Making on-camera flash work for you
Eventually, every photographer decides that they need a speedlight to help in low light situations, but getting the most out of on-camera flash isn’t as simple as blasting your subject with light.
Getting your flashgun to work as an off-camera light source is the difference between a simple snap and creating the kind of images you’ll be proud to print onto canvas.
Bounce that flash!
We hear the term ‘bounced flash’ regularly, but what does that actually mean in practice? In the simplest terms, it means that you fire your light away from your subject and off of a different surface in order to make it appear that the light source isn’t coming from your camera.
Why would you do this?
We’ve all seen images of people where they all have ‘red eye’ from the light reflecting off the retina – horrible, isn’t it? How about when the subject is blasted with direct flash that kills all of the shadows and makes them look like they’ve been under a photocopier? That’s not so cool either. To avoid this, we bounce the light!
How to bounce effectively
The biggest mistake people make when bouncing on-camera flash is failing to understand that if the subject can see any of the flash, it’s still direct flash. What? Yep, even if you tilt your flashgun head away from the subject to bounce off of a wall, it’ll still look weird if any of the light from that speedlight hits your subject directly because it’s going to pretty much override the bounced light because of the inverse square law.
You can avoid this issue (and prevent people around and behind you from being blinded by your flash) by using a piece of black craft foam and a rubber band – yes, really! Simply create a flag (a barrier between the subject and light source) by wrapping the craft foam around three sides of the flashgun to prevent stray light from going where it’s not wanted.
Once you’ve tried this you’ll never be without one of these simple flags, and your flash photography will improve in leaps and bounds.
Now it’s just a case of experimenting with different surfaces and angles. Think of the area you’re bouncing your light onto as a softbox and play around with your TTL settings. There are no hard and fast rules because every situation is different, but once you understand how to control where the light goes, it becomes much easier to figure out how much light you need to use. Oh, but one thing is crucial – shoot in RAW because light picks up whatever colour it bounces from, and nobody wants green skin!
We hope that this simple guide to making on-camera flash work for you helps you to take some great pictures and gives you the tools you need to try this amazing style of photography.