Portable Studio

Your on-camera flash is a portable light studio – provided you use it right. That means:

  1. Finding the right balance between that flash and ambient light. In many cases I want the ambient light to be the fill light, so I set it to -2 stops. My flash will be the key light.
  2. Bouncing the flash.
  3. While bouncing, aiming the flash to get the effect you need.

That third step is essential. To see why, look at the two examples below, of a kind volunteer in yesterday’s Sheridan College class.

Picture one – I am aiming the flash behind me. That’s just like having a large umbrella behind me: butterfly lighting:

And in picture two I swing my flash to the left, still behind me. Now that is like having an umbrella on my left, behind me. This results in broad lighting, which gives the face some modeling, some dimensions, some roundness: in other words it is now a three-dimensional face, not a flat face:

See what I mean? Beginners often fail to think about where they aim their flash, while this is one of the most important steps. Try!


3 thoughts on “Portable Studio

  1. Michael, by the way I read your blog everyday and have been using your tips a lot for bouncing flash. My question is when shooting an event in a dark room with no walls or ceiling to bounce the flash off what do you do? I find myself shooting the flash straight on and I usually don’t like the results. I then try adjusting in Lightroom. Is there a better way. Thanks, Marcos

    • Hi Marcos – thanks.

      First, you may be able to bounce anyway – high ISO and low aperture number and you would be surprised. But if there is no bouncing like that, and you cannot find a place in the venue where it does work, then use a bounce reflector (I usually use the Honl photo one). Or even a Fong Lightsphere – that is a last resort. Sometimes a combination: Fong thing with bounce card behind it. Straight on is a very, very last resort – and in that case let enough ambient in (slow shutter, large aperture, high ISO).

      Does that help?

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