How to Create Better Indoor Portraits by Bouncing Your Flash

February 25, 2013

in Lighting, Photography Tips, Photography Tutorials, Rachel Durik

I Heart Faces Bouncing A Flash Tutorial

Rachel Durik, owner of Savor Photography and member of our I Heart Faces Creative Team, is sharing a fantastic tutorial series that teaches various lighting tips to improve photography. In this third tutorial, learn how to create better indoor portraits by learning how to bounce your flash.  

Follow along with the rest of the series here:

I’ll admit it – I love natural light and I prefer to shoot with only natural light. When it’s good, it’s very, very good. But when it’s bad… you need a flash! Having a flash puts you back in control of your image instead of unreliable mother nature. A flash is an excellent tool in your bag of tricks. You just need to know how to use it.

To illustrate this, I took a few pictures of my daughter in her room. This first image is without flash. It’s a bit dark. (And sure, I could have simply upped the ISO and used the ambient light, but we wouldn’t learn anything about flash then, would we!)

1/160, 2.0, ISO 500

I Heart Faces - Photography Lighting Tips


If you use your pop-up flash on your camera, or if you use your speedlight flash straight on, you’ll likely get an image full of unflattering shadows and your image will be flat, like the following image.

I Heart Faces - Photography Lighting Tips

When you can direct your light and bounce it, you’ll have a much more natural image. Bouncing your flash simply means you’re directing the light from your flash to a wall, ceiling or other surface so that it bounces off that surface and back on your subject. For this reason, when you buy a flash, you should make sure that it can turn in all directions. (For a look at what gear I have, you can go here.)

For the next image, I used the flash on top of my camera and bounced it straight up so that the light hit the ceiling and then fell back onto my subject from above. Bouncing off the ceiling isn’t the greatest (is overhead lighting always the most flattering?), but if you simply can’t bounce off a wall, it will do.

If you’re new to using your flash, you might wonder where to start in terms of power. Usually, the flash will have manual settings and TTL, which is an automatic setting. Usually TTL is fine. If it’s anything like mine, the power goes from -2 to +2 in the TTL mode. If you find you have too much flash, you can dial it down. Too little, dial it up. Manual flash is easier to use in more controlled settings, like a studio setting. If you’re walking around, or light is changing, TTL is usually fine.

I Heart Faces - Photography Lighting Tips

For this kind of look, your flash will look like this:

I Heart Faces - Photography Lighting Tips

Next, I bounced it off the wall to my right. To do that, I turned the flash so that the light would hit the wall and bounce back on my subject.

I Heart Faces - Photography Lighting Tips

When you’re bouncing off a side wall, your flash will look like this (or facing to the left):

I Heart Faces - Photography Lighting Tips

The best way to learn how to use your flash is by doing. If you have one that you’ve been afraid to use, or if you’re stuck in a direct flash rut, turn it to the side and experiment!

Rachel Durik Headshot copyRachel Durik is a photographer located in Southwest Florida. You can learn more by visiting her photography site, Savor Photography, Naples Wedding Photographer, blog, or the Savor Facebook page.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Erin December 14, 2015

The pictures were very helpful for a visual learner like myself. Thanks!!


Michelle February 26, 2013

This is really helpful – thank you!


Jerilynn February 25, 2013

Thank you so much, Rachel!! I am curious what to do if you have colored walls. I have yellowish walls and if I did this I would get a yellow color cast. How would I set my white balance for something like this?


Erin December 14, 2015

I believe you would use a grey card and set your white balance first. Then bounce your light…


Amy Locurto February 25, 2013

Great tips Rachel!! Thanks for sharing. Your daughter is getting so big!


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