bounce flash photography

bounce flash photography

An photo of 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.

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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

Here is a recent wedding at the same venue as the above link … where I was able to effectively light the entire place with just one 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.

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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.

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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.



materials for the black foamie thing / black foamy thing

As regular readers of the Tangents blog know, 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 BFT consists of a small piece of black foam held in place by two hair bands. Simplicity itself.

I’m frequently asked where the black foam can be sourced … well, here are the Amazon affiliate links to order the black foam, as well as hair bands.

All the links to articles relating to the black foamie thing.

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


bounce flash photography & the inverse square law

After you’re done noticing the decorated candles that the bride is holding while dancing with the groom (a tradition in Palestinian weddings), you may well notice how evenly lit this photograph is – from foreground to background.

The people visible in the background seen there between the bride and the groom, are nearly as well lit as the bride and groom. Because this was on-camera bounce flash, the background will be brighter than may have been anticipated. If I had used direct flash, or flash with a diffuser cup or bounce card, my background would’ve been much darker. This is because when we bounce flash behind us, the Inverse Square Law works for us.

This gets interesting, but hopefully we can make it less complicated than the topic often appears. So hang in there …

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wedding photography – using bounce flash outside

When working with a couple during the romantic portrait session, there’s the need to bring variety to the images – not just in posing and composition, but also in terms of light & lighting. For this reason I use a variety – available light; video light; off-camera flash and on-camera bounce flash. I really like using on-camera bounce flash since it is such an easy light source to use, always at hand. There was a recent article on using bounce flash outdoors, but I’d like to add another example where I used bounce flash outside a wedding venue. Let’s look at the sequence of images …

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bounce flash photography & white balance settings

A question that often comes up, is whether the white balance will change when bouncing flash. The answer is an obvious one – yes, the light will pick up any color cast from a non-white surface. But that is why we need to shoot in RAW. Then the decision about exact White Balance becomes less crucial.

The photograph above, is of Roz, and was taken during the recent flash photography workshops in Dublin, Ireland. Roz was Ireland’s contestant in the 2010 Miss Universe contest, so it was quite a privilege to have her as one of our two workshop models!

The lighting in this image is simplicity itself:  on-camera bounce flash, with the black foamie thing as a flag to block the light from the flash directly hitting her. Of course, the ambient light coming in through the window acts as a secondary light, helping with a bit of rim-light there and also in creating background lighting.

In getting the light from my on-camera flash to come in from a pleasing angle – short lighting – I had to bounce the flash off the wooden panelling in the room. This of course made for a far-too-warm white balance:

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bouncing flash forward without getting that direct flash look

When bouncing my on-camera flash, I rarely point the flash straight-up. Most often the flash is pointed behind me or to the side to a certain extent. This way I get directional light. I want that off-camera soft-box effect. However there are those times when it just isn’t that practical.

With this recent wedding, the indoor ceremony was held in this large room. As you can see here in this test shot, the ceiling isn’t white, but is a light brown, with wooden beams. The thick cross-beams have the effect of blocking flash when bounced, containing the spread of light.

Bouncing flash behind me just about killed the light from my flash, so little of it returned to light my subject. So for the ceremony, kneeling down in the center aisle, I had to get light onto the bride and groom. The most logical way to do this, and still get good soft light on the couple, was to point my light forward at an angle to get enough light there … but I still needed to block direct flash from hitting them.

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using on-camera bounce flash outdoors

With wedding photography, when doing the night-time romantic portraits of the couple, the pressure is usually on. The only opportunity to whisk the couple away for a few minutes, is during dinner time, when the party is at a lull. The pressure is on because you have even less time than you had during the earlier part of the day, and you also don’t want to lose the attention of your couple who wants to get back to their guests at the reception.

I usually scout a few places before-hand, getting a clear idea of what I want. When setting out with the couple, I rely on bounce flash and on video light. There is rarely time for carrying around a soft-box. You need to move fast, set up fast … and still come up with the goods.

With this wedding from the past weekend, I wanted to capture two specific portraits of the couple with the outside of the venue as a backdrop. I would normally have used video light here, but I had the idea that I wanted the compression from a longer lens … the 70-200mm f2.8 … and then the person holding the video light would be in shot. So the solution was to get flash in there. Where we were working outside there, I fortunately had part of the building to bounce my flash off.

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