Bounce Flash

When it is not possible to use a fixed or moving pinned OCF, the next best option is to use bounce flash. Because of the requirements of using bounce flash (a neutral-colored ceiling or object for bouncing light), there are limitations to where this technique can be used.

Here is our bounce flash scenario without using off-camera flash:

  • Initial setup w/o OCF | 1 minute
  • Initial setup w/ OCF | 3-6 minutes
  • Requires neutral ceiling/bounce
  • Desires a brighter look

When using an on-camera flash, finding the optimal light direction is crucial. Modifiers like the Gary Fong Lightsphere, the Fstoppers Flash Disc, or MagMod’s MagBounce or MagSphere can help to add fill light, but the angle of the light will make all the difference. For example, if you angle the flash straight up, the subjects will likely have shadows cast around their eyes from the light falling directly down from overhead. With just a slight adjustment, angling the flash up and away from the subjects (rather than straight up), the bounced light will create a much softer, more flattering look. You can also angle the light to the right or left, but doing so will often make one side of the frame brighter than the other, which requires additional work in post to even out.

On-camera bounce flash also usually requires firing the flash at a higher power level, which will affect the life of the batteries in the flash. Battery packs are desirable if available; otherwise, keep spare batteries on hand and be prepared to replace them later in the reception.

Here are some key tips for using bounce flash:

With rim lights, use a grid to control light spill in a small room. For larger rooms, zooming in the flash should be enough to adequately control light spill. See below for layout options.

Once you’ve established your light direction and put your lights in place, you should stick with that direction until you’re able to reposition the lights. Otherwise, if you shoot in the same direction as your rim lights, you will see the shadows cast from the rim lights hitting the subjects. If you have flashes in all four corners with each flash on a separate channel so that you can turn it on or off at will, then you have the freedom of shooting in any direction you like.