bounce flash photography

bounce flash photography

bouncing your on-camera flash behind you

A comment posted to the article, directional light from your on-camera flash, asked a lot of questions about bounce flash photography. While most of these have been answered over time in various articles, it might be a good thing to pull it all together in directly answering those questions here.

An uncomplicated portrait of Anelisa that shows the specific elements that I work toward with bounce flash:
catchlights in the eyes
directional light which can be observed here as that gradient of light across her cheek
- no hard shadows from direct flash

I most often do this by bouncing my flash behind me, or towards the side.

Learn more inside…


Ulorin Vex bounce flash portrait

bounce flash portrait & Photoshop retouching technique

When we were done with the studio shoot with Ulorin Vex, we still had a few minutes left, so I thought I could do a bounce flash portrait as well. Just for a comparison of sorts to show that on-camera bounce flash can give interesting results too. Here is the low-key portraits we did with the Profoto set-up.

The only semi-interesting background I could find in the studio (that wasn’t a white wall), was this grungy green door to one of the store-rooms. I thought it might work as a gritty urban setting. I shot about eight frames in the tight corner, but didn’t like what I saw on the back of my camera, so called it a day. We were done.

Looking through the images again today, cleaning up my hard drives, I hovered over the first image I took and thought it might hold some promise still if I worked it a little bit in Photoshop. Here is where I started …

Learn more inside…


night-club photos – Modern Gypsies – mermaid

When the Modern Gypsies asked me to photograph their one performance piece in a night-club in Manhattan, I wasn’t sure what equipment to bring along. I tend to over-prepare and bring too much. You know, just in case. So I have a tendency to overload myself with gear at times. It’s a discipline thing then to strip it down to just the essentials … but still be flexible enough to accomodate a challenging situation.

The previous time I photographed them, I knew there would be a large prep room, so I could bring in extra gear such as light-stands and softboxes. It worked out quite well for the example I showed on the Tangents blog - Modern Gypsies – masked dancers, as well as other photos out on the street, where the off-camera flash helped.

This time, I suspected I might need to travel much lighter. Night clubs aren’t the placed to walk around loaded with gear. So while I did load off-camera lighting and such into my car, I left most of my gear in the car. In my shoulder bag – the Think Tank Retrospective 20 (B&H) – I kept only the one  camera, three lenses, and two speedlights.

The performer is Irene, also known as Bird Girl in other performances. (You can follow her as @violinartiste on Instagram)

The photo at the top was taken with the Nikon D4  (B&H) and Nikon 35mm f/1.4G  (B&H) using only the lights there in the night-club. camera settings:  1/60 @ f/1.8 @ 3200 ISO  The available light looked great when it worked to my advantage, but I soon knew that I’d need to add a bit of fill-light from bounce flash

Learn more inside…


manual on-camera bounce flash

With the response to the article on bounce flash photography at wedding receptions, it might be good to continue the topic. While I prefer TTL flash when I use bounce flash, there are times when I do use my on-camera flash in manual exposure mode when I bounce it.

Julie & Kenny’s wedding, at the Laurita Winery, NJ, proved to be a bit of a challenge with the reception. The reception area was in the winery which had a beautiful interior … but it wasn’t white. Bounce flash was a touch more difficult than usual here.

Learn more inside…


bounce flash photography / lighting at wedding receptions

This photograph from a recent wedding got a few comments and questions in the album on Facebook. The questions really hinged around “where did all that light come from?” or whether I had used off-camera flash.

The purple and blue light in the back-ground is from the up-lighting from the entertainment / DJ company. The light on the couple entering the reception room … is all one on-camera bounce flash.

Learn more inside…


bounce flash photography

An image from the archives – a jazz trumpet player during a session in a club, lit by on-camera bounce flash. Since it’s a perfect example of how I use on-camera bounce flash so that it looks nothing like on-camera flash, I’d like to use it to illustrate this summary of on-camera bounce flash technique:

The light in this image is nearly all from my flash. The red hue in the background, and spilling onto part of the trumpet and his skin, is from the strong red lights in the night-club. To eliminate this, I under-exposed the ambient light, by choosing my camera settings accordingly.  (See the comparison photo below.)

By under-exposing the ambient light, the flash becomes the main source of light … and this allowed me to control the quality of light.

Learn more inside…


wedding photography: using high ISO and flash to retain ambience at the reception

Chatting with other photographers at the recent WPS convention in Chapel Hill, NC, I was again struck by how there are so many different ways of approaching lighting. In this case, lighting at the wedding reception. The one photographer I was chatting to, set up multiple speedlights around the reception room, and then controls which are fired, from his on-camera Master speedlight.  Very impressive.

In recent years, the wedding reception venues where I’ve shot on the East Coast of the USA, have moved away from being the dark-hole large rooms, by adding up-lighting, and making the places generally more vibrant and colorful. Coupled with the astonishing high-ISO capability of the last two generations of cameras, I really haven’t felt the need to set up additional lighting to lift the general light levels, like I would have in the past, as described in this article:
- wedding photography: TTL flash with off-camera manual flash
A wedding from earlier this year, at the same venue … where I was able to effectively light the entire place with just an on-camera speed light.
- bounce flash photography & the inverse square law

By using a higher ISO, and carefully bouncing my flash, I could get away with a much simpler set-up of a single on-camera speedlight.

Here’s an example of a recent wedding, where the reception was in a glass-house style conservatory. By shooting against the DJ’s lights, I was able to NOT have a dark background, but something colorful instead.

Learn more inside…


update: Spinlight 360 – new how-to videos added

Just to let everyone know that the creator of the Spinlight 360 has added five more how-to video clips to the site. This should answer many of the questions on how to use it and how to assemble it.

There is a discount code for readers of the Tangents blog.
More info on the Spinlight 360, and info on how to order one

I’ve recently been using the Spinlight 360 at the weddings that I’ve photographed.

And now on to something … more … um … I have no words really …

Learn more inside…


bounce flash portrait – a consistent technique

WPPI 2012 took place during the past week – as always, a crazy-hectic and exciting event. I once again presented a Master Class at WPPI. But I also took time to present a private mini-workshop to the first 3 people that signed up. We went over a condensed version of my full-day workshop, covering most of the material in the 4-hr long mini-workshop. Like last year, I called on my favorite model in Las Vegas, Shawna. Actually, she has since moved to L.A. but she was quite happy to make the trip back to Las Vegas to be our model.

The start of the practical part of the flash photography workshop is always on-camera bounce flash. For this article, I thought I’d use some of the demo photos, to show that there is a consistent technique here.  A consistent approach that guarantees at least a successful basic portrait with nice light and a pleasant background.

Learn more inside…


on-camera flash modifier system – Spinlight 360

For the past few weddings I have photographed, I’ve been testing out a new flash modifier – the Spinlight 360. I’ve been putting it through its paces, checking whether I like it and whether it would hold up during actual shooting of an event. And I do. So *this* post is the public premiere of this device. The auspicious announcement of the Spinlight 360

Instead of just diffusing flash, or having a bounce card, the Spinlight 360 also encompasses the idea behind the black foamie thing – that it is all about the direction of light, not just how your flash’s light is dispersed from on top of your camera.

I’ve had many people suggest I should sell the black foamie thing, but for me the BFT has always been about the technique, rather than the actual device. And I loved that it was so cheap and easily crafted. But it has its limitations when there is nothing to bounce your flash off, and you really need a bounce card to act as a larger surface to create softer light. Also, the BFT wasn’t easy to adjust from horizontal to vertical position. But with the Spinlight 360, you can easily rotate the black card which flags your flash. It is flexible and adaptable.

So here it is – a versatile modular on-camera flash modifier.

More info on the Spinlight 360, and info on how to order one.