Welcome to the forum!

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.

Preferred method when you can't bounce flash

dbrunodbruno Member
edited January 2019 in flash & lighting
Hey, All - I really would like to hear from this group about something that has bothered me since I learned about bounce flash: I would like to know what your preferred method/modifier/technique is when you absolutely CANNOT bounce your flash. I'm sure many of you have been in this situation before. If you have been a photographer for a long time, and have never faced this, well great for you. But, I don't want to hear about the unusual things you have bounced off. I want to know what you do when you walk into a venue for an event and the walls and ceiling are black; or when you look around a venue so dark you cannot see your food and you say to yourself "no way bounce flash is happening"; a cavernous atrium entrance to a courthouse; etc. I don't want to hear about the wedding technique about the flash in each corner, unless you can tell me what you put on your on-camera flash. I want to know what you do with on-camera flash when you cannot bounce. If you come back with the answer "you can always bounce, even off black", well then so be it. I would really appreciate hearing from anyone about this. Thanks.



  • TrevTrev Moderator
    edited January 2019
    Two technigues:

    1: Direct Flash (ugggh!)
    2: When you 'know' you are facing this dilemma, take someone with you holding the flash head off to one side (wireless controlled) and a bit above to shoot.

    Caveat: Forget about 'the bloody mood', just open up the ISO, shoot f2.8 or a tad less like f4, Shutter around 80th if your holding technique is good as the flash should freeze movement.

    There is no way around this, but "I" personally would do the following:

    a] ISO 3200+
    b] f2.8
    c] Shutter 60-100th (I've even gone down to 40th, but rarely, only when desperate)
    d] Bounce but with flash head zoom fully zoomed in manually

    Just to 'see' what I can get. When you are looking at an image on screen fully zoomed in you will see tonnes of noise, forget it, it really does not print like that, people get so jammed up with 'seeing' noise on screen that you would be amazed what you can print and get away with it.

    For the types of events I see you do, I doubt they are using them to get 20x30 inch prints done, mainly for social media screen viewing.

    Dave, you really have to drop the mindset of the mood mate, just shoot the event with a good exposure.

    I always try to shoot 1/3rd+ over-exposed, which cleans the shadows, but, more importantly, flash "cleans" the skin, if you shoot under, the skin tones are muddy brown and not opening them up properly will simply make for a crap picture.

    Then when you bring the exposure back down in your raw converter for the faces, you then 'create' your 'mood' if you like with the background going a bit darkish, but really, a good exposure from the outset should be foremost in your mind to shoot.

    Remember, muddy under-exposure on skin tones does not equate for a good mood shot, unless you have 2-3 lights set up for those portrait style shots, not for an event gig you shoot.

    I cannot emphasise enough you really do need to be 'on target exposure-wise' for skin, over is a good thing as you can bring back down, under is, well, just crappy, unless you have techniques for getting skin to clean up but who has time to do that.

    Good luck.

    PS: I've even used a person who is wearing white, to ask them to turn their back to me (they are just behind me and to one side) to bounce off that shirt/dress.

    I had a wedding a couple years back whereby it was outside, totally pitch black with just a few fairy lights across a table with wedding cake on. I did a test with just available light, crap.

    Then I did flash direct/off to one side/above, etc., crap.

    Since I just needed the cake by itself, the bride was standing there, I asked her to turn her back to me, positioned her and shot bouncing off the white dress.

    Yes, that was a wedding, but technique still the same.

    As a last resort you could shoot direct with flash head up one notch and rely on the stupid pull-out thingy on the flash head, but really, it's not ideal but still better than nothing.

  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
    Trev thoroughly nailed it there.  I don't have anything more to add to that. 
  • Trev - Thanks for taking the time to write all that, I really appreciate it.

    I always worried about going too high with ISO, but I've seen you and Neil post that both of you go up to 3200. Makes me feel a bit better. Sometimes, I go into these venues and get a measure of the ambient at 1/125, F4, ISO 1600, and it doesn't even register. My "go to" lens is my Canon 24-105 mm F4. I have a 24-70 F2.8, but it doesn't give me the length I need.

    With the kinds of stuff I do, I have to stay at F5.6 because of informally posed group shots. I go to F4 when I know I can, and bring my ISO down to compensate. Also, I pretty much stay at 1/125 shutter because of hand motion getting people in the middle of an animated conversation (unless I want that motion).

    I am not as experienced as you guys, but when I tell people I've bounced off chandeliers, tray ceilings, white poles, brick walls, what I get is "whoa, really?". So I will do anything I can to bounce my flash, and have gotten used to directing people where the shot is advantageous to me.

    I just really wanted to know if anyone has made use of a Rogue Flashbender, Gary Fong, FStoppers Disc, flash brackets, etc, that kind of a rig when bouncing is impossible.

    Thanks again - Dave
  • dbrunodbruno Member
    edited January 2019
    So, I do have a question about holding the flash head off the camera: I know this will give less "flat" lighting, but you are still pointing the flash at the person, correct? How can this be any good unless you have some sort of modifier on the flash? Do you put a modifier on the flash with this?


    P.S. I have also held the camera in one hand and bounced off a white tri-flector held in my other (I saw Neil do this once). It was at the top of the main tank at an aquarium - black walls, black ceiling, low lighting. I know at least a couple of people were not too comfortable with my method.
  • TrevTrev Moderator
    edited January 2019

    I can see the restrictions on your lens @ f4 and needing to shoot around f5.6 for depth of field for groups, so I would compensate by dragging the shutter around 60-80th for that tiny bit extra ambient, bump the ISO up, you don't have to go from 1600 to 3200 as in a stop, a lot of time I am around 2000 just to squeeze a bit more out, but then again I am using an assistant holding a bloody big 300W or 600W flash bounced, including my flash on camera, bounced also.

    Now, regarding a flash off camera but still pointing at them, mate, you have to go do some practice, say in your house lights off with the good lady being a guinea pig, and you will see a vast improvement instead of it being on camera.

    Once you have the flash off the camera axis you are losing the flatness exponentially and that will create a 'roundness/shape' to the faces, it is a big difference, no different if you were outside using off camera flash, which has to be pointed directly at them.

    Now, regarding a modifier on that method, well you could use the clip on 'diffuser' the flash come with, but in reality it does not make a discernible difference to the outcome, in fact you would be hard pressed to see any, so I would not bother, as it will still be a 'tiny' light source with hard pin-prick lighting.

    What you could maybe do, have a sheet of white material instead of the black foamy thing, taped to back of head and point it up around 45 degrees, that would spread it out and diffuse the light, and as long as you have sufficient flash power then good, it will work.

    Try that both on/off camera.

    Things like the Gary Fong light modifier, well let's just say I used that twice years back and ditched them in the rubbish bin.

    The Flash Rogue Bender you speak of, maybe mate, never used it, not since bouncing with BFT and light off camera.

    Flash brackets which helps put flash off camera axis, well that would certainly be a much better outcome, but also bulky, and you would also be pretty much primarily restricted to landscape style because once you turn camera in Portrait position, the flash is way off; however, if you turn your camera from right to left as most do with shutter hand (right) on top, I would put the bracket on the right side of the camera so once it's turned into Portrait position, at least the flash will be top and coming down, that would work, be it bulkier and more weight.

    At least with that method you don't have to try to shoot one handed, bloody hard work just for a few let alone a few hundred or so.

    Good Luck Dave, nothing more I can now add to this conversation, I think I need a Bex and a good lie-down. :'(


    PS-Trivia: Bex was a analgesic very popular in Australia in the 20th century, had a lot more 'goodies' in it then the normal stuff you get these days.

    The saying 'I need a Bex and a good lie-down' was synonymous as in having a bad day.

    It came in the form of APC tablets or powder, containing 42% aspirin, 42% phenacetin, plus caffeine. Wooo!!

    I worked with a guy who come to work each day, with a bottle of Coke, a Bex powder, he'd unwrap the Bex, take a swig from the coke, pour the powder into the remaining coke bottle then gulp it down while it was fizzing like Mount Krakatoa, no wonder his guts were pretty crook 30 years later. Every day he did that.

  • Trev - Great story, and well told!

    I really do appreciate the time you have taken to answer these questions in such detail. You have been incredibly helpful to me.

    Happy New Year to you - Dave
  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
    Dave ... to see the difference between direct light from your speedlight, vs (properly positioned) off-camera light from the same speedlight, you would do really well to test it for yourself. 

    That should answer your question about why you would still want to use bare off-camera speedlight, instead of direct on-camera flash. 

    In other words, you have some homework to do. :)
  • Neil - I've got the time, and it's a good suggestion. Since I have been able to do your trick at least once with the tri-flector, Maybe I could do this as well - Dave
  • SkidsSkids Member
    A useful thread which I hope is not to old for me to post in. 

    The OP asks  "I just really wanted to know if anyone has made use of a Rogue Flashbender, Gary Fong, FStoppers Disc, flash brackets, etc, that kind of a rig when bouncing is impossible."  

    I have used both a Flashbender or a very small speedlight mounted Lastolite softbox on an off camera flash (speedlight).  Neither are going to replace a large softbox but they do help even the light output and help tame hot spots such as a greasy nose. 

    However, recruiting a helper to hold a reflector to bounce off will probably yield better results.

Sign In or Register to comment.