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Bouncing Flash off Colored Surfaces

I know I have seen this in one of Neil's books, but can't seem to locate it. And, I can only guess the answer to some of my questions will be "It depends".
I photographed an event this past Thursday for the Chamber of Commerce, and it took place in a restored farm house. Activity was in 5 separate rooms. Every room was different: low ceilings, different colored walls, way more ambient in some, huge converted barn with wooden ceiling, tungsten recessed lighting, flourescent in one room, quite a mix I was bouncing the flash, paying attention to how the small groups were situated, getting a lot of catch lights. My issue was in a couple of the rooms that had high- wooden ceilings and colored walls. My only choice was to bounce off the walls. What do you do when you are bouncing off colored surfaces? That night, I was also playing around with gelling the flash with 1/2 and full CTS. A few of the rooms had tungsten lighting and low, white ceilings. I understand why a flash should be gelled, and that's to match the lighting. But if you have a certain type of light in a room, but you are bouncing off colored surfaces, how do you handle this? Do you leave the flash un-gelled, and set the WB to match the room? Thanks for any advice. BTW, I am remembering to pay attention to more and more stuff and techniques I'm learning from this forum, and I really do appreciate having this as a resource.


  • In the situation you’re describing I gel the flash to match the
    ambient light source the tungsten or florescent bulbs, shoot RAW and fine tune
    the WB in post production.
    When you are
    bouncing the flash off the same surface the ambient light source is bouncing
    off of, they should have the same WB.

  • Q - thanks, and actually that is what I did. Although there was one shot in the room with high ceilings and sort of "dusty-rose" walls that I just really couldn't seem to make right, and I'm not sure why because all the other shots in that room came out pretty good.

    The observation you made about both the ambient and flash bouncing off the same surface was a good way for me to think about it.

  • You use a human lighting stand. For yourself, place the camera body on a flash bracket and use direct flash. You will act as the fill flash. Your human lighting stand will manuever with you and have the main light on a pole. The pole will be elevated above the heads of everyone.

    To do this without a human lighting stand you can use a real lighting stand and do one room at a time taking the stand with you going to the next. The super advanced photographers will setup a stand in each room and somehow turn the flash they want on with a cool remote control.
  • RussGRussG Member
    Custom white balance... takes about 30 sec to set, if that. Set for each room as you go in, it works incredibly well with colored wall bounce. With powerful enough flash, you can overpower ambient.
  • Michael - forgive my inexperience with lighting. I don't see how a flash bracket helps in any lighting situation other than being able to keep the flash abve the camera lens when shooting vertically.
    I understand you take the small, intense light source and move it 8-10 inches away from the lens. But, you are still directing this small, intense light source right at the subject. To me it doesn't seem to solve the "avoid direct flash as much as possible" problem. can you clue me in so I don't go out and spend money on something I don't fully understand? Thanks.
  • RussG - I though about that, as I have a grey card in my bag. But I saw something Neil wrote - maybe I misunderstood it - that made me think that if you were not static and moving around in during an event, even staying in the same room, that as you move around the viewpoint from a lighting perspective would still change, and the grey card would not do the job you think it would.

    I am actually volunteering for another event this Thursday. I have been to this place a few times, and I was going to use a grey card and custom-white balance, as I will be in one room for the entire event. I am interested to see how this turns out.

    So, clue me in to one thing - I fill the center spot in the viewfinder with the card, focus manually, zero the exposure meter, take the picture, and tell the camera to use that shot (this is from my camera manual). If I know I will be using flash (bouncing or otherwise), do I take the shot of the card using flash?

  • ViccoVicco Member
    hmhm, right, or just switch to Raw, and look, if there is something neutral around.
    If yes, you can compensate later-on with that white-balance eyedropper in ACR.
    If not: take out a white paper tissue and place it somewhere in the scene.

    Even better: for situations like these I always carry a white-grey card in my wallet. It is from Novoflex, but I cut it to the size of an amex card, so it fits nicely in my wallet ... and that's it. Your're set :-)
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