The Basics of Bounce Flash

by Reads (621)

If you proclaim that you’re a natural light photographer when the issue of purchasing an external flash comes up, consider yourself one of many. It’s possible that the reason why many people say this is because they’re afraid that their images will come out looking overexposed with large areas totally blown out in the histogram. We’re here to take your fear away with an easy to swallow guide to using a bounce flash.


What is bounce flash?
Bounce flash is taking the light emitted from a flash’s head and aiming it toward a surface away from your subject so as to illuminate them with soft, subtle, even lighting. In English, that means that if you purchase something like a Canon 580 EX II that your flash will almost never be pointing forward at your subject. Also note that bounce flash requires a flash unit with a tiltable and adjustable head.

So what are your options? Since the flash head swivels up and down and around in a hokey-pokey fashion, aiming the light at another surface is what your exposures will be all about. If your subject is right in front of you and there is a wall positioned behind you, aiming the flash towards the wall is a smart idea. Here’s what happens:

  • You set your exposure levels in your camera. At this point, it would be a great idea to mention that your shutter speed always controls the amount of ambient light in the photo and that your F-stop controls your flash’s output and depth of field. Of course, your flash’s output can also be controlled through the flash output dials and buttons on your camera.
  • Aiming the flash behind you the light emitted from the flash hits the wall.
  • The light spreads along the surface of the wall effectively illuminating that surface and turning it into a gigantic softbox that is being aimed at the subject in front of you.
  • Said softbox bathes your subject in creamy, soft light. This is evident in the quality of the shadows. When done correctly, it will balance out with the ambient light in the area around you and will look extremely subtle. People may not even know that you used a flash.

Of course, this is only one way to use a bounce flash. You can always point it towards the ceiling, which is one of the most common tactics of most photographers.

Additionally, you can even use items like bounce cards, reflectors and Rogue Flashbenders to add further versatility. The latter can be molded and shaped into nearly anything you’d like and will help you save space in your camera bag when traveling.

Why should I get a bounce flash?
The main reason to go out and purchase a bounce flash is because you’ll be able to shoot better quality photos. Additionally, it will get the creative juices going for ideas and projects using the brand new DSLR that you’ve recently purchased.

  • Dads shooting images of their old junk that they’re trying to sell on eBay would get great use out of bounce flashes.
  • Moms that want to photograph their kids and the family pet will be able to achieve studio quality images by purchasing a bounce flash.
  • Students in a photography class will be able to learn how to shoot better photos and manipulate light output.
  • Aspiring photographers should know that most professional quality images are captured using some sort of artificial lighting, such as a flash.
  • Travelers should carry a flash to accompany the zoom lenses that many of them carry in order to illuminate darker areas. Using the pop-up flash usually delivers results that look like a point-and-shoot. The reason why you purchased the DSLR in the first place was to achieve better photos.

Even with the proper settings, professional quality images can be shot with a point-and-shoot camera and bounce flash.

Believe it or not, adding a bounce flash to your camera will futureproof it for a longer period of time. Think of it this way: why upgrade to a newer DSLR if you can take better photos with your older one? Sure you may want HD video like in some of the newer models, but you won’t necessarily be able to shoot better photos with a newer DSLR. Using a bounce flash can breathe new life into your older camera.

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