Written by Chuck Jackson
For me and my photography and lighting style, I prefer not to use direct flash in most instances – particularly when covering events of any kind (weddings, in particular; sometimes it works better for direct flash but I avoid it if at all possible). Light modifiers for on-camera flash can be great but they still place light on the subject in a linear, direct fashion, which can still (even though mitigated by a softbox, bounce card, etc.), produce some undesired shadow behind the subject. One of the best alternatives, is to simply bounce the flash off a near wall or low ceiling.
In the shot of the bride, Kristen, above, I bounced the flash off the ceiling at about a 90 degree. Notice the pleasing shadows and light on the bride. Also notice there is not harsh shadow behind the bride as there’d be if I used direct flash.
Below is an example of what bouncing flash off the near wall (at about 90 degrees horizontal and 45 degrees up angle to the camera right) looks like! The speaker is well-lit, but not too much so and there is still some dimension to him due to the light and shadow.
The secret is very simple: If you are indoors (with relatively low, non-color casting ceilings), most experienced photographers have preached “bouncing” the flash off the ceiling (with white or off white color; any colored surface will create a color cast on the subject when light hits it) when possible as gospel for achieving softer, more pleasing light on the subject (versus direct flash). While I too do this, there is a one more thing…
Do not simply bounce the flash off the ceiling, bounce the flash off of a wall at about 90 degrees to the subject (angled up about 45 degrees)! Make sure the subject is within range of the flash’s light being bounced and have at it (the closer you and the subject are to the wall, the better; but not too close…)!
This non-direct flash approach leads to more creative lighting and better pictures! Give it a try and you’ll love the results!!!
Chuck Jackson is a wedding photographer for PhotoActive Photography in Tampa, FL. Check out http://www.photoactivephotographytampa.com to see wedding images and samples from other photography genres, as well!