If you are anything like me you will dislike the harsh contrast, red-eye and blown out effect of on camera flash – it is never a good effect. In the absence of sufficient daylight it is often necessary to use artificial light and off-camera illumination is best. It is not always practical to carry the required kit but there is an inexpensive (and easy to carry) way to make the best of what you have got.
This is a technique that I have often used when photographing things for ebay but it can be used in many situations. It does depend on having a white ceiling above* you (other colours will create a colour cast of that colour) but it enables you to use that ceiling to create a softer and more pleasing light for your subject; the solution is portable and won’t break the bank. Personally, I use an C5 white envelope which gives even more diffusion but this solution is even more portable:-
It works by deflecting and slightly diffusing the light instead of it going directly ahead. The light is then reflected and further diffused by the ceiling. The diffusion and the fact that the light follows the same path (downwards) that we are used to from sunlight, makes the lighting more pleasing to the eye. You also avoid lots of light hitting the back of your portrait subjects eyes (red-eye).
*If you were to turn the camera through 90 degrees (portrait format) you would require a white wall (or other white reflector) to the side of the camera that the on-camera flash sits, in order to “bounce” the light back onto your subject in the same way that you used the ceiling.
This technique is a compromise but will vastly improve your results over direct on-camera flash. Happy snapping!
(Photo source – Pinterest, Photographer unknown)