Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Will It Bounce? Part 2: Very Blue Fabric

Bouncing is a very useful technique for getting soft directional light, but it has its limits: it requires a lot of power, causes the flash to pick up a color cast from the bouncing surface, and creates lots of spill.  In this series we'll try to make bouncing work in difficult or extreme circumstances.  My hope is to make bouncing more useful in situations where previously I've assumed it wasn't possible.

Part 2: Very Blue Fabric

When I'm looking for a bouncing surface and I see a dark blue material, usually I start looking somewhere else to bounce from because such a material will absorb a lot of light and in addition, will make the bounced light acquire a blue color cast.  Such was the scenario when we were having dinner last week:


As the sun dipped well below the horizon and I needed more light, I tried to bounce to see if I could get enough light.
(ISO 1600, f/2.8, 1/50)

I was a bit surprised how much light I was getting.  However, as expected the light was very bluish and contrasted starkly with the yellowish ambient light.  This time I used manual white balance to change the color temperature to the highest color temperature available on my camera (10,000K).  The white balance adjustment was strong enough to change the appearance of the bluish light to a yellowish light. 

The white balance adjustment also affected the background but the change was much less noticeable.  The net effect of the white balance adjustment was to make the bluish bounced light effectively match the yellowish ambient light (indeed, I had to readjust white balance to a less yellowish color during post-processing).

Conclusion: it bounces!  The dark blue fabric absorbed much of the light but there was more than enough bounced light to illuminate the subject.  Although the fabric also caused the bounced light to have a very bluish color cast, it was easy enough to compensate for this with a white balance adjustment - at least where the ambient is yellowish.