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Bounce flash

Bounce problems

Hi all, I have problems with bounce flash.  I’m in Australia and I shot the head shots for a small local theatre company.  The head shots are generally B & W and a black background is used. They are just head shots. 

I have found that the bounce of camera is not really working for me.  I’m finding I’m having to go up to 1600 or higher ISO, at 1/60 because of the background, then adjust in photoshop as a DNG file.  I have to adj in Camera Raw: exposure by + 1.45, brightness by +64 and Clarity by +27.  Flash was on camera set on TTL facing forward with head turned up right.

The attached images show the setup and the result. The images were saved as raw files and only have been changed to jpeg to post.  The image of the set up show that the main wall and celling is white and therefore should be good for bounce, but not in this case.  I had to do a lot of post work.

I would like to get it correct in Camera. On this occasion I was using a Sony A6000 with face rec. I feel that I may not be bouncing correctly.


  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
    edited July 2015
    There is plenty white space there to bounce flash, even with a smaller flash. 

    Here is your main problem: "Flash was on camera set on TTL facing forward with head turned up right." 

    The other problem - you were in TTL mode. 
    You should go to manual - full output - and then find your settings (while bouncing your flash behind you), where you get proper exposure. And then use *those* settings. 

     The Big Question - what flash did you use? You didn't mention that. 

    In the mean time, here are two tutorials on bouncing flash: 
  • Yes, knowing the flash specifics would be good.

    You didn't have a neutral density filter or a circular polarizing filter on the lens accidently by any chance? I'm just surprised the shot is so dark with those settings (manual mode f/5.6, 1/60, ISO1600) with a flash firing in fairly white room.

    The reason I ask is that the pullback shot is quite a bit brighter with similar settings (programmed auto mode f/4.5, 1/60, ISO800) but it uses a different lens. All things being equal with flash, the pullback shot should have been 1/3 stop darker.

    What does the ceiling look like and how high is it?
  • ShellyShelly Member
    The flash unit was a bolt vs-560S, sorry I forgot that. I also Have a Sony F32M.  No I didn't have a ND filter or a polarizing Filter.

    Thanks Neil, I guess that the flash was not strong enough and I should not have used TTL because of the black background. 

    If I use manual flash and turn to the right I guess that it should be OK, well at least I can adjust the flash units power up or down.  Thanks
  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
    The black background would've tended to have TTL flash over-expose your subject - so there's something else going wrong here too. Perhaps negative FEC?
  • What color was the ceiling? If it was a dark color and your flash was bouncing off that that could be why this is so dark.
  • ShellyShelly Member
    The celling is white.  I think that I had the bounce wrong. I bounced to the right slightly forward when I should have bounced up more at 60deg. and and back a bit.

    The way I bounced meant that the light bounced past the person due to the angle, if you see what I mean.  Does that make sense.  I think I was trying to work out the angle of reflectionand got it wrong.

    Neil, I notice that in the Bounce flash tutorial you suggested I look at you did use TTL so for it would appear I got the reflected light angle wrong. does that make sense??
  • TrevTrev Moderator
    edited July 2015
    Shelly, yes, you got the angle wrong, by pointing up and forward, 60deg is way too high, more like 45 and behind you, otherwise it totally defeats the purpose of bounce flash, it needs to come from behind you a bit and not so high.

    Just looking at the photo you can see how the shadows fall, under her eyes, her nose most certainly indicates the light is coming down from high and you ended up with 'racoon' eye effect.

    Try around 45 Deg up, around 45 deg behind you and you will most certainly see a marked difference, then it's just a matter of getting the light to fall right by adjust the angles again, or, and this would be best, to 'flag' the flash with the BLACK FOAMY THING to get better results.

  • Even still Trev, it's still way too dark for those settings, don't you think? I think something like a really negative flash exposure compensation is going on, as Neil suggests. Or another incorrect setting? Flashing into a white ceiling, while not great and not going to produce most flattering light, still throws more light than this on the subject, especially with 1600!! and 1/60.
  • TonyTTonyT Member
    Skipperlange, are you referring to the potential of creating racoon eyes? Other than that I can't see what's not so great about bouncing onto a white ceiling.
  • TonyT, with light bounced correctly, a white ceiling or wall can act like a big softbox on the subject.
  • While specific numbers can help you in specific situations, it will be better if you just experiment with your flash more, turn & twist it around, up and down at different angles to see how the light & shadow changes.
  • TrevTrev Moderator
    Skip, definitely, I was replying to a specific question on how the shooter angled the flash, up 60 deg and forward, most definitely not the way to shoot that, now I don't know about Sony but with Nikon camera in manual mode you can utilise the camera's exposure compensation to influence the flash compensation as well as the compensation on the flash itself,  [+/- 6 e/v in total while flash in TTL] so am wondering also if FEC is also possible like that with a Sony body in manual, probably not, but yes I agree with the settings as they were most certainly should have been a bit more light.

  • TonyT, Bouncing into ceiling certainly not ideal. Sometimes only option, though not in this situation and it doesn't sound like the OP was doing that anyway, as she says she was throwing the light beyond the subject. But all I was really saying was that had OP bounced off a white ceiling AND with the settings used there should have been a LOT more light on the subject. I was referring to quantity of light, not quality. 

    I hear you Trev. Sure sounds like it could be an exposure comp issue on the flash or body. Don't know about Sony. One other possibility is that the flash's battery power was low and it was not putting out the light it should have been putting out. Keep in mind Shelley boosted the exposure by +1.45 in post processing. Yikes. Imagine how dark this was before that. I wonder if the flash fired at all. 
  • TonyTTonyT Member

    Skip, yep I get where you're coming from, I was just thinking that you couldn't ask for a better colour than white to bounce off and also with regard to the light coming from too high an angle leading to racoon eyes.

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