Create better bounce flash
Discover how to shoot a high-end portrait using an off-camera speedlight indoors
Bouncing flash is an essential technique for portrait photographers to master, because using direct flash can often be too harsh and create very unflattering shadows. Bouncing the flash off another surface will diffuse it and create a softer light, which is more desirable and far more flattering for portrait photography. It’s important that you are aware of the colour properties of the surface that you bounce the light from. If you opt for a surface with a distinct colour to it then this can influence the light that reaches your subject. Choosing to bounce the flash off a surface with a specific colour can be a great way to make your shot more creative, but this often requires experimentation. For a straightforward portrait it’s generally best to stick with a surface that has a more neutral white or off-white tone.
Think too about the direction the bounced light will come from. We positioned the flash off-camera for more control over this, enabling us to mould the shadows on the model’s face. However, the same basic principles of bounce flash apply when the flash is used on the camera’s hotshoe.
1 Choose your location For your bounced light to remain clean and crisp, it is best to choose a white surface to bounce it off of, so find a location with white/neutral walls or use a large, white reflector.
2 Attach the triggers You can bounce flash with the speedlight attached to the camera, but for a little more control we opted to take it off camera. Attach the transmitter to your speedlight and the receiver to the camera.
3 Sync flash Although flash triggers can be a little temperamental, as long as you have set them to the correct channel they should work fine. We set our flash to quarter power then did a test to ensure they were synced up.
4 Position the light stand Now attach the speedlight to the light stand and decide where to position it. We positioned the flash around the same height as our model and placed it to her right, slightly in front of her.
5 Angle the flash This will determine how the light will be diffused and distributed in the image. Here we have angled it upwards and to the side, towards the white wall at around 45 degrees.
6 Take the shot We set our camera to Manual mode at an aperture of around f4, ISO 200 and a shutter speed of 1/80sec. You might have to experiment with your positioning and the power of the flash.