Useful Photography Tip #114: How to Conquer Mixed Lighting With Speedlights

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Conquering Mixed Lighting (2 of 3)ISO 4001-60 sec at f - 2.0

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“I’m about to do something that I really hate to do for the sake of art.” I said to Amanda as we had our first shoot the other night. Of course, what I was talking about was how to conquer mixed lighting–and as an actress and theatre tech she totally understood. When working with flash lighting (daylight) and ambient street lighting in Brooklyn (more orangish in color) it can be a bit of a pain to create a beautiful image.

My initial idea was to light her with an Octabank and set my exposure so that the output from the flash is the key and ambient orange lights would provide a sort of interesting fill that would complement her skin tones. After fumbling with my Octabank (which was misbehaving) I decided on another approach: putting the flash almost right next to the orange light source (which is coming from a wall), setting the flash head zoom to the widest to make it cover the largest area, and having Amanda sit on the floor.

Then the exposure was set accordingly to drown out much of the ambient lighting and make the flash output the key light. In English, what this means is that I worked with a wide aperture and a fast shutter speed. In fact, this image was shot at 1/60th, f2 and ISO 400. At 7L45PM, 1/60th at ISO 400 isn’t going to do much for you.

The result was a light output that blended very well with the orange light and that later on just required me to push the white balance slider either to the blue or the orange to give the image dominance in one color or the other. Indeed, this is the most common mixed lighting situation that I’ve encountered, and it’s finally been conquered with minimal post-production.

So to recap: place the speedlight right by the other light source, make it larger, an overpower the ambient light using your exposures.

Give it a try for yourself, and check out two other photos after the jump.

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Useful Photography Tip # 113: Use TTL Flash Lighting to Blend Effectively with Natural Light

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Tamron 90mm f2.8 images with phottix mitros flash (1 of 5)ISO 2001-200 sec at f - 5.6

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If we didn’t tell you so, most folks would think that the photo above was shot with ambient natural lighting. And most of those folks would be dead wrong. We did it by using a TTL flash with a large Rogue Flashbender. Considering the miniscule size of the flower, the light from the large panel provides some very soft lighting when the according shutter speed is used to mix in enough ambient lighting.

To refresh, when it comes to shooting with a flash, your shutter speed lets in the ambient lighting while your aperture controls the amount of light that hits the subject from the flash. And in a situation when you’re working with lots of ambient lighting and you just want to add some fill light, you should use TTL flash lighting to blend effectively with natural light.

TTL lighting is so effective because it works with the camera’s metering to provide an even exposure to the scene. If you were working with the light manually, then it would require some extra steps and may probably not even give you anything near the results you were looking for. But when blending TTL lighting with your camera’s metering, all you have to do is tell it to go brighter or darker accordingly. Of course, we also recommend using a large light modifier in relation to your subject.

If you want to do this with manual metering, it requires you to take an ambient light reading, then a flash light reading, and then somehow or another figure out a happy medium depending on what kind of look you’re going for. And again, that depends on your own creative vision.

Useful Photography Tip #112: Prevent Eye Strain by Adjusting Your Camera Diopter For Your Vision

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Nikon D810 first impressions product images (5 of 8)ISO 4001-60 sec at f - 3.2

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When it comes to seeing through a viewfinder, many folks don’t ever bother to adjust the diopter of their camera. But the truth is that you really should adjust it lest your eyes strain when looking through this very small hole. The problem though is with people not knowing how to properly adjust it for themselves.

For starters, consider your eyesight. If you wear glasses you’ll know whether you’re near sighted or far sighted. Depending on your prescription, you’ll want to adjust the diopter accordingly. Diopters often have a +2 or =3 setting to enable photographers to adjust what they see through the viewfinder for their vision.

Both EVF and OVF work differently though. With an EVF, it’s mostly a matter of looking through the viewfinder, turning on text displays and adjusting the diopter until you can see the text correctly. But when working with an OVF, it can become much trickier as what you’re seeing is optical and not electronic. For optical viewfinders, we recommend taking the lens off, pointing the camera at a light source and looking at the focusing points through the viewfinder. Then adjust the setting accordingly until you see them the clearest. When this is done, you’ll have set the diopter for your eye.

Useful Photography Tip #111: Why You Need at Least an 85mm Lens for Portraits

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Samsung 85mm f1.4 review images (1 of 2)ISO 1001-800 sec at f - 2.0

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Before you even get into reading this piece, know that we’re talking about an actual lens focal length, not equivalent to field of view. Look at it this way: you like taking photos with a 50mm lens, right? Let’s say you’re working with Micro Four Thirds camera options. In order to get a 50mm field of view, you need to slap a 25mm lens on your camera. But guess what? That 25mm lens will still act like a 25mm lens. It will be just as distorted and even though you’re still using the center area of the lens more or less you’ll still get all the problems that a lens like that faces. To get rid of that distortion, you’ll need a longer focal length. I found this out the hard way when working with a subject of larger stature. Though I felt the images looked great, she didn’t–and the only thing that really could have helped would have been a longer lens.

To eliminate that distortion to begin with, you’ll need to work with longer focal lengths. The generally accepted portrait focal length is an 85mm or longer. Now again, I’m not talking about an 85mm equivalent field of view on Micro Four Thirds. I’m saying that I need at least an 85mm focal length. Yes, the M43 coalition does a great job with making sure that their lenses are superb, but if you’re going to do portraits then you should eliminate any sort of distortion problems from the start.

Moving up to larger formats like APS-C or Full Frame, we think that the 85mm to the 135mm range is a great area to start working. Remember, the main thing that you’ll need to do is keep the distortion down to begin with.

Useful Photography Tip #110: Don’t Forget About the Rim/Hair Light

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony A99 Studio Samples continued (5 of 9)ISO 100

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The importance of a rim light, also known as a hair light is very overlooked. It can add a lot of extra beauty and a beautiful halo effect to your subject whether it be a person or a product. The reason why it is often overlooked is because we focus on literally what’s right in front of us and not enough on what’s behind our subject.

Photographer Jim Johnson sent this tip into us:

“If you do studio photography, bounce a light off of the ceiling behind your subject. This accomplishes two things. It lights up your background & also gives your subject a nice hair light to boot.

This does not work well with follicle challenged (bald) people. I have a boom to which an older white lightning strobe is attached. It is bounced into white ceiling panels or I could use an umbrella if need be.”

What Jim is saying doesn’t only apply to rim lighting in this case but also the idea of making a background go to a seamless color–as is the case with photographing a subject on a seamless white background and having to crank the light up one stop higher than your key light.

More specifically, a rim light doesn’t always have to be created with artificial lighting. The easiest way to add a rim/hair light is to backlight your subject using the sun. This is where golden hour is usually best because of the nice, warm glow that it can give to hair. If your flash/strobe is capable of overpowering the sun, you can create a very evenly lit image and surround your subject in light.

This tip comes to us from photographer Jim Johnson.

Useful Photography Tip #109: Let a Creative Slump Fuel Absolute Randomness

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Shooting Coffee Steam tutorial (1 of 1)ISO 8001-80 sec at f - 1.4

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Every single photographer and artist faces some sort of terrible creative slump. It’s an incredibly scary moment for all of us but an essential one as it helps us to grow and evolve into better shooters. And as we grow, we need new ideas. When recently faced with both writer’s block and photographer’s block, I decided to find a way to still stay absolutely productive instead of stepping away from being creative.

And so it began with something that I learned years ago in poetry class in high school. But when applying it to the photography world, the advice is so super simple: shoot anything. Shoot anything and figure out a way to just keep shooting. Then build on the idea of what you shot and do a free-word association challenge. Let’s say you photographed a picture of your morning coffee. In this case (and every case) apply the thought process of who, what, when, where, how and why. When you do this, you can think about questions that can apply to this. Eventually, it turned into my own little miniature photo project into how to make the perfect cup of coffee. That lead to story boarding and figuring out the right angles and lighting. Then the post-production. And before you knew it I had my own little photo project done in under an hour.

So when a creative slump hits, think random and think free. Don’t get confined by burnout.

We’re not saying that this will work for everyone, but why not give it a try?

Useful Photography Tip #108: How to Make a Cheap Photography Gig Profitable For You

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Lomography Bel Air Hands on Review (2 of 10)ISO 400

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The other night I was in a bar with a photographer that we featured here on the site recently. When we chatted, we talked about how the industry was going in general. She (the photographer) assists other larger names and does her own work on the side. For extra income, she thought about doing weddings with another photographer she is close with. The problem is that they didn’t want to deal with the editing process and everything else in the post-world that has to do with working with weddings. Additionally, everything that they found wasn’t worth the money and there are tons of low ballers out there. Essentially, that is also only one of the reasons why wedding photographers get paid what they do.

So after chatting with her and a couple of other photographers, we figured it out: just don’t post-process. If anything just shoot JPEG, cut the session down to the best images, and then hand them off to the clients. This goes for weddings, portraits, events, etc.

Again, we are not preaching laziness here–and if you take away from this article that we are doing that then you’ve obviously not read it. We’re preaching a way for photographers to make some extra cash on the side and still make the work profitable for them. If someone only wants to pay you $300 for a wedding and you’re giving them six hours of your time, just find ways to cut corners and make your time totally worth it and as profitable as you can.

On the other hand, if someone is paying you handsomely, put the according amount of work in and show that work off in your portfolio accordingly. Then always keep in mind that the high end photographers will never compete with the ones that only do cheap weddings because they are totally different price points. To the gear heads, it’s like comparing a Nikon D4s to a Canon Rebel.

Then in the end, just don’t tell anyone that you did it.

Useful Photography Tip #107: How to Make an Image Look Sharper Than it Really is in Less Than 30 Seconds

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Nikon D810 high ISO samples Speakeasy Dollhouse NYC (3 of 9)ISO 8001-80 sec at f - 2.5

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We’ve done a slightly longer tutorial on how to make an image look sharper, but what if we told you that you can do it in Adobe Lightroom in less than 30 seconds and without even touching the sharpness sliders? Sounds crazy, right? Well, the reality is that it is completely possible.

Like our other tutorials, it begins with proper in-camera exposure techniques. For the absolute best sharpness from a lens straight out of the camera your best bet is to use some sort of diffused flash. It could be as simple as bouncing a flash off of a wall. If not, then consider stopping your lens down just a bit and exercising the reciprocal rule of shutter speeds to ensure that your image is blur free from camera shake.

Then if you bring your image into Adobe Lightroom, all you’ll need to do is raise the overall exposure of your image by around 1/3rd of a stop, lower (deepen) your black levels, raise your contrast, and raise the clarity of your image by just a tad. And to be honest–you’re done. The human eye looks at images with deeper blacks and puts a stronger emphasis on other colors in the scene to be able to naturally find objects. In this method, you’re actually fooling the human eye into thinking that something is sharper than it really is.

Give it a shot and see how many people you can actually fool with it.

 

Useful Photography Tip #106: Three Ways to Make One Light Look Like Two

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Samsung 85mm f1.4 portraits extra (1 of 1)ISO 1001-125 sec at f - 2.8

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In the photo world, there are loads and loads of tricks that you can use to make viewers of your images believe that you’ve shot something with either all natural light or with one primary light. And if you have only a single light to begin with, there are ways that you can make your image appear as if two lights were added to the scene. All it requires is a bit a strategic placement of your lights or some extra knowledge of exposures.

For starters, keep in mind that when working with an artificial light (strobe or flash) that your aperture will control your flash exposure while your shutter speed manipulates the ambient lighting in the scene. Somehow or another, you’re going to have to figure out a way to balance the two out.

So how do you do this?:

A very large light modifier in relation to your subject: Usually a six or seven foot umbrella being placed in front of and slightly above your subject can make your scene look like it was lit with two lights when the according shutter speed is dialed in.

One Light and a Reflector: When your light is on one side of the subject, either set the light to its widest zoom setting or put it into a large softbox.. Next, place a reflector on the other side of your subject–we recommend using either white or silver. Then use the shutter speed to mix in enough ambient lighting to fill in the shadows while balancing out the flash output.

– One light and the shadows for evenness control: To make this one work, you’ll need to work outside and in a shadowed area of some sort. Bounce the light off of a surface or once again make the flash zoom out to its widest setting. After this, you’ll just need to mix the ambient lighting from the shutter speed accordingly. We recommend underexposing your shutter just a bit then raising the shadows in post.

Now get out there and go experiment.

Useful Photography Tip #105: Shoot Portraits During the Day by Using the Shadows

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Shooting during the middle of the day can be tough sometimes. One option is to backlight your subject, but another option to give you better control over the exposure of your images and the evenness of light is to shoot in the shadows. Taking your subject into the shadows (such as the shadows provided by a building) allows them to have even light all over by cutting it down in the first place. In contrast, bringing them into the light provided by the sun on the other hand will create shadows under their nose, eyes, and chin–and depending on the situation that can look flattering or not; and it’s usually the latter. To be fair, during an overcast day, the clouds will fix this problems for you.

By keeping your ISO low, your shutter speed high, and your subject in the shadows you can also shoot with a wider aperture to therefore send the background into a bokehlicious haze. Considering the fact that you’re also shooting in the shadows, it is also usually a great idea to expose for the shadows or even spot meter. In general, you may want to be anywhere from 1/3rd to 1 full stop overexposed to compensate for the shadows’ darkness and to also even out the lighting on the subject. That’s how we shot the image above and were able to get the look above.

And always remember: not every single image needs to be an HDR.

Useful Photography Tip #104: Angle a Nose Against Skin When Shooting a Portrait

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Phase One IQ250 more with Nat (1 of 2)ISO 1001-160 sec at f - 2.8

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When you’re shooting a portrait of a person, keep in mind that one of the facial features that everyone is self-conscious about is their nose. If you shoot it straight on, it can look a little large and if you shoot it at too extreme of an angle it can be downright unflattering. The secret to making a nose look better has to do with angling it at just the right way to still look natural. And guess what–folks that have been doing selfies and photos back in the Myspace days have been doing it for years.

The secret has to do with tilting the face at an angle just a bit to the left or the right. This helps to hide the size of the nose and also makes the eye think that it is smaller than it actually really is by making it blend in with the rest of the skin on the face/cheek.

What also helps is proper lighting. Harsh, direct light coming from either direction could leave a shadow that makes the nose look enormous. So a great idea is to use a reflector and/or overexpose the image enough so that the shadows are very subtle or completely gone.

Trust us–folks will love you for your portraits that much more when you actually put the effort into posing.

 

Useful Photography Tip #103: Everyone Has a Higher Shoulder

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Lomography Petzval Lens review images samples (16 of 24)ISO 4001-200 sec

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When shooting portraits of a subject straight on, consider the fact that environmental stresses may have caused one shoulder to become higher than the other to cope with weight of bags and other reasons. So for starters, ask your portraits subject to stand straight at you and take careful notice of their shoulders. Then adjust their shoulders accordingly. To do this, we recommend asking the subject to move the higher shoulder back slightly so that when you shoot an image of them straight on, they shoulders will look straighter and proportionate in the image.

To master this, it takes practice and minor calculations based on shoulder height difference. But you can also look through your camera’s lens and see what the results will look like.

To further ensure that the shoulders don’t bulge, we recommend shooting an a lens no shorter than 85mm. By this, we’re not talking about a field of view, we’re talking instead about the actual focal length. The reason for this is just because an 85mm lens may render an image of 127mm on an APS-C sensor, it still acts like an 85mm lens. This applies to any shorter focal length too.

Try it–you’ll be creating better portraits in no time.

Useful Photography Tip #102: Why You Should Use a Flash During the Day

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Lots of folks say that you should only use a flash during the evening hours and in dark situations. But the truth of the matter is that during the daytime is perhaps the best time to use flash. For example, let’s say that you want to photograph someone and there is bright sunlight in the scene. If you make them face the sun, they’ll squint a lot. Conversely, if you make them not face the sun, you’ll need to overexpose a lot to get the details on their face–which is called backlighting. The solution then is to backlight the subject and expose normally while illuminating their front with a flash. That way, you get a more balanced image overall in terms of exposure ratings.

But besides this, using a flash during the day only adds to the beauty that natural light can deliver. It can bring out details in your subject that you wouldn’t see otherwise (specular highlights) and it can also fill in shadows when done correctly to give a very beautiful and shadowless look. But to do this, you’ll need to either set your flash to the widest zoom head angle or bounce it off of  very wide surface. Alternatively, you could also use a softbox of some sort.

When adding flash to a daylight scene, it’s best to add it a little bit at a time–gradually making it stronger until you feel that you have something close to the image that you want.

Try this quick tip, and be sure to check out our other bite sized useful photography tips.

Useful Photography Tip #101: Don’t Overpack Photo Gear for a Trip

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Holdfast camera bag with fur review (9 of 9)ISO 2001-500 sec at f - 2.8

Packing for any trip is a trip in itself. Clothing aside, figuring out how much gear to bring can often be the most challenging because it factors into your carry on. We’re sure you know, but it’s worth mentioning that gear (read: cameras and lenses) is not something you’d want to leave in your checked luggage, and keep in mind that some airlines have downsized carryon limits. So, with your carry on bag, how much gear are you going to pack?

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Useful Photography Tip #100: Shoot in Black-and-White so You Don’t Get Distracted by Colors

Felix Esser The Phoblographer Lightroom 5 Black and White Conversion

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Back in the days of film, when color wasn’t as commonplace as black-and-white, one of the most important things for any photographer to learn was to look past the colors they’d see in the viewfinder, and concentrate on the intensity of the light. Because when you shoot monochrome, you don’t get any color information, you get shades of grey. Equally important when shooting without color is composition, that is the various forms and shapes in an image and their relation to each another.

In general, learning to work with light and shapes is a good idea in photography, because it’ll help you get better pictures. Better in this case means pictures that are pleasing to the eye, and that evoke an emotional reaction in the viewer. Learning to see just the light and the shapes in an image, and to neglect all color information, is not an easy task. But luckily, in this day and age of digital cameras, there’s an easy and effective trick that’ll help you not be distracted by colors.

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Useful Photography Tip #99: Don’t Chimp

julius motal the phoblographer useful tip don't chimp istanbul

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In terms of turnaround, digital photography far outpaces film, but it can slow down the process, too. After making a photograph, there is almost always an impulse to hit the playback button in order to view what you’ve just shot. Naturally, you want to make sure that the colors pop, the light is great and the lines are sharp. Doing this after every shot, however, takes time away from the next photograph you could very well miss. The act of checking your LCD after each shot is called chimping.

In order to remain fully invested in the photographic process, it’s best to leave the LCD alone. Make your photographs and don’t worry about them until later. Of course, be conscious of your settings, but if you’ve got a good enough understanding of light and the interplay of ISO, shutter speed and aperture, you’ll be alright. Plus, abstaining for chimping helps you focus on the act of making a photograph. Besides, by not chimping, you’re giving yourself the ability to be surprised.

Useful Photography Tip #98: Pre-Focus for Better Action Shots

Felix Esser The Phoblographer kid action pre-focusing

Taking pictures of fast-moving subjects can be difficult. Pre-focusing often helps a lot.

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Taking images of fast moving subjects can be very difficult–and we’re using the term ‘fast moving’ very loosely here. A fast moving subject can be anything from a racing car coming your way at terminal velocity, to a snail trying to cross the street. Ultimately, what is fast depends on how quickly and how accurately your camera’s autofocus is able to lock on to a subject that is not holding still. Some cameras are better suited at this, while some have a hard time locking on to anything that moves only slightly.

This is one of the reasons why sports photographer usually go for high-end DSLRs, as these have the most elaborate and advanced AF systems. A very good AF system and a lens that is quick to focus are a necessity if you regularly take pictures of moving things, persons, or animals. But not every scenario that involves a subject on the move is as unpredictable as a tennis player pacing across the court. So for some situations, there is a simple but effective trick to work around your camera’s autofocus limitations: to pre-focus.

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Useful Photography Tip #97: Keep Your Elbows Tucked in For More Stable Photos

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Fujifilm X100s photos from first meetup (18 of 26)ISO 10001-20 sec at f - 2.0

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Lots of folks when they’re first starting out (and even when they’re more experienced) bring their camera up to their eye and have their elbows and arms out and about. Even when combined with proper breathing control, you can still get blurry photos as a result of camera shake. The reason for this is because you’re not stabilizing yourself and instead your making your body more prone to shaking. The way to eliminate this problem is by streamlining your body and straightening up.

By this, we specifically mean by tucking your elbows into your body. The logic for this works similarly to taking photos otherwise–the close the camera is to your body, the more stable the photo will be. The further outstretched your arms are, the more shaky the image will be.

So what you’ll need to do is tuck your elbows into your body or as close as you can to prevent shaking.

Pass this onto to anyone who always has blurry images.

Useful Photography Tip #96: Format Your SD Card Before Leaving the House

julius motal the phoblographer fujifilm x-e2 image 001

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So, you’ve offloaded your images onto your computer last night, and today, you’ve got a shoot. You can’t find your other SD cards, so you grab the one from yesterday. With the card in, you start shooting without checking how many images you’ve got left. Sure enough, you’ve exhausted all the shots, and the shoot’s not over. There are some great shots that you took, but in order to keep going, you have to bite the bullet and clear the card.

Always, always, always offload your images as soon you get to your computer, and make sure they’re backed up. Then be sure to format the card so that you don’t have to worry about hitting a brick wall in the middle of a shoot. Simply deleting the images from the card isn’t enough. Formatting makes sure you get rid of any artifacts on the card that’ll keep you from screaming at your camera. Also be sure to have some extra SD cards on hand.

Useful Photography Tip #95: Don’t Forget to Set Your New Camera to RAW Immediately

concert - julius motal-2

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New cameras often bring with them a bevy of new features that can at times feel overwhelming. Whether it’s swanky built-in Wi-Fi or split-image focusing, there’s a great deal to explore, but the core functions are often the same across cameras. Out of the box, that new camera of yours is set to save images as JPEGs.

If you’re serious about your photography, mosey on over to the menu, and set your camera to save your images as RAW files. For those who don’t know, RAW images have loads more information than JPEGs, and more can be done with them in Lightroom and other editing platforms. JPEGs don’t have that much latitude in post-production. With a RAW file, you can save an image that would otherwise be thrown in the trash. So, setting your camera to RAW straight out-of-the-box means the difference between an image that can be salvaged and one that can’t.

Granted, you’ll have less shots to work with, but you can always buy another SD card.

 

Useful Photography Tip #94: Don’t Just Bounce a Flash Towards the Ceiling

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony hvlf60m flash uses (1 of 5)ISO 16001-40 sec at f - 9.0

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If you’re starting out as a photographer shooting events or portraits, one of the biggest rookie mistakes made (along with using a Gary Fong Lightsphere incorrectly) is simply pointing a flash directly up towards the ceiling and expecting the best and most perfect results. The problem with this method is that you tend to create unflattering shadows (and there is a difference between flattering and unflattering shadows) on a person’s face and therefore make them look not their best. While many flashes give you a small bounce card, it usually isn’t enough to fill in those shadows either.

In the situation where you don’t have something like a large Rogue FlashBender, we recommend this: point the flash up towards the ceiling and behind you just a tad–then crank up the flash output around 2/3-1 stop brighter. Based on the way that light and flashes work, the ceiling is used to become a main light source as it is illuminated by the flash output. But if you put the light source right above someone’s face, you’ll create shadows underneath. However, if you move it around to above and slightly in front of them, the light will seem a tad more natural.