Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Upside Down Flash

Even kids know that shining a light from below your face usually leads to a creepy horror-movie effect.  But sometimes, it does make sense to use the flash upside down.  In the shot above, the sun was acting as rim light and shining brightly from above and behind the subjects.  It is not too hard to imagine that given the sunlight's intensity, light would bounce back from the ground to give a little glow to the subject's faces.  That's the kind of light effect that I was after in this shot.

More after the jump.

I used a gold reflector (Lastolite Tri-Grip) angled to face the subjects, and rested the gold reflector on my leg.  I turned the camera upside down, with an SB-800 attached, then aimed the flash head toward the reflector.  I turned down the flash intensity (by adjusting FEC) to make sure the flash did not look unnatural, and was acting only as an accent light, not as a key light.  Here's what the shot looks like with and without the flash, using unedited SOOC (straight-out-of-the-camera) shots:

Here's another photo, shot with the same technique:

The glow from the reflector can be flattering to some subjects, making wrinkles less prominent (though my parents look younger than their age anyway even without the technique):
Crop from the shot above
If you have the Nikon Speed of Light video, Joe McNally uses a gold reflector laying flat on the ground, illuminated by flash, to give a bride an extra glow.  This is the same concept.

Other notes:
1. Be absolutely sure that there is no direct flash.  Use a flag (black foam thing) if you have to.  If there is direct flash, you will get the horror movie effect.
2. If you don't have a reflector you can bounce off the ground although it will require much more power from your flash.
3. IMPORTANT NOTE: with subjects who have a little excess fat in the neck area, you have to be careful to aim the reflector to hit only the face and not the neck.


  1. Haha, never thought of that, I have to try it and see for myself.

  2. Just tell your subjects it will make them look glamorous :)


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