More examples using bounce flash
How effective our bounce flash looks, depends largely on us being aware of the ambient light, and the direction of the ambient light … and then adding flash to it. Either as a fill, or as a main source of light.
In the photo above, the light levels in the room was very low. To have the images from this photo session be constantly sharp, additional light was necessary to lift the light levels – the least complicated, yet very flattering light, was on-camera bounce flash.
- camera settings: 1/100 @ f/2.8 @ 1000 ISO …. on-camera bounce flash in TTL mode
- more images from this photo session
We can finesse the light from our flash by specifically choosing the direction in which we bounce flash. We can add to the ambient light, or we can bounce from an opposite direction to lift the shadows a bit.
Any way we decide on it, the image will look better if we put some thought into it, instead of shooting direct flash .. or just as bad, in a 45′ bounce angle when it isn’t appropriate.
So here are a few more examples to explain the thought process behind some of this.
This photo was taken in a restaurant in Brooklyn, overlooking the Manhattan Skyline. The interior of the restaurant was dimly lit – and even with the rainy early evening skies, the outside was brighter than inside. Using my on-camera flash, I had to balance the two areas.
The next image shows my initial test shot – it will give a better idea of the effect of the added flash.
The method: I firstly metered for the outside, and double-checked with a test shot. I then added flash by bouncing the flash off the ceiling behind and to the right of me. A test shot (not shown here), indicated I needed to add some flash exposure compensation, and +0.7 EV looked about right.
- camera settings: 1/15 @ f/4 @ 800 ISO … TTL flash @ +0.7 FEC
- Canon 1D mk2N
- Canon 16-35mm f/2.8
- 580EX speedlight
Even though the shutter speed was low, I wasn’t too concerned with camera shake, because the piano player would be too dark (without flash) for camera shake to be noticeable if I handled my camera carefully.
Photographing the bride, Justine, against a Tungsten-lit background, I positioned her and myself so that I could get that warm halo around her. Bounce flash. Dead easy. Of course I used the black foamie thing to make sure the light from the flash was indirect, yet directional. It’s a simple but effective way to work with on-camera flash indoors.
I chose my camera settings such that the ambient light in the background registered, and then added TTL flash. The flash picked up the exposure to where it needed to be. I had to dial a positive FEC to compensate for the brighter tonal values dominating the center of the image.
- camera settings: 1/60 @ f/2.8 @ 1000 ISO .. TTL flash @ +1.33 FEC
- Nikon D3S
- Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 AF-S VR II / Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II … used at 145mm
- Nikon SB-910 Speedlight / Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite
Video tutorials to help you with flash photography
If you like learning by seeing best, then these video tutorials will help you with understanding flash photography techniques and concepts. While not quite hands-on, this is as close as we can get to personal instruction. Check out these and other video tutorials and online photography workshops.
A challenge that I have with myself when photographing on-location portraits, is to look for options where there appear to be none. To work with what appears to be limited locations, and then pulling out something that is hopefully surprising. With Penelope, the cutest 2-yr old, I scouted the lobby of the apartment her parents lived, before I went up to meet them. I liked the retro-cool decorations in the huge lobby, and thought it might make an interesting backdrop with a fast short telephoto like the 85mm lens. Then the background would melt away.
- camera settings: 1/250 @ f/1.4 @ 800 ISO
- TTL on-camera bounce flash, gelled with 1/2 CTS gel.
To clean up the light on her, I used on-camera bounce flash. Since the light there was a warm color because of the fluorescent light, (similar in look to Incandescent lighting), I gelled my flash with a 1/2 CTS gel. This brings my flash’s color balance in line with that existing ambient light. (See the next section on gelling your flash.)
The right-hand image shows the existing light there (for the same exposure) as comparison to how much difference the bounce flash made. The left-hand image was the initial pull-back shot. Then we cleared out part of the lobby area to get a clean area to shoot, with a less cluttered background.
Most people walking past there wouldn’t have thought of the options here for a portrait of anyone – but it is there. With the specific choices of lens, aperture, background and lighting, there is potential in surprising places.
One more example of how we use flash exposure compensation to adjust our fill-flash. With these portraits of a model, Jamie, the ambient light was metered to be correct. (We used the histogram method, metering off her white shirt.)
Using fill-flash like this doesn’t really change the over-all exposure, but it certainly does change the contrast. In other words, the shadow areas are more filed with light. The spill light very often also changes the amount of light on the background, as seen here. The White Balance is also often affected as we add the colder light from the flash … which might have picked up other colors as it is reflected off the walls and other items in the room. The overall effect of the fill-flash can then be quite substantial.
Camera settings: 1/160 @ f/2.8 @ 800 ISO … on-camera TTL flash bounced to right
FEC for image on left: -2 FEC
FEC for image on right: 0 FEC
Notice how the change in FEC affected the exposure – as we bumped up the FEC, the flash became a more dominant light source. It also then helped make the image less contrasty, since the shadow areas were filled with more light.
Gelling your flash
Since I frequently gel my flashguns to turn the WB of my flash much warmer (usually for Incandescent light), I use these gels that I cut up and tape to the top of my speedlight’s head. One of these sheets (which aren’t expensive), will give you a lifetime supply of these filters. For me, these gels are an invaluable part of flash photography. Tape the gels down on your lens hood when not in use.
The Full CTS will bring your flash WB down to around 2900K, more or less neutralizing the look of the Tungsten light. The 1/2 CTS will bring your flash WB to around 3800K, which will leave your backgrounds still with a touch of the warmth of Tungsten lighting.
next section: Recommended speedlights / flashguns
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