Bounce Flash

by William Lulow

I have spoken about using bounced flash before when covering events. It’s a great way to provide general, overall light to a room. The problem is that sometimes you don’t have a white ceiling to use, or that ceiling is too high to make the flash useful. So, lately, I’ve taken to using a bounce card which I can attach to my on-camera, portable speedlight:

This is what my rig looks like. This is certainly not a new idea. These things have been around a long time. I used to fashion my own bounce cards from cardboard and a few rubber bands, but this one is better in a couple of ways. (1) It is fashioned from a neutral white material, (2) it attaches easily via a velcro strip to my speedlight, (3) it can be bent and folded in many different ways to provide light right where it is needed and (4) it is large enough to provide a decent amount of coverage without being too cumbersome. The thing I like about this one is its simplicity. It’s just a white reflector. Nothing more. It’s not round. It doesn’t try to simulate an umbrella. It’s just a plain, white square that directs bounce light at your subject.

I have been shooting many more events lately, under all sorts of conditions – large rooms, small rooms, outdoors, action-packed events as well as just plain interior coverage. I find a rig like this is not only easy to use, but the results are very consistent. Most of these assignments are for websites, so I have some latitude regarding the size of the finished images. I also want to be able to stop any action that takes place as well as shoot at small enough apertures to render everything crystal clear. My exposures are mostly done at ISO 1000. Apertures are between f/5.6 and f/11 and shutter speed is usually 1/125th of a second. Lens is a Canon 20mm f/2.8. Here are a couple of the results:

This shot is a panorama comprised of two images. Here the ceiling was much too high to use it as a bounce-flash source:

Here, shooting through the mesh of a children’s bounce house. Got the flash where it was needed!

When light is bounced off some reflective material, it tends to scatter, providing an all-encompassing kind of light. Of course, the larger the surface, the softer the lighting effect will be, so ceilings are usually great for this. But when you can’t use the ceiling for one reason or another, as I said, this kind of reflector accomplishes nearly the same effect and is much easier to control in order to get the light right where you want it, even in rather small spaces.