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How to Bounce Light for Luminous Digital Photos

written by: Alina Bradford•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 10/1/2008

Using a flash to get rid of low light problems or shadows is important, but using a flash can cause shiny or over exposed spots on your subjects. Bouncing your flash gets rid of this and creates soft, flattering light that makes your subjects look luminous in digital photos.

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    Flash Type

    Most professional photographers use a separate flash unit or a flash has the ability to tilt and swivel when bouncing their flash. Since many digital cameras have a built-in flash, bouncing is more difficult, but not impossible. Here is how to bounce a flash with both types.

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    Bounced Flash

    Little Girl Eating
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    Bouncing with a Built-In

    White, flat objects bounce pure, white light back at your camera lens. This can be a wall, a sheet, curtains, or any object that is white and flat. Since you won’t be able to move your flash to bounce it off of certain objects, you will need to make sure there is a nice, white object behind your subject to bounce your built-in flash off of.

    Position your subject right in front of the white object so that you don’t loose any power from the flash and adjust your white balance. This will insure that you get the best shot.

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    Bouncing with a Separate Flash

    Bouncing with a separate or adjustable flash unit gives you the most flexibility and the widest range of lighting possibilities. Here are just a few.

    • Ceiling Bounces: To perform a ceiling bounce, make sure the ceiling is low over your subject and tilt your flash to a 75 degree angle toward the ceiling. Review your photos to make sure there are no shadows under the eyes since the light is coming from above.
    • The Side Bounce: Position your flash 90 degrees to the side and bounce the flash off of a wall, curtain, or bounce card that is beside you. This, of course, will light the subject from the side.
    • Behind-the-Back Bounce: Position your flash to 45 degrees over your shoulder at white object behind you and take the photo. The light will bounce right back at your subject for full-face lighting.

    Bouncing your flash off of objects will take some practice, but once you get the technique down there won’t be any lighting that will stop you from taking amazing digital photos.