Photographers often use multiple off-camera flashes for their shoots, opting for full control over the direction and position of their lighting.  However, sometimes the right solution is the simplest one.  Ceiling bounce with an on-camera flash can be used to create interesting and powerful results when used right.  Regardless of your level of photography, understanding the full potential of overhead ceiling bounce flash can help you gain a full mastery of flash.  In this video, taken directly from our Lighting 101 Workshop, part of our Flash Photography Training System, Pye demonstrates how to use overhead ceiling bounce to create dramatic effects for fitness portraits.

Overhead Ceiling Bounce Video Tutorial

In this video, Pye demonstrates the purpose of bouncing light overhead as a means of creating interesting definition and powerful highlights. With just a simple adjustment in position, your flash is modified to produce directional and controlled light.

Tips for Bouncing Flash Off Ceilings and Overhead Objects

To help reinforce the education in the video above, here are a summary of the tips presented in the video with visual examples.

1) Make Sure Your Ceiling is White for Best Results


Since our light is being bounced off of the ceiling, we want to make sure that there is no color being transferred into our scene. Your best bet to ensure this is to bounce light off of a white ceiling or use a v-flat in order to lessen the amount and spread of light dramatically. Aiming the flash directly at your subject fills in all shadows on the muscles therefore reducing the appearance of tone and definition.

Direct Flash
Directional Flash

2. Use a Snoot/Grid and Flash Zoom To Modify Light Spread

Now that we have our bounce prepared we can focus on the spread of light we desire. By changing the zoom settings on your flash, you are concentrating the light on a specific portion of the ceiling or v-flat without having it spread across. We can also modify and pinpoint our spread of light by using a Snoot or a Grid, the latter being easier to use because generally we are not bouncing far enough to use a Snoot.

3. Watch for Bright Non-Colored Surfaces vs. Reflective Surfaces

Bouncing light against a bright white surface will result in more diffused light being spread. Using a reflective surface, such as a silver reflector, will produce a more specular light. For this shot, the specular light was better because the harsher shadows show more definition in the muscles.


Summary Infographic

For your convenience, we’ve summarized the information presented in the video with the infographic below. Feel free to pin or save the photo for future reference.