black foamie thing

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 truly look nothing like on-camera flash.The piece of foam (Amazon), can be ordered via this link. I cut the sheet into smaller pieces.

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.

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.


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36 Comments, Add Your Own

  1. 1 says

    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. 4ANTHONY says

    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!

  3. 6Joel says

    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

  4. 7Ali says

    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.


  5. 8 says

    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?

  6. 9 says

    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

  7. 10Michael says

    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.

  8. 11 says

    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! :-)

  9. 13Harry says

    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.

    • 13.1penndragonn says


      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.

  10. 14Edgar David says

    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?

  11. 15 says

    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

  12. 16Eddy Bakker says

    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

  13. 17 says

    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

  14. 18Jim B says

    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.

  15. 19 says

    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

  16. 22 says


    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.


  17. 24Dan Reid says

    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.

  18. 25Rade says

    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?

  19. 27Rade says

    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.

  20. 28 says

    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.

  21. 29 says

    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.

  22. 30Jason says


    Interestingly, I see Michael Zelbel from GoodLight magazine also using a BFT in his latest YouTube video, where he uses it to do a portrait in a bar.

  23. 32Sahil says

    Hey Neil,

    Just wanted to say using the BFT for the first time was amazing and produced amazing results on photos that were shot in a portrait position. However since, Im an event photographer and have to shoot in landscape as well I was able to produce the same quality of light. How would you suggest getting to same/similar results for a photo in a landscape position?


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