFT is definitely to way to go get that studio look from a single on camera flash.
Hey Neil. I noticed when you showed the example without the BFT, it looked like same effect you would get bouncing with a diffuser cup. Which reminded me why I stopped using those diffusers. With the exception of a 40-50 ft. ceiling.


26 Rade November 9, 2014 at 12:30 am

Hello Neil, I never used BFT but I always used light modifier slapped under the flash with great results until someone ask me if I used BFT and I did not had a clue what he is talking about. Then he said, just google it and this is how I found about it. I can say that it does very good job for what is intended for.
Impressive idea!

I just wondered why you didn’t used a white one to give the light a bit of boost toward ceiling and especially if the ceiling is very high (like in churches).

What do you think about use of other colors?


27 Neil vN November 9, 2014 at 11:49 pm

Why I use a light modifier that is black.

Go through the other linked articles as well.


28 Rade November 10, 2014 at 9:30 am

I got through the article and all links there and I understand why you used black. My light modifier has on one side white and on the other side black and I am turning the sides depending on the needs. From the experience, when I was standing really far away from the walls and was not able to get closer I used white side to get extra boost or more light, Same thing when the ceiling was high, and it give me the excellent results, but I must admit that mostly I used black side and just on special occasions the white, unless I used external manual flashes.

The foam is more bendable and since it gives me the same results as my modifier I guess that I will make my own version of it. One side black and the other grey or white… Might experiment with other colors as well, like gold or silver, just to see the effects, like gold to give the pictures very light warm tone or silver for more cool contrast.


29 Ludovic March 25, 2015 at 3:09 am

Thank you for all the good content. I tried the BFT yesterday and I don’t understand why I’m observing nearly one and a half stop down in my exposure, while working in TTL. This doesn’t make sense to me at all … Is it the same for you ? Do I have to compensate flash power up when I use the BFT ? Thank you in advance.


30 Neil vN March 25, 2015 at 3:24 am

I suspect what is happening here is that you are already at the extreme end of what your flash is capable of delivering when you bounce flash, and then with the BFT added, there is further light loss.

Make sure you do the following:
– zoom to a longer length with the flash head,
– don’t have a massive piece of black foam that eats up all your light.
– the BFT is meant to be just enough of a lip to block direct flash from hitting your subject – it’s not a huge piece of foam. I roll mine back a bit, most often.
– make sure you hare within working range of what your flash is capable of doing, for your chosen aperture and ISO.

I hope this helps.


Leave a Comment

{ 3 trackbacks }