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Flash Bounce

Stephen Elliott , Mar 14, 2007; 10:20 a.m.

To get soft light - especially important for wedding photography we are told to bounce off ceiling or side walls. But doing this requires that some light is also thrown forward to remove shadows under the eyes and on the face. Ambient light is aquired by lowering the shutter speed and flash for the subject.

Having said that, what do you add to your flash in various/all situations? The built-in bounce card? Your own bounce card? None? Diffuser? Stofen etc. I've read the usual tutorials but they don't really cover recommendations and generally seem to be implying just a flash gun is used and don't mention bounce cards and such. Taking the bounce card on and off seems like a hassle and wondered how others work. What about outside? No walls to bounce from there so I guess a bounce card or diffuser. I'm using Canon equipment btw.


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Al Kaplan - Miami, FL , Mar 14, 2007; 10:36 a.m.

Outside I use straight on flash. Unless the background is very close you're unlikely to get disturbing shadows on it. Without nearby surfaces above and to the sides a Stofen or similar is just eating up light and batteries. Using an umbrella or soft box would be better for nearby subjects but it's doubtful that your clients would notice the difference.

Indoors I keep a a rubber band around the head of my Vivitar 283, which holds half a dozen buisiness cards on the top of the flash, out of the way. When doing a bounce I pull one half way out and bend it slightly forward to kick a bit of fill into the shadows. When someone asks for a card I give them one right off the flash, no fishing around in a pocket.

Paul Sokal - Dallas, TX , Mar 14, 2007; 10:38 a.m.

The concept is as you described. How you achieve the result depends on the situation. I've used the Omnibounce, Gary Fong's Tupperware, the Nikon diffuser supplied with the SB800 and most recently "a better bounce card" which may be the simplest and most versatile solution. Check out abetterbouncecard.com to learn how to make one for a few pennies.


Steve Dohring , Mar 14, 2007; 09:45 a.m.

Professional flashes should have a slide up card that will throw the light forward while bouncing of the ceiling. Slide in and out no hassle. Same outside I never use straight on flash unless your very experienced or have a lot of time you will see hot spots and changes in clothing color tones on group shots. I angle the flash just over the heads of the subject using the card to bounce down for the eyes. Meter for the ambient and add fill flash, compensate down so it looks like there was no flash used. If you don't have a high end flash you can make a better bounce card which folds up and down easy and fast and throws more light forward or Al's business card method. www.abetterbouncecard.com

YOUR QUOTE: "Ambient light is aquired by lowering the shutter speed and flash for the subject"

It can can also be aquired by opening up the aperture.

Stephen Elliott , Mar 14, 2007; 10:49 a.m.

Yes Paul I've made some bounce cards using that tutorial - do you always keep it on camera though?

Stephen Elliott , Mar 14, 2007; 10:57 a.m.

That's an interesting idea Steve - aiming above their heads and bouncing down. I use a 430EX which has a slide out card. Although I want to get a 580 at some stage. Using the built-in one is certainly less hassle - have you compared the results to the bigger bounce card?

Frank Skomial , Mar 14, 2007; 10:37 a.m.

"Professional flashes should have a slide up card that will throw the light forward while bouncing of the ceiling." - Yes, and some do, even though they may not be of "professionsl" duty flashes.

Inspect closely Nikon SB-800.

It has 2 cards built-in ready to slide out. One is a reflector and the other one is a diffuser. Better yet use the Nikon supplied "Dome" that is like Stoffen, exept customized for SB-800 and works with micro switches in the SB-800 body, announcing Dome presence and disengaging the Zoom feature of the flash when installed on the flash. (that is the flash zoom will not follow the lens zoom position if any of the cards is pulled out, or the original Nikon supplied Dome is installed).

Jon Austin , Mar 14, 2007; 11:57 a.m.

I use a Demb Flash Diffuser Pro: the bounce card is hinged, so it can be adjusted quickly and easily for the desired amount of bounce, or just swung completely out of the way. The front diffuser attaches to the mounting strap with just a couple of hook/loop "dots," so it comes off easily when not needed, and goes back on nearly as quickly.


Pete S. , Mar 14, 2007; 10:58 a.m.

I have velcro on my flash heads to be able to add gels and other things including bounce cards. Also have stofen omnibounce but seldom use them.

When bouncing I mostly bounce without anything as I found that a wide zoom setting bounce will throw enough light forward unless I'm very close (and then I use the card).

When I can't bounce I found that the stofen is just a waste of recycling time. Straight flash can sometimes cause hot spots though but to solve that the light source needs to be bigger so stofen doesn't do much. Right now I live with the occational hotspot or use off camera lighting but I'm looking forward to see what people use for this. Mini softboxes, large bounce devices like lumiquest springs to mind though.

Eric Vichich - Tampa Bay, FL , Mar 14, 2007; 11:11 a.m.

Use whatever you can when it is appropriate. You can use a person wearing a white shirt, etc. Just this past Sunday using my hand worked pretty well for a specific circumstance. Typically, though, I use the built-in bounce card. This doesn't work too well when shooting vertical though. That is when "a better bounce card" is better. I use the lightsphere if the room is small, or I am near at least one wall. Outside, I don't mind shooting straight-on, but I sometimes use the lightsphere with the cap on, fired straight-on. Also, don't forget to bounce off the floor. It doesn't always seem like a good idea, but it works great on the beach.

I have had the best success with just adding a second light. It can be a hassle at times, but is almost always worth it.

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