Sunday, June 22, 2008

Photography tips: Bounce!

Bounce lighting is a simple way to create a natural feel to your pictures. The base form of bounce lighting is aiming the head of your on-camera flash unit to the ceiling and bounce the light back from there. But why stop there? You can bounce light off about everything: a ceiling, a wall, a body of water, the list is endless, just use your imagination.

Color temperature
When you bounce, keep in mind that the surface you use to bounce off may not be perfectly white, but has a color of itself. White ceilings are often off-white, as are walls. Many objects that the human eye perceives as white have a yellowish or blueish cast. This will affect the color temperature, especially if the bounced light is your main or only light source. You can use this to your advantage as well. Using colored surfaces to bounce the light off can be used in artistic photography to create intended color casts.

Why not bounce the sun?
Bounce lighting is often associated with strobes and flashes, but there is no problem in bouncing other light sources as well. How about the sun? It is obviously impossible to aim the sun, but your subject may be moved, or the object you use to bounce the light off.

If you like bouncing, why not carry a bouncing surface with you? A simple foldable reflector, normally used to fill shadows in a portrait, can be used as a bouncing surface. These reflectors often come in different colors, such as white, gold (warm color portrait) and silver (high contrast lighting). Again, the possibilities are limited only by your imagination. Sheets of paper (or cardboard) are also lightweight and foldable and can easily be carried around. You can use a small cardboard as a bouncecard. Simply attach it on the back of your flash unit. The either fold the paper in a 45 degree angle, or put your flash in that angle (try both, and notice the difference between them). The disadvantage of this very simple method is that you loose the larger part of the light. With a little more effort (see links below), you can make a more effective bounce card.

More resources

A brief explanation
Strobist 101 on bouncing
lengthy, but very clear video on bouncecards
A DIY bounce card

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