Bounce flash is a very easy way to bump your photography to the next level and add dimension to your subjects. All it takes is a swiveling flash head (the Nikon SB600, SB800, SB900, and the Canon 430EX, 580EX are popular choices) and a reflective surface (wall or ceiling).
So what is bounce flash? Bounce flash is when you bounce your main light off a nearby ceiling or wall onto your subject. The resulting effect is a much more naturally lit photo and a more pleasing result.
Bounce flash only works in certain situations. If you have white walls and ceilings, you’re in good shape. A white wall will return the most percentage of light back down toward your subject. A black wall on the other hand will return the least amount of light back, and in most cases, none at all. In between white and black you have various colors, off-white, yellows, reds, wood grains…all of these will produce various results and color casts. Sometimes the color cast will be pleasing, sometimes not. For exmaple a wood grain color cast will give your photos a warmer, amber tone. You just have to experiment to see what works.
Some venues have metal or aluminum shingling, like Soho for example. These kinds of materials reflect light wonderfully as well, in some cases better than a white ceiling would. I shot the above photo of the two girls sharing a friendly peck over at Soho and bounced the flash off their metal reflective ceiling back down to the subjects to capture the moment.
Personally I use a combination of bounce and diffused flash using my Gary Fong Lightsphere. All I do is take off the top diffuser cap, point the flash toward the ceiling (or wall) and shoot. The diffused flash softly illuminates the subjects, while the bounce flash provides shadows and depth.
I’ve included a few more examples of bounce flash so you can see the difference! Happy shooting!
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