Sunday, September 5, 2010

Extreme Bounce Flash

I've always assumed that it's impossible to get any useful light by bouncing from black ceilings or walls.  I found out today that it is difficult but is actually feasible.

We had lunch at a restaurant with somewhat high ceilings (I estimate around 15 ft at its lowest and 30 ft. at its highest) that were painted black, lit by yellow-greenish fluorescent light of some sort, with black-brown tables and chairs.  

The ambient light was fairly dim.  With an all-ambient exposure, I got f/2.8, 1/25, ISO 1600 (i.e., EV of 3.7), which I pushed an additional 1/3 stop or so in post-processing.

Just for kicks, I tried bouncing.  Surprisingly I got some light into the image, even though I used my hand as a flag (I didn't have the BFT attached).  The shot at the top of this post was f/2.8, 1/50, ISO 1600, TTL Flash with 0 FEC bounced above and camera left.  Not a lot of light, but just enough to improve over the ambient-only shot.  Here is a more-or-less direct comparison - these shots were only adjusted for white balance (you'll have to excuse the poor composition - just took these as test shots).

Ambient only (ISO 1600, f/2.8, 1/40):

Ambient with flash (ISO 1600 f/2.8, 1/50, flash bounced above and to camera right):

I used ISO 1600 and 3200, then used Neat Image to reduce the noise during postprocessing.

(ISO 1600, f/2.8, 1/20, TTL flash 0 FEC, flash bounced above and to camera right)
(ISO 3200, f/2.8, 1/15, TTL flash 0 FEC, flash bounced above and camera left).

(ISO 3200, f/2.8, 1/40, EC -0.7; TTL flash + 0.7 FEC.  Flash bounced to rear. Pushed an additional 1 stop [approximately] in post-processing.)

This gives me more confidence in bouncing in situations where I thought bouncing couldn't be used.


  1. Very nice experiment
    You say: With an all-ambient exposure, I got f/2.8, 1/25, ISO 1600…so this is the ambient?
    If yes ,why all the shots after, have a slower shutter speed 1/20 1/15

    Indeed in the last example with shutter 1/40 seems to be lit from above

    The picture you provided seem to be lit by ambient not the flash. For sure the is a ratio and my question is : can you tell me what was the ratio ambient/flash? –assuming a shutter speed 1/20 by example

    My impression is :you have more light from ambient than from flash . by any chance do you have a picture with shutter speed at 1/250?
    last one is a keeper

  2. You're right Robert, most of the light in these shots are from ambient. I will update the post to show a shot that compares ambient only vs. ambient with flash.


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