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Thread: Best Bounce Flash Angle?

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    David's Avatar
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    Best Bounce Flash Angle?

    Hi All - Has anyone got any info, comments, experience about the best way to use bounce flash? In particular, does the angle at which the flash head points towards the ceiling, say, have a major effect upon the flash itself and the photographic outcome? I've always tried to get about a 45 degree angle between the flash head direction and the reflective surface, giving about 90 degree for the bounce angle to the subject. However, from what I've read recently, any angle will do.

    BTW, I use a Speedlite 580EX on my Canon 40D.


    Thanks in advance.

    David

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    Re: Bounce Flash

    Hi David,

    These comments based on my early experience with a single flashgun, but no zoom of the tube and reflector to vary the illumination to match zoom lens angle (which I gather is a feature these days?).

    As you say, the optimum would be to imagine throwing a ball at the ceiling and have it bounce and hit the bit of the subject you see through the lens. With typical ceiling heights and camera-subject distances, this might indeed equate to 45 degrees.
    Given the reflector is normally fairly wide angle, the precision needed isn't, as you say, very great!

    I'd suggest using a more vertical angle for light subjects and more horizontal angle for dark ones, this will vary the ratio of direct illumination providing less or more direct fill and minimise the risk of burning out highlights.

    Whatever you do with bounce will look far better than direct on camera flash, but you didn't need me to say that!

    Regards, Dave
    Last edited by Dave Humphries; 13th December 2008 at 02:36 PM.

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    Re: Bounce Flash

    Angle and flash zoom both make a difference, although there's a pretty big margin of error unless you're already right at the limits of the flash.

    In simple terms, the angle of incidence equals the angle of reflection - so 45 degrees would be optimal only if the distance from the flash to the ceiling - the ceiling to the subject - AND - the flash to the subject are all equal.

    A good way to think of it is to imagine that you're standing with a garden hose in your hand and you're trying to get your subject wet by bouncing it off the ceiling - if it's a narrow jet then you'll have to be quite precise - but get it right and you'll give him a good soaking. The closer you are to your subject, the steeper you're going to have to aim the jet. If you adjust the nossle so a wider spray comes out then it'll be easier to hit him, but for a given position there won't be as much water on him due to the increased spread - just the same with flashes.

    Having said all that, nine times out of ten it doesn't make a lot of difference as the cameras are all using E-TTL, and in most cases readily/easily compensate for sub-optimal bounce angles.

    For what it's worth, I'm a BIG fan of the Gary Fong Lightspheres (for both bounce and diffused direct flash).

    Hope this helps
    Last edited by Colin Southern; 20th February 2009 at 05:46 AM.

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    David's Avatar
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    Re: Bounce Flash

    Thanks Dave and Colin. I've clearly been making some errors. "Vertical-for-light, Horizontal-for-dark" sounds like a rule of thumb I might remember. As the weather here is decidedly cold, I am going to forego any experiment with a hosepipe!!


    David

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    Re: Bounce Flash

    You're welcome David

    If you want to make life easier for yourself though, just grab a Lightsphere - they throw about 90% of the light straight up for a normal bounce, but also deflect about 10% forward so you don't get unflattering darkened areas around eye sockets & side of neck etc.

    Cheers,

    Colin - pbase.com/cjsouthern
    Last edited by Colin Southern; 12th January 2009 at 06:16 AM.

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    David's Avatar
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    Re: Bounce Flash

    Colin - Thanks for the tip about the Lightsphere, I'd never heard of it before. Having Googled it, the reviews are all very enthusiastic. It's too late for Santa to deliver one, so I'll have to get it myself.

    Cheers

    David

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    Re: Bounce Flash

    Dave,

    may want to google 'a better bounce card' before you give your money away.
    when use it correctly, it does a good job.
    Last edited by Raycer; 16th December 2008 at 12:17 AM.

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    Re: Bounce Flash

    You're very welcome.

    As Raycer mentions, if you search for the likes of "a better bounce card" (or "LumiQuest" or "Stofen") (or many others) you'll get a lot of links to a lot of products - and also a lot of differing opinions as to what "the best" is.

    A lot of people dismiss the Lightsphere as being "an expensive piece of tupperware" - no doubt Gary Fong does make a good return on his investment, but that aside, the unit is actually deceptivly well designed in that it splits the light to re-introduce a nicely balanced horizontal component - something I've yet to see emulated this well in other designs.

    So whereas all diffusers spread the light around to the point where harsh shadows behind subjects are all but eliminated, most others CAN still leave you with unflattering darker areas (eg eyes, ears when surrounded by long hair etc).

    The net result is with the lightsphere you get pretty consistent good results whereas with many of the others the results you get depends largely on what the light is able to bounce off of. Having just said all of that - if the Lightspheres do have a fault - it's the fact that the light produced can be so diffuse that it's hard to control if you're trying to make it directional, if that's you're style of shooting.

    Personally, I'm a "traditional, even lighting" kind of guy - so the lightsphere suits my style perfectly - the only time I don't use them when shooting is when I'm using a full umbrella setup. I took the attached image of one of the neighbours children whilst just goofing around with the camera one Saturday morning - I think it's a good example of the evenness you can get, without really trying (I was bouncing off a white ceiling, but if you take a close look at the catchlights in the eyes, you can see the result of the horizontal portion I'm talking about).

    Best Bounce Flash Angle?

    Hope this helps

    Cheers,

    Colin - pbase.com/cjsouthern
    Last edited by Colin Southern; 1st November 2009 at 01:27 AM.

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    Re: Bounce Flash

    just always remember to look out for nicotine stained ceilings, off white ceilings for awful colour casts, i always up my flash output by about half to a full stop. i sometimes use an off camera lead, with my flash which gives me total freedom (within 2 meteres of cord)
    which then i can bounce off the floor, boards,reflectors,ceilings,tuck behind subject(halo effect),walls you name it ill try it!!!!!!!
    some times an uneven ceiling, whether it be beams,obliqued ceilings can also have an effect on the "overall lighting" or fall off!

    take a look at the pic ive supplied, this was a shoot for a models portfolio, she wanted something different, and she got it! the flash was off camera sb800 speedlight, and bounced off my white bmw!!!! you see, all is possible when a little bravado kicks in!
    always experiment and sod convention!!!

    nokinnikon
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by nokinnikon; 16th December 2008 at 09:41 AM.

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    Re: Bounce Flash

    aha just noticed!!!!!!!!!!! your subject is fa far to close to the background, you havent given enough room for the light to disperse! keep subjects where possible at least 1 to 2 metres from the background, i know space can be a problem but give your subject depth!
    failing that shoot on an 85mm/medium to large telephoto or even your good old 50mm lens and sling the bground out of focus

    nokinnikon

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    Re: Bounce Flash

    Quote Originally Posted by nokinnikon View Post
    aha just noticed!!!!!!!!!!! your subject is fa far to close to the background, you havent given enough room for the light to disperse! keep subjects where possible at least 1 to 2 metres from the background, i know space can be a problem but give your subject depth!
    Unfortunately - on that occasion - the black background wasn't much wider than the subject, and I was shooting with my EF 70-200mm F1:2.8L IS USM lens. If I'd brought her 1 to 2 m forward I'd have to have used my EF 24-70mm F1:2.8L USM and the background would have included the black card - the TV - the window - my DVD collection - stereo and probably an aquarium.

    Quote Originally Posted by nokinnikon View Post
    failing that shoot on an 85mm/medium to large telephoto or even your good old 50mm lens and sling the bground out of focus
    My EF 85mm F1:1.2L USM II is my weapon of choice for that ...

    ... but as I say, it was only a spur of the moment shot on a Saturday morning whilst experimenting with a few things - I only included it to illustrate my point re: the lightspheres

    Cheers,

    Colin - pbase.com/cjsouthern
    Last edited by Colin Southern; 12th January 2009 at 06:17 AM.

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    Re: Bounce Flash

    Hi Raycer - Thanks for the tip. I've just been watching Peter Gregg at http://www.abetterbouncecard.com/. I love his style, 18 minutes to explain a 2 minute idea, but it's good stuff. I'm going to experiment with that idea. Actually, having read Colin's post yesterday and then having checked the cost of the Lightsphere, my Scottish genetic predisposition to not spending money came to the fore. I constructed a little sock of very fine bubble-wrap (about 1 mm thick, 12 cm long, and tiny bubbles barely visible to my eyes) which I placed over the flash head. Bouncing the flash off the ceiling, about 15 degrees off vertical, to a test subject about 6 feet away gave very soft shadows and very realistic lighting compared to a bounce without the sock. I then tried normal bubble-wrap, an opaque plastic bag, and the infamous plastic Pringle tube top (used for white balance in the field), but all of these devices gave sharp shadows.

    Further experiments must be done.

    I'm off for a Christmas break, but I'll be back in January. Merry Christmas and Happy Shooting.


    David

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    Re: Bounce Flash

    can i suggest grease proof paper, it worked on an old metz gun i had.
    and it workes a treat
    nokinnikon

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    Re: Bounce Flash

    At your suggestion I've read this post (it was before my time here) and I'm impressed with the Lightsphere, in fact I've just had an email informing me that mine has been despatched, here Monday.

    From the exif data I see f5.6 @ 1/300 iso400, now considering you used 200mm you weren't all that close so there is obviously plenty of light distributed from the lightsphere.

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    Re: Bounce Flash

    Hi Bill,

    Great news

    It was shot in a combined lounge / dining room - from pretty much across the width of the room - so yes, a bounce pretty much "lights up the room".

    Some say that diffusers like that can diffuse the light almost too much (making it difficult to control) - but I'm a traditionalist when it comes to lighting; I like it to be soft and even.

    Let us know how it works out eh?

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    Re: Bounce Flash

    For most of my subjects with on-camera flash I'm bouncing directly up or directly to the side. I angle the bounce backwards more often than forwards, to catch walls behind me for closer subjects. I only angle the flash forwards to get distance. The reflective nature of the surface you are bouncing off will determine how much it matters where the flash is pointed. Some surfaces/distances will diffuse the light evenly, and it won't matter much. Some may cause hotspots that do influence where the flash needs to be pointed.

    I've got a GF Lightsphere, StoFen Omnibouncer, LumiQuest all in one bouncer kit, numerous softboxes from 8"x8" to 16"x24", and a few umbrellas. I've tried them all, and I do like to use them when I've got the flashes off camera, but for on camera flash I've come to prefer a rectangle of white hobby foam rubber banded to my flash. It's dirt cheap. It's super compact. I can modify it easily: cut, bend, add reflective tape... I also carry a small softbox (leaving the box part behind it wads up and fits in a pocket, and can hold it's shape on it's own) for when bouncing is not an option.

    IMO getting the flash off the camera is the best way to really jump ahead in lighting quality. Save all the money you'd spend on diffusers and bouncers, and spend it on remote flash gear. Strobist.com has all the info.
    Last edited by Henry Peach; 20th February 2009 at 02:51 PM.

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    Re: Bounce Flash

    Quote Originally Posted by Henry Peach View Post
    IMO getting the flash off the camera is the best way to really jump ahead in lighting quality.
    I agree, but unfortunately - for weddings - it adds a whole new layer of complexity.

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