wikiHow to Use Bounce Flash to Improve Your Photography

Professional studio photographers rarely use direct flash to illuminate a subject, because the results are harsh, unnatural and unattractive. Most cameras designed for amateurs have a built-in flash which blasts light directly at the subject, creating the same kind of "deer in the headlights" effect. Fortunately, the addition of an inexpensive flash unit for bouncing flash can reduce this harshness and give your pictures a professional look. Another solution is a device called "Professor Kobre's Lightscoop", which allows the pop up flash on some 35mm SLR cameras to be bounced–an inexpensive and lightweight alternative to buying another piece of electronic equipment and learning to use it.


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    Make sure your camera has either a hot-shoe for an external flash, or a socket for plugging one in. Most cameras have at least one of the two.
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    Invest in an external flash unit with a 90 degree swivel (bounce) head. All major camera makers sell reasonably-priced units with this feature. Some models also rotate, adding even more functionality.
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    When taking a flash picture indoors, turn off the camera's built-in flash. Point the bounce flash head at the ceiling (rather than at the subject) and take the picture. This will provide a soft, diffused light and it will cut down on red-eye.
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    For even better results, buy a cable which connects your camera to the flash unit. You can then remove the flash from the camera and bounce the light off walls, a reflector, or whatever you want.
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    While Professor Kobre's Lightscoop is not advertised to replace external flash units, some photographers may be interested in its low-tech but effective approach to bouncing the built-in flash itself. To bounce the built-in flash with the Lightscoop (no external flash necessary):
    • Slide the Lightscoop onto the camera's hot shoe.
    • Set the camera to work in Manual mode.
    • Set the camera's exposure mode to Spot meter.
    • Set the ISO to 800.
    • Set the shutter speed to 1/200.
    • Set the aperture to the lens's maximum.
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    As is the case when bouncing an external flash (see "Warnings"), the Lightscoop works best with light-colored ceilings approximately 8–10 feet (2.4–3.0 m) tall or walls (when camera is in vertical orientation). It will NOT work in rooms with cathedral ceilings, paneled wood ceilings, in gymnasiums or churches, or in places like nightclubs with dark ceilings. When ceilings are too high or too dark, not enough light can bounce back to reach the scene below.
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    If you do own a hotshoe flash with a head that can tilt upwards consider getting a diffuser such as a Sto-fen Omnibounce or a Lightsphere these allow for a bounce-like effect when there is no handy surface to bounce flash from. A budget alternative is creating one yourself.


  • You don't need an expensive, sophisticated flash to bounce. The simple but powerful Vivitar 285 is an excellent choice, and fits any camera.
  • When bouncing flash be watchful for objects hanging from the ceiling. These can cast unexpected shadows
  • Bouncing reduces the effective power of the flash, decreasing range and leading to wide apertures and shallow depth of field. Therefore, the bigger the flash, the better the results.
  • Flash units with "auto" or "TTL" capabilities can usually handle bounce flash metering. However, before you shoot anything important, try some test shots to see if any compensation is necessary.


  • Be careful if the ceiling or wall that you use to bounce the light isn't white in colour. A coloured wall will result in a coloured tint in your photograph. Bounce flash is also ineffective outside where there are no bounce surfaces. Also, if the ceiling or wall is too far away or too dark, not enough light will be reflected to effectively light the scene.
  • Before using any flash with your camera, make absolutely sure the two are compatible. In some rare cases, the trigger voltage of a flash may exceed the limits of a camera's circuitry. Get a guarantee before you buy.
  • If you have an old flash still lying around check the trigger voltage on the list. A high voltage will damage your camera.

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Categories: Photography Lighting