Lighting tip – 4 ways to bounce a flash

As you probably can tell from the lighting articles on this site, I am not a great fan of on camera flash. The thing is that you don’t always have a choice. Sometimes you need to be both portable and have that extra few stops that a flash can produce. In that situation it is best to have a flash that can be attached to your hot-shoe mount. If you get really stuck, you can also use the pop-flash (AKA build in flash), but by doing this you are stepping to the realm of red-eyes, flat pictures and burnt people.

The best way to use an external flash is by triggering it by remote. (see the strobist for some great techniques on off camera flash use), but even if you get as creative as the strobster, sometimes you just have to have the flash on camera. For example: You are shooting a wedding and only have one or two flash units. Or is you are on the move along with your subject, and cant take the time to set up. So here are four simple ways to bounce your flash:

The way allot of photographers go is not to bounce at all. They place a stofen (A.K.A omni-bounce) on the flash, set the head to 45 degrees and shoot like there is no tomorrow. Now, the way the stofen works is it spreads dome of the light forward and bounce some of the light of the ceiling. so it only works if you have a nice, relatively low, white ceiling. This is considered a good solution by many photographer.

Why bounce?

  • when you bounce your flash, the light is coming to your subject in a diffused way. you will have less hot-spots (hot-spot is that shiny light at the tip of the subject’s nose that just cries for attention).
  • Red eye will not be an issue since the light is coming far off the subject-to-lens axis.
  • you will avoid those harsh shadows.
  • Today’s modern DSLRs and flash units can calculate the light power you will need for the bounce, so you don’t have to make recurring measures to correct for the bounce.

Now I’m going to recycle some pics from the lightsphere article to demonstrate what happens when you use direct flash. when you use a bounce that “effect” is gone.


direct flash



Why not bounce?

There are three main reasons why you would avoid bouncing your flash:

  • Nothing to bounce from – if you are in an outdoor location, and there are no white walls, ceiling, canopy of people dressed in white
  • Loss of light – you when you bounce your flash the light that your flash provides, need to travel further. remember that geometry class where the teacher says that the sum each two sides of the triangle is bigger then the third side? So light has to travel further. Also the bounce itself is taking some light. Even a completely white wall eats up a bit of light.
  • smoke! smoke is the enemy of flash. if you are in a smoky area (or under the control of an 80′s smoke machines obsessed DJ), and you try to bounce you might end up with a big picture of white. That happens because the smoke reflects the light. If the light has to go through allot of smoke you will get a white wall.

OK, after we covered the PROs and CONs, here are some flash bouncing techniques you can use. You can use those even if you have no accessories. I am assuming, however, that you can tilt and swivel your flash – most flash units like Nikon’s SB-800, SB-28, or Canon’s 550EX or Vivitar’s 285 can both tilt and swivel.

Bounce 1 – off the ceiling

This is the most trivial bounce of them all. To do the ceiling-bounce, just tilt your flash to the ceiling (or at a ~75 degrees angle) and take the picture. The ceiling will act as a huge reflector, bouncing the light softly on your subject. If you are using TTL, eTTL, iTTL or heckTTL, the flash will take care of the output power to compensate for the loss of light. The con of this method is that you might get some shadows below the eyes, since all the light is coming from a high place, this is why you may want to consider the “reverse ceiling bounce”.

Bounce 2 – The reverse ceiling bounce

In this method you tilt your flash 45 degrees backwards, so you are actually flashing the wall and ceiling behind you. The ceiling and wall will give you great diffusion, with a “softbox” even bigger then the ceiling from “bounce 1″, and the light coming back from the wall will take care of eye shadows. The big tow minuses for this method is that you need a wall behind you and that you loose a ton of light, that just goes floating around the room. A personal TIP – take a quick peek behind you before shooting – just to make sure that aunt Jessi is not getting a load of flash in her new contacts.

Bounce 3 – The wall bounce (also known as the side bounce)

In this method, you swivel your flash 90 degrees sideways and bounce of the nearest wall. Again you get a wall-sized softbox. The nice thing about this method is that the light is directional – you will get great depth and character. Can’t find a wall? look to the other side, still can’t find a wall? try the person bounce.

See the bellow picture for a wall bounce (see other picture of my daughter in the children photography article)

side/wall  bounce

Bounce 4 – bounce off a person

I got this one from Eric Vichich, and have been using it with great joy. This is good when you are out doors and you find someone who is waring white T-shirt. swivel the flash head to point to the person and shoot. It is best to use when there is still some day light, other wise the Ad-hock reflector person might get a full load of flash in his eye, and change from a friendly human reflector to a not so friendly red-eyed bull.

Well there you have it. happy bouncing. you can look at the lightsphere article for some bouncing diagrams.

Got some other neat flash techniques? share them on the comments.

DIY – Create Your Own Bokeh

create your own BokehBokeh is an adaptation from a a Japanese word meaning blur. In photography this term is used to describe the quality of the areas in the picture which are not in focus.

When referring to Bokeh, we can distinguish some of it characteristics:

- Is the light/dark gradient smooth or sharp?

- What shape will a small dot of light take what it is in the Bokeh area? (mirror lenses for example, create a bagel like Bokeh)

We can play with those two variants to create a special Bokeh.

[Read more...]

The Origami Studio (An Extrapolation to The $0.02 Macro Studio)

cheap origami macro studioThis post on a 2 cents macro studio got me thinking. Firstly because it is a great idea, it employs the same technique as the super simple light tent and the flash diffuser. Secondly it is cheap. So cheap in fact, that it really does only cost two cents. The thing that I was thinking is – “I want a BLT Sub”, and right after “This is great for small objects, what if I want to shoot something bigger? For this I came up with an improvement – The Origami Macro Studio. It is not as cheap – approximately 20 times more expensive – but for 40 cents, it is still a heck f a deal. And as the macro studio, it is cheap, takes 2 minutes to prepare, and very simple. [Read more...]

Take Infrared (IR) Pictures With Your Digital Camera

infra red filter for digital cameraIn this article, I will show you how to make a cheap infrared (IR) filter for your digital camera out of bits and pieces such as cardboard rolls, electrical tape, and some black processed photographic film (old negatives). This is just getting a brand new Hoya R72 IR filter for free.

The idea for this project came while researching IR light. When I discovered unexposed processed film made an effective IR filter, I literally had to put my house upside down to fish out some old negatives. Sadly, I also destroyed the zoom motor on my trusty Canon A60 by making a case that was too tight. You will see I have included several warnings here to prevent you from making the same mistake! I am now the proud (and poorer) owner of a brilliant Canon A710… [Read more...]

Homemade Matchbox Pinhole Camera

homemade pinhole cameraAlan of alspix has come up with a nice a easy solution for creating a pinhole camera from a simple matchbox. here is how he describes it (check out alspix blog for the most updated instructions):

My first couple of 35mm pinhole cameras attempted to be panoramic, wide angle jobbies but this time I thought it would be nice to get back to the classic square format. [Read more...]

35mm Sprocket Counter Clicker

After getting some question about the clicker , Alan of alspix has written a short post on how to build it (check out alspix blog for the most updated instructions):

I've read a few posts on flickr where people have tried using one of these plastic clickers to count sprocket holes but it has failed. Once you know how to make one, they work really well, so I thought it would be worthwhile documenting it properly here. The key is to ensure the clicker plastic only goes through the sprocket hole by a small amount, and it seems to work best with the clicker very close to where the film comes out of the canister.

It was time to reload my matchbox pinhole for the summer, so I took the opertunity to take some snaps of the process…..


You may also want to check out Matchbox Pinhole Camera and Matchbox Camera Shutter

check out alspix blog for the most updated instructions

Homemade Matchbox Camera Shutter

Alan of alspix has come up with a nice a easy solution for creating a shutter to a pinhole camera – here is how he describes it (check out alspix blog for the most updated instructions):

Here's a couple of photos of the shutter I'm currently using. It's made from a couple of bits of scrap card. One has a quite large hole cut in the center which fits over the pinhole (I didn't cut this very neatly – you can do better!) The other piece acts as the shutter and slides behind this, covering the pinhole. I stuck some black tape on the back of this shutter card.

here is how it looks like:


You may also want to check out Matchbox Pinhole Camera and 35mm Sprocket Counter Clicker

check out alspix blog for the most updated instructions

Cheap DIY (Homemade) Muslin Photography Background

cheap diy muslin background 07

This project had the website in mind and strives to help develop it into a vibrant online community. This backdrop is similar to those sold online for a couple hundred dollars! But guess what? for around 20 bucks and about an hours time I’ve made a studio backdrop myself, and now I’ll show YOU how you can make a backdrop yourself!  (And complete the DIY experiance by adding a DIY backdrop stand) [Read more...]

Studio Lighting – What Short Light And Broad Light Are

broad light short lightWhat Is Short Light?
Short light is type of studio lighting setup, where the face side which is further from the camera gets the main light. see the diagram for details. In this type of lighting setup, the side of the face which is toward the camera gets less light then the side facing away form the camera. The effect you get when using this lighting setup is a thin face, this is why it is good to photograph fat (or chubby) people with a short light setup. [Read more...]

Picture Composition – The Rule of Thirds (or Golden Ratio)

composition - rule of thirdsOne of the basic rules of composition is the rule of thirds. This is a very basic rule, that is often ignored by amateurs, and can drastically improve your pictures. Here is how this rule works: imagine that you draw lines across your frame to form a tick-tack-toe playing board. (you should end up with nine identical squares). Now the image is divided to thirds, both horizontally and vertically. See the diagram for lines positions. [Read more...]