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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.

Hypothetical Situation that May Occur in a Month

I am beginning to get volunteer opportunities with the Chamber of Commerce in my town. Rumor has it that one of their ideas for fundraising is to hold a "Crazy-Hat Party". So, it got me thinking about a situation early on (last November) where I was photographing a Halloween party. I had just begun following this forum, and was trying to adhere to the "No direct flash" mantra. I equipped myself with a BFT, and headed in to the function room. I was bouncing my flash, using the BFT, and generally all was well EXCEPT for the people whose costumes had hats. The faces were shadowed. The walls were pretty far away from me as it was a big hall, so I was bouncing primarily off the ceiling.

I was shooting RAW, and on most of the pictures in question I was able to brighten up the faces using Canon DPP. But, being a novice who wants to learn some tricks, I really would like to use as little software tweaking as possible, and try to get it as right as possible in the camera.

So, all opinions and viewpoints welcome: You are by yourself, you have an on-camera Speedlite, no posed shots (meaning no setup with a backdrop and off-camera flash), and it's an event-type situation where you are walking around and photographing people having a good time. Faced with a function hall filled with all sorts of hats - baseball, cowboy, sombreros, big-floppy sun hats - how would you light this with bounce flash and NOT have faces shadowed by the hat brims?

My next step after maybe hearing back from anyone is to go and get a cheap mannequin head and spend a few hours experimenting with different hats and lighting.

Thanks - Dave


  • A couple of weeks ago, I started a new discussion regarding On-Camera Soft Boxes. Someone suggested and posted a blurb about the Lumiquest 80/20 Pro Max system, and how it had worked really well for them. I found one on EBay for 10 bucks (they list for $40-ish, yikes), and it arrived today. I was playing around with it, and now I'm wondering if this could be one of the solutions to this hat/shadow issue. With this, you can only point the flash straight up or tilted slightly forward, but there is a small area of white inside this "hood" to direct some (the 20%) of the flash forward. Any thoughts are welcome, especially from anyone who has used this device. Again, the the bounce direction of the main light (the 80%) is restricted, unless someone knows of a clever way to get around this. I am photographing the CoC annual dinner/dance on Thursday night, and I may or may not hear if any more thought was given to this proposed hat party.
  • I think your best bet is bouncing off a wall low enough, maybe directly behind you. I know you said the walls were far away but maybe there are shots where they're closer, if you are closer to the walls. If not, you may have to go the StoFen cap route, using that plastic cup diffuser or a similar one. That will work but the light isn't flattering and it will create shadows one any walls behind your subject. When I use it I point it straight up, I don't bend flash head toward subject. Remember, not all hats have brims. So there may be plenty of hats where you can still bounce against ceiling, angled behind you oe to the side.
  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
    I think this would be a tough one to fix consistently just with a low bounce angle - you're going to have to get more light in under the hat.
  • Not that I have a reflector in my possession, but if you could hold the camera with one hand, and a small reflector at waist level angled up to reflect any available light under the brims, how unorthodox would that be? Are things like this ever done without an assistant? I'm just throwing out ideas as I think of them.
  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
    It sounds like a mission.  I wonder if a small sized on-flash softbox wouldn't be the best compromise here. 
  • In a discussion I started last week, I wondered if on-camera soft boxes were worth it. They can be had for less tan $10 on EBay, so I may pick one up, if my experimenting with the LumiQuest doesn't give me the results I want. Even if this fund-raising idea is a no-go, I am still going to try and work this out the best I can.
  • This fund-raising idea was nixed by the Chamber of Commerce. Oh well, now I have this nifty foam head (male), and an on-camera soft box on the way. Just another couple of inexpensive toys to play around with.
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