Bouncing Flash

September 23, 2015

Bouncing Flash

Bouncing flash 

I absolutely love photographing weddings in bright sunshine, yes I know it can be a real challenge because of shadows and trying to ensure that you don’t have dark shadows where you don’t want the but the colours and the contrast does it for me, you have to be careful  because of shadows under the eyes however there are ways to work around this and using your flash is one of those Techniques, you have to really push the flash so its best to make sure you have the power!

This photograph of this beautiful Bride was taken outside in bright sunshine however turning Jessica away from the sun and then using the wall beside me to bounce the flash worked a treat.

My first technique for using off-camera flash actually may not involve taking the flash off its hot-shoe at all. In fact, it’s not necessarily about off-camera flash at all, and is more to do with having an off-camera light source. Probably the easiest way to do this is to use your hot-shoe-mounted flashgun and aim it directly at a nearby wall or ceiling. 

The wall or ceiling becomes the light source, and as it’s large compared to the subject, the light will be very soft. One of the advantages of this is that it’s free and easy to do, this can be efective to help with group photographs indoors but can also be effective outside if you are fortunate enough to have a good reflective wall outside.

You can just aim your flash’s bounce and swivel head right at the ceiling and let your camera work out its setting automatically using its TTL system. Easy. Or you can go fully manual on the flash, or camera, or both if you want to take real control. However, it’s not a perfect solution, as bouncing your flash has the effect of reducing its power. In addition, light always takes on the color of whatever it’s been reflected from, so you will need a neutral-colored surface to bounce off. 

Bouncing off a bright green wall may make your subjects look ill. I remember filming a wedding in Somerset on a wonderful Somerset Farm near Bath, the official photographer decide the barn would be a great place to take some romantic images of the Bride and Groom, however the photographer bounced her flash off the roof which was a very strange green colour and yes you guessed it, the Bride and Grooms images were very grey, and they looked quite unwell, I had to explain to the Photographer the reason for the colour cast, he then had to quickly retake the shots again! You can carry a big reflector, hold it to the side or overhead and bounce off that, instead. Large broadsheet newspapers make good bounce cards, too, as do large people in light-colored shirts! You often find that at weddings, there are plenty of reflective objects that you can use, be creative and try it, even the table cloth can give you great help with your flash.

When using bounce flash it’s often advantageous to use a clip-on diffuser, as this scatters the beams of light so they bounce off even more surfaces. 
Some flashes come with these as standard, or you can buy aftermarket diffusers from Stofen, Gary Fong, or others. 

They do reduce flash power, which may be an issue. They send the majority of light directly to where they are pointed, though the sides also radiate light. This is ideal for a little bit of fill light on a subject’s face and can put nice catchlights in the eyes, with the diffuser cap acting like a main light and minor fill, all at once. 

As mentioned above, low ceilings are ideal for bouncing off, as the main light comes down from above the subjects, giving a natural look. If it’s too bright however, note that there can be shadows under the eyes—just like on a sunny day. 

It’s also a good idea to reduce the camera’s shutter speed or increase its ISO so that some ambient light is recorded. Of course, if the floor is white then it will act as a lovely fill light for you if you bounce light off the ceiling Light will bounce down as a soft main light, hit the floor, then bounce upwards as a fill light It’s not always about ceilings, as light-colored walls can work very well as a main light source. 

Of course, this works if your flash is on-camera, but also if you take it off-camera and bounce it. With a light-colored ceiling and a couple of off-camera flashes aimed upwards, you can put even light all over quite a large room.

I try my best to bounce my on camera flash whenever its possible as this ensures the light is evenly spread and provides a much softer light.

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