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As an adjunct to the Tangents blog, the intention with this forum is to answer any questions, and allow a diverse discussion of topics related photography. With that, see it as an open invitation to just climb in and start threads and to respond to any threads.

Bouncing flash into nothing

woosterwooster Member
edited September 2014 in wedding photography
Hi. Now I've seen Neil giving examples of how he works where he says things like "I'm going to bounce the flash way over there" or "bouncing behind me into the room". This gives the impression that the wall or whatever is either a long way off or even something non-specific. I've never tried bouncing flash from anything further than a bout 20 ft away and I've cranked my ISO up to accommodate that.

I suppose I'm wondering if I'm being way to conservative. I have tried this technique in larger rooms I found the results were poor and the flash never really made an impact. I'm not sure if I've missed something major here or if my techniques is just faulty.

If I'm shooting a wedding in someplace large I have my flash if off camera angled upwards and with a Stofen on it, or if on camera I use a home made white foam card on the head to bounce. I rely on the light diffusing forwards and though I guess I lose a lot of flash power by doing it the light looks all right. In smaller places I use nearby walls etc to bounce.

What am I missing?


  • Good question. I don't know but I'm guessing it has a lot to do with the inverse square law. While you're waiting for a much better answer than mine, look up this law, NVN talks about it on Tangents, so you can search there. Has something to do with the spread of light and exposure overall being better the farther you are from the light source, the light source here being the wall off which you're bouncing.
  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
    When the results look under-exposed, go to 1/1 manual flash. Full power. If you are still under-exposing at this point, then you're clearly being too ambitious with where you are .. or your choice of aperture ... or your choice of ISO.
  • When all else fails I use direct flash. A port in a storm but sometimes works well especially in manual.
  • When all else fails I use direct flash. A port in a storm but sometimes works well especially in manual.

    I 2nd that!!
  • woosterwooster Member
    edited September 2014
    Thanks people, for your help. I have always erred on the side of caution and either used a card as I said or maybe had someone stand with a white cloth or even their shirt as a bounce if the wall was too far away. I guess it's horses for courses and each case has to be taken on it's merit.

    In most cases I chicken out of flash wherever possible, only using it when there's no alternative, but I know that's not helping me get the very best results. Even though I know the theory and can get a reasonable exposure most of the time I never get the results Neil does. I'm not trying to climb up your rear here Neil, just telling the truth ;-)

    I suspect it's a bit of a vicious circle. If I don't practice I won't get better. I have this idea that I'm too old a dog to learn new tricks but I need to leave that attitude alone too.

    Neil, can I ask as a guide, how far away from the wall will you comfortably bounce from? Given the way you speak in some of your tuts I am guessing it's quite a bit further than I've even tried

    I appreciate your time and responses :-)
  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
    It has much less to do with the "distance to the wall", than the aperture / ISO combination, and how powerful your flash is.

  • "I suspect it's a bit of a vicious circle. If I don't practice I won't get better. "

    I'm just getting back into lighting after a 3 year hiatus. I forgot a lot but got back on track by reading Tangents and taking notes. I then started shooting myself for practice, and eventually found a friend to pose. This has helped me a lot because there is a lot of information to store and you need to be able to regurgitate it at a moments notice.

  • Well I confess I've just stuck to my usual tactics since my last post. I've been rushed off my feet lately and haven't had time to try out new stuff and I obviously won't experiment when shooting weddings! Now that things will be quieter I will do some trials.

    Tangents is such a great great informative site. Thanks for keeping it going, Neil.
  • No offense and I hope this does not sound too strong, but I think I can say with confidence that your flash photography will improve if you place both the stofen and the bounce card in the trash.
  • woosterwooster Member
    edited October 2014
    Hi Michael. No offence taken. I'm not sure if it's always right though. 

    If the impression I gave from my earlier posts was that I automatically stick a Stofen on the flash and set it at a particular angle for every shot then I apologise for not being clear. I do use Stofen and bounce flash quite often though.

    I know an awful lot of very good photographers who use the pieces of kit mentioned and who produce very nice work. I also know of a number of high profile wedding photographers who use them and I would find it difficult to argue against these techniques because their results speak for themselves.  ( I'm not talking Gary Fong or anyone else with a vested interested either )  I also know a number who never use them and get eery bit as good results in their own way. In other words, they use what suits them. In a less spectacular way, I use what suits me too.  

    On the other hand, yes a lot use them and get lousy results. I don't know which camp I am in ;-)

    I have read a fair amount of photographic literature in my time and also seen a lot of stuff online. I keep doing it because am interested in how other people work, but I've seen often enough two excellent photographers disputing the 'right" way to do something and both coming to opposite conclusions while each one producing "evidence" in terms of outstanding images to support their method. I don't try to copy everything I read. Some stuff I try and take on board, some I try and reject, and some i don't try at all. I make these decisions based on my experience and how it fits in with my way of working.

    So I guess what we have are points of view and a way of working which we find supports that view. I would resist suggesting that anyone's way is right for everyone though. 

    Having said all that  I can always learn new stuff and I will pursue this over then lean winter months with the assistance of the advice on these and other forums. 

    Thanks for your response :-)

  • ZenonZenon Member
    edited October 2014

    From a personal standpoint I gave all my diffusers away after taking lighting courses, spending time in forums, reading articles, etc. If I can't bounce then I just shoot direct and it made things much simpler for me. I'm even using my bracket less these days due modern censors. When I'm really busy I just shoot horizontal and crop for portrait later. I would shoot portrait if I had to as long as there was no wall behind my subjects which is a no no anyway. Learning Neil's style I try to find anything I can bounce off. I have walked into a place looking all over the place and people have asked me what I was looking at.          

    Like stated the advantage we have today is cameras have become high ISO capable. I crank the ISO  to allow more ambient light in so the flash does not have to work as hard. I have no issues shooting at ISO 6400 with my full frame and often shoot high ISO when indoors and bouncing anyway. More ambient light balances better with the flash exposure thus the whole scene looks more natural. Easy to clean a little noise later during post processing. Actually the flash provides a good exposure so there is less noise on the subjects, which is the most important part. Unless you have a real high end customer that knows what to look for a little background noise is nothing especially with 8 by 10 prints. What really helps are the masking sliders in PS and Lr. I'm usually at about 80 and Adobe's NR is very good as well.   

    Of course this goes against all the teachings but I get very good usable images. The subjects are just a little flat. 

    I came across this article during my journeys and it was very helpful.


    I had the most relaxing shoot of my life about a month ago. My best friends 60th B party. The venue was small with about a 10 foot high ceiling. All the the walls and ceiling were white. It doesn't get any better.    

  • "I
    had the most relaxing shoot of my life about a month ago. My best
    friends 60th B party. The venue was small with about a 10 foot high
    ceiling. All the the walls and ceiling were white. It doesn't get any
    better. "

    Absolutely!! wish they were all like that and then all our pics would be almost as good as Neil's!    ;-)


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