Photography Tips: Bouncing the Flash

Contrary to popular belief, flash photography is not the evil stepsister of natural light photography.  When used well, in fact, the flash can be completely undetectable. So my first piece of advice here is, Don't be afraid of flash!

These days, DSLRs are so good in low light, that many people decide they will never use flash.  The truth is, though, there are times when a flash will help. When it's too dark inside or when shooting outdoors in bright, harsh sunlight where there is no open shade, for example.

Those pop-up flashes on DSLRs are pretty bad (unless you like washed out faces and harsh shadows!) But an external flash changed my photography forever.

An external flash spreads more light, and you can use it to bounce the light, eliminating all of the nasty, direct flash problems. My flash swivels and tilts in different directions, so that I can bounce it to get the best light available. (In Nikon lingo, the external flashes are called Speedlights, and in Canon, they are Speedlites.)

How to use Bounce Flash


Photography Tips


The flash simply slides into the hot shoe on the top of the camera. (Using it off-camera is another way to get great light, but I haven't used mine that way yet.)

To bounce the flash,  I usually point it at the ceiling behind me, at a side wall, or on the ceiling in front of me, and the flash spreads nice light onto my subject.  (It's best if the wall is white, as colored walls will give odd color casts. That's why ceilings work well. I've also bounced off a piece of white foam board, poster board, or someone's white shirt!  ) By adjusting the angle of the flash, I can control where the light will fall. It's really a simple process.  I use the auto (TTL) setting on the flash. If you buy the same brand of flash as your camera, the camera and flash will coordinate to determine how much light is needed.  See, it's that simple!

The photo, above,  of my daughter and Sunny was taken a few years ago, in our kitchen.  I had not taken a flash photography class yet.  I simply bounced the external flash up to the ceiling.  Had I used the pop-up flash on the camera, there would have been a harsh shadow behind them.  The shadows from direct flash are worse with vertical photos than horizontal ones.


Now here's an example of direct flash, without bouncing... See what I mean? Ugh, shadow.


If you're not ready to make an investment in an external flash, there are a few ways to soften the pop-up flash, without spending a lot of money. One solution that I've seen online (but haven't tried), is to place a business card at an angle in front of the pop up flash, so that the light bounces up. I've also used a product called the Puffer from Gary Fong. It's just a piece of plastic that diffuses the light coming from the flash. You need to up your exposure compensation quite a bit when you use it, because it really cuts back on the light.  Another option that basically works the same way is to tape some tissue paper over the flash! Try to keep the actual tape from covering the flash if you try that.

* Note:  affiliate links are present.

Want to Learn More?

I've taken several photography classes at Craftsy online. They are wonderful and not expensive. I learned a lot from their Portraits with an On-Camera Speedlight class.  I continue to watch the videos over and over.  I also highly recommend ClickinMoms. I have learned so much there--composition, lighting, equipment tips, Lightroom--it's all there. ClickinMoms has your choice of monthly, yearly, or lifetime membership fees.

I now shoot with DSLRs that are much better in low light than my first one. (I have a Nikon D7000 and a Nikon D5100. The newer versions of these are the the Nikon D7100 and the Nikon D5300. I love my cameras!  There are still many times when I need my flash, so I'm glad to know how to use it well!  I'll always be learning new things about flash and new ways to use it.

Do you have tips for bouncing the flash?

*  If you click on and purchase from an affiliate link, I will receive a small commission, at no additional cost to you.

Linking to:
Photo Friday at Pierced Wonderings
Good. Random. Fun.
Life Thru the Lens
The Weekend Blog Hop
Inspire Me Monday
Sunday Showcase at An Alli Event
Crafty Spices
Picture Perfect
Turn it Up Tuesday

16 comments

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    1. Thank you for hosting the link-up!

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  2. I love Gary Fong products! I did a wedding a few weeks ago with a camera that has ISO up to nearly 25,000! And yet, once the sun set, the external flash unit was much more pleasing than just using high ISO. I prefer natural light, but I'm certainly not against flash!

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    1. I love Gary Fong products too. The Lightsphere works great (and gets some funny looks!)

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  3. Thanks for sharing your tips at Lisa's link up!

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    1. Thanks so much for stopping by, Elizabeth.

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  4. I remember bouncing the flash before digital photography. My dad taught me the trick. Thanks for the tips with pop-up flashes! In the future, I'll try the business card and the tissue and see which one works best. Thanks for visiting 1camera1mom! My Picture Perfect Party Linky is at http://abooksandmore.blogspot.co.za/2015/09/fun-at-karoo-botanical-garden.html

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    1. Let me know how you like the business card and tissue, Christina. And thank you for hosting the link-up.

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  5. Really great advice on flash photography. Thank you so much for sharing.

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    1. Thank you Lisa, and thanks for visiting.

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  6. What great advice! I was just talking with a friend about this who is going on the trip of a lifetime - trying to explain what he wanted to do. I should have showed him this post!

    Thank you for joining us for Photo Friday this past week!

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    1. Thank you! Hopefully your friend will get some great photos. Thanks so much for hosting the link-up.

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  7. Thanks for the tips. I am a Food Blogger with a dark kitchen and lighting gives me fits. I will have to try this out.

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    1. I hope the tips help you, Audrey. Thanks for stopping by.

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  8. What a great post Pam... I do not use a flash too often, and when I do it is mostly with my macro shots. But, I hope to have a studio someday and this will be a great read to tuck away for later. Thanks for linking with Life Thru the Lens... I think others will really enjoy this read as well.

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    1. Thanks so much for your kind words, Lisa. It is amazing how a simple thing like bouncing the flash can result in images that look much more professional.

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I appreciate every comment. Thank you!

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