BoldPuppy 3:24pm, 19 May 2009
I'm sure we all sit there by the TV, look at our cameras and wonder - why can't my indoor night photos look any good? All that red eye and harsh shadows?!

Borrowing from the technique of bouncing flash, I took a few photos to demonstrate a few principles.

First - this works best with an external flash that you can control. If you set the flash to manual mode, you don't get a pre-flash, and as such, you won't get a 'ghost' image caused by the metering flash.

Second - find a surface that you can bounce the flash off of. I bought a 5-in-one reflector kit, and chose the white surface to bounce the light off of. I set it behind me, slightly above and to my left. I angled the flash towards the reflector.

Third - I set the camera to manual mode. Why? The other modes will try to correct the exposure by varying the time value, and because I will need a very long exposure (it was night, after all), I don't want to let a lot of ambient light ruin the photo (mostly the tv...).

Next, I chose the settings - I like portraits at f/3.5 to f/4 when close up... enough depth to get the eyes in focus, and it's shallow enough to throw the rest out of focus. 1/30 is a slow enough time value to let the flash do its thing and let *some* ambient into the photo, but not much.

Then, I sat down on the floor, and took the photo:

I am he who must be loved!

1/30 breaks the rules when it comes to hand holding - it's WAY too slow for the 135mm to work (1/200 to 1/250 is what I normally use)... so how did this photo get sharp? It turns out that the flash duration (in manual mode) is a single, quick pop. So fast that the camera doesn't 'see' any hand shake. The rest of the 1/29.9999 seconds, the area is pitch black (I was at ISO100), so there isn't much for the camera to see so the only thing recorded is what the flash lit up.

The shadow cast is very, very soft, and there is no redeye.

Same dog, different lens (this one's a 50mm):

Oh Please ...

Note that this will work with point/shoot cameras that have external 'hot shoes' for flash (like the Canon G9/G10 and the S1(something) series).

Try it out - see how this technique works for you.
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Damien Franco PRO 9 years ago
Great work!
jakarachuonyo 9 years ago
Nice lighting, Damien.

I've found that bouncing my Canon 580 EX II off the ceiling is a technique that works well with a little practice (we're talking about an 8ft. white ceiling). The ceiling acts as a large, white diffuser - it's dirt cheap too:)

Like you, I always shoot in manual and almost always set my flash to manual as well. Sometimes the flash is directly mounted on my camera's hot shoe, but most great results come with off camera flash (more compelling shadows and highlights).


Here's an example of my results.

Day 323/366 - "No more, please.  We're stuffed!"
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