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Useful Photography Tip #17: Why Beginners Think About Flash All Wrong

by Chris Gampat on 04/17/2012

More experienced users will know that people just dipping their toes into the world of flashes and strobism often try to directly point their flash at a subject and hope for the best. That’s not always the best way to think about it. Direct flash will deliver harsh shadows on a subject, and if you’re going for that Terry Richardson type of look, then go ahead and fire away.

However, speedlites, speedlights and other hot shoe flashes are meant to be used differently. Keep this very quick list of tips in mind:

- Think of the walls and areas around you as sources of light

- Imagine that all of the light in the area has been shut off

- Now think to yourself, if you wanted to light your subject, where would you place the light and how would it fall?

- In the photo above, I aimed my strobe at a wall both above and to the right of me. That illuminated the wall and turned it into a giant light source. Said light then fell on the subject in the photo above and that is how I was able to shoot the photo.

- Additionally, you may want to shoot at a lower ISO number and perhaps raise your shutter speed to kill the ambient light. Slower shutter speeds and higher ISOs should be used after some practice and once you feel comfortable with mastering how a bounced flash affects your images.

The light in the image above is hitting the sloped ceiling and therefore delivers the image below.

Notice the shadows on the other side of Katie? That is because there is no other light source illuminating her on that side. Once again, think of the walls as your light sources and the flash as the way that you’re going to illuminate them.

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