Question of bounce flash in open area

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by hoi_kwong, Jun 26, 2013.

  1. I am going to take neighborhood street event photo in the evening. I tried to add a white card on the flash head to bounce the light but the light was too hard.
    I found some photographers taking street event photo in the evening using on camera external Speedlight (SB800) with original white color plastic diffuser on. They had the Speedlight head 45 degree pointing to the open sky while firing. There was either no ceiling or other reflectors to bounce back the flash light. Does it really work ? or it is better than using a bigger diffuser on flash but directly pointing the flash to the subject ?
    Suggestions are appreciated.
  2. You are right.
    A surface is needed to bounce.
    In the open, you have no choice but directly point the flash at the subject. Bigger difuser works well in proximity to the subject.
    45 degree tilt produces perhaps some light into the subject, or not at all, depending on the distance.
    Seems that you are smarter than those some photographers you observed.
  3. The only things the diffuser-at-45-degrees accomplishes, compared to straight flash, are (1) it moves the light source slightly further from the lens and (2) it reduces the flash output (handy if your flash is otherwise too bright and can't be dialed down, otherwise it just wastes battery power and increases recycle time).
  4. The only reason those little diffusers appear to soften on-camera flash is because they spread the light around in all directions. That's fine indoors where it'll add to the ambient light by bouncing off walls and ceiling to lighten shadows, but as Frank says, it needs something to bounce off. Even with low cloud, the sky's a bit too far away to be useful!
    So - "Does it really work ?" - No! Those guys trying to light up the night sky were idiots. To make a difference to the character of a small, hard light source you need to make it bigger in some way, preferably much bigger. Like a foot square at least.
  5. These guys using diffuser-at-45-degrees tilt in early evening open area were hired professional shooters. I thought they were trying to compensate the dimmed environment without too much hard light. May be I'm wrong.
  6. Maybe they were just going for fill flash and some catch lights in the eyes? Otherwise I agree that it makes little sense to me if there was nothing up there to bounce the flash off. Maybe one of them had a trained albatross?
  7. They had the Speedlight head 45 degree pointing to the open sky while firing​
    Maybe used the old trick of putting a white (or sometimes silver or gold coloured) card in the plastic diffuser ?
    If in normal position the card is on the top side of the diffuser , when tilting the flash head 45 degrees , the card is also in 45 degrees acting as a reflector inside of the diffuser hence increasig the focus of light towards the subject wiile stil keeping a soft, more equal lighting.
    sorry if this is not clear, i do not know how else to explain in english..
  8. A surface is needed to bounce, but you can have an assistant or even a bystander hold a reflector for this purpose.
    Tilting at 45 degrees without a surface to bounce on can be used to feather the light on the subject, but the feathered light from a single speed light is weak.
    On camera flash pointing directly at the subject is usually problematic unless you have a beauty dish.
  9. A small source is still a small source, whether it's got a bit of diffuser material in front of it, or a bit of card in the diffuser or it's just a bare reflector/Fresnel arrangement. Spreading light out from a small area doesn't turn it into a softer source, just a dimmer one. The only minimal advantage I can see is that, as Mark said, it gets the light a bit further off axis, but there are better and more efficient ways of doing that - such as using a flash bracket, an extender, or a hammerhead design of flash.
    Hoi, just because someone's a professional, in the sense that they make a living at it, doesn't necessarily mean they know what they're doing. You've only got to read some of the basic questions asked on these forums by wannabe pros and working photographers, who really ought to know the answer themselves.
  10. Those things are okay for getting a more even wash of the light but they still have the problems associated with point sources. You can use them in combination with dialing down the power and using the flash as fill to get a bit less of a harsh effect.
  11. Clearly they were taking advantage of the super moon for bounced light. Because otherwise (as RJ points out) they were being silly. A diffusing cup with nothing to bounce from is just a way to throw away much of the speedlight's energy while gaining nothing in the shot. Sure, the face of the tilted cup is a slightly larger light source than the naked lens of the speedlight pointed right at the subject. But only by a square inch or two. From more than a foot away, that difference in size won't do anything to soften shadows - but it will run your batteries down faster!

    Now, if you aren't worried about battery life, and you're shooting at an event where you're moving quickly from indoors to out and back again, then it's possible that leaving the speedlight in that configuration is just a matter of not fussing about it. Because the moon just isn't a very good reflector, really.
  12. Because the moon just isn't a very good reflector, really.​
    Actually it's not bad, but that's too good a feed line not to draw people's attention to this. Not that it helps the topic of conversation much, but it's amusing and educational, so...
  13. Actually, it's not very good. Moonlight is about 1/1,000,000 of the level of sunlight - or twenty stops lower.
  14. Just shoot direct on the widest setting and turn the power way down, or make a big bouncer out of a piece of white plastic
    jug and rubber band it on, works great.
  15. My guess is the guys were so used to shooting their flash at 45d that they didn't think it through when they went outdoors. They did it out of habit.

    Kent in SD
  16. Steve, the reflectivity of the moon's surface, which is what Andrew was talking about, is around 18% - same as the average subject reflectance here on Earth. Now if it was just 200,000 miles or so closer.....
    I also think your -20 stops estimation for moonlight is a bit out. I can take handheld exposures by the light of the full moon fairly readily without resorting to exotic aperture lenses.
  17. Inflatable type diffusers work pretty well compared to bouncing off a card. You can get them on Fleabay for not a lot of money
  18. Years ago on my Hasselblads I used to use a 400 WS Lumedyne head with a round white glass 8" (?) Norman soft white
    reflector. If I put my pack on 50 WS with ISO 160 film that was only about 15 WS of actual light. It was the most fantastic
    outdoor fill, if you backed up some you went to 100 WS. It's really VERY difficult to reproduce that type of fill with any
    modern device. Sometimes older is just better.
  19. I am guilty of forgetting to tilt down the flash going from indoors to out, but I do most of the time, and cut the power a couple of notches, but when speed is required, I'd rather get the shot than the "perfect" exposure. Some of my most interesting shots are not "perfect" ones.
  20. When in an open area with nothing to bounce your flash off and having your dome diffuser as the only option, the best way to achieve a soft light is to use your dome diffuser on your flash with your flash pointed upwards at 45 degrees. Of course it doesn't bounce of anything, but it does send some diffused light towards the subject, and if the flash is in TTL mode will do a decent job of exposure. It is better than dome diffuser with the flash pointed directly forward, it gives a more diffuse light.
    I'm speaking from experience and those 'idiots' probably knew what they were doing.
    Try it yourself.
  21. I guessed that some people might need more convincing that sticking a tiny diffuser on a flash does next-to-nothing to alter the character of its light, especially when used in a non-reflective environment.
    Below is a quick still life that I set up on my garden bench at 10:30 last night. It was pitch dark and I had to work by the light of an LED torch (= flashlight - which doesn't actually flash BTW!). There was nothing behind, above or at the sides of the subject to reflect any significant amount of light. Distance of subject to camera and flash was about 1 metre.
    From top left working clockwise:
    1) Direct hotshoe mounted speedlight with no diffuser.
    2) On-camera speedlight with diffuser cup, pointed up at 45 degrees.
    3) Metz 45CL-1 on bracket, direct flash - no diffuser.
    4) Metz 45CL-1 fitted with Westcott Micro-Apollo portable softbox - size 18cm x 25cm (7" x 10")
    You can see that the only thing that significantly reduces and fills the harsh shadows is the softbox. The plastic diffuser cap does almost nothing except move the position of the light, and the open hammerhead Metz with its larger reflector surface equals or betters it for softness. Note also that the subject was only 1 metre away, and that at longer flash-to-subject distances shadows will appear even harsher and specular highlights smaller.
    I think we should learn to trust the evidence of our eyes, and not be swayed by advertising hype or folklore about the usefulness of little add-on plastic flash contraptions.
  22. Great examples, RJ, and exactly in keeping with experience.
  23. (Shun, I'm claiming that moon dust is an okay reflector, not that the moon as a whole is a good one in general. Of course, it's also only half a degree in diameter, and therefore going to be about as well diffused as direct sunlight...)

    I'm now curious. If you took a compressed gas can of some kind (chemically or a more environmentally friendly version) that forms a white aerosol spray - such as (very environmentally friendly) a carbon dioxide fire extinguisher - and sprayed it straight up, how good a giant soft box would it make? Give or take the bit where you gassed yourself with the carbon dioxide, obviously...

    I'm still sticking to the trained albatross theory as the best way of getting a reflector in the right place. In some places in the UK, you could probably throw a bag of chips in the air and use the resulting flock of seagulls.
  24. "They" will sell you anything that you will buy.
  25. Nice example RJ thanks for the efforts, I always wondered about the plastic diffuser add on, now I know.
  26. IF you are in an open space and want the same effect as bouncing off a wall, Sunbounce has developed a system where a card is held by a bracket off camera and your on-camera flash bounces off it as if it were a wall.
    Naturally, this comes at a price: $124 for the bracket and one wall card, with each additional card costing $30-40. On their own blog, they show a 99 cent way to get the same effect using a coat hanger, but you couldn't really use that at an event or with a client.
    Being a cheapskate, I rigged up my own presentable version for about 40 bucks, using a Stroboframe 350, which you may already own, as a base. Check this entry on my blog for details:

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