You know this.

But I want to show you again – and emphasize it once more:

Flash needs to be bounced.

I shall illustrate with three snaps of a kind volunteer in last Sunday’s camera course that I taught in Oakville.

Snap one shows that aiming your flash straight at your victim ought to be a federal offense. (The young lady was warned and kindly agreed to be pictured this way, with a 580EX II flash straight into her face, using TTL, but knowing there would be better snaps to follow):

Not that she doesn’t look great, but the photographic qualities leave much to be desired.

  • Shadows under her ears;
  • And under her chin, a hard shadow;
  • “Deer in the headlights” look;
  • Skin looks reflective;
  • Face is flat;
  • Background is dark;
  • The catch light is in the centre of the pupil.

So then I turn the flash up at a 45 degree upward angle right behind me. That way the light comes from 45 above in front, from her perspective, and this is typical beauty lighting:

This is still using TTL, so all I had to do was to turn the flash behind me, and bang. A portrait instead of a snapshot. All the problems solved in one go!

You could also turn the flash to the right or left, so she gets light from the side, above:

Now the face is more three-dimensional and sculpted.

I would normally use more straight-on lighting (pic 2) for women and more side lighting (pic 3) for men (because the latter tends to show “character”, which can be a euphemism for “age”).

Either way, though: avoid flash on camera aimed at your subject. This is why your pop-up flash is evil, and why my 1D and 1Ds bodies do not have one.

And with modern TTL flashes and cameras, you do not need to do anything other than “turn the flash head”.

4 thoughts on “You know this.

  1. A couple finer points to ad:
    In the bounced flash shots she is a little under exposed. This is because the light source (the ceiling) is farther away so there isn’t as much falloff (inverse square rule) as when she was lit from the flash directly. Because the camera meter doesnt have to protect the highlights in the bounced shots and she is standing in front of a white wall (reflective meters are correct only when metering 75%grey) it requires some exposure compensation to get nicer skin tones; I would guess in the nieghboorhood of +one stop.
    If you want to get really picky, she should be lit from the photographers left as this is the closed side of her face, meaning that her right side of her face has the smaller distance between the edge of her mouth and her eye.
    A little smile wouldn’t of hurt either;)

    • Good thinking, Greg. It is true that you need exposure compensation (fair subject, white wall) but this applies to all three and was in fact done. Correct, it is the “inverse square rule” that creates the black backgrounds in direct flash shots (I teach about this in my classes: now you know why). As for bounce direction – there is another variable: is there an available wall or similar surface?

      Oh and now that we are adding fine points: a bonus question. What is image three largely missing? (Hint: look at the eyes).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *