Photography tips for Chicago parents: Understanding external flash

NOTE: Using a two-year-old in a “controlled experiment” is a difficult task. (test subject bribed with popsicles)

This week, I wanted to show how big of a difference the position of your external flash can have on lighting. I attempted to make this as much of a controlled experiment as possible!

In each of the images above the flash is set to TTL, the camera was set on manual at 1/80th of a second, f/3.2, ISO 100, and the subject was (practically) the same distance from the wall behind her. But what different results!!!

Straight on (LEFT image): In the first image, the flash was bounced directly into the subject’s face. Hard, direct lighting is the result with strong highlights and shadows. Most household “point and shoots” output images like this.

Side bounce (CENTER image): For the second image, I pointed the flash to my right directly at a white wall. Notice how much softer this image looks. The wall acted as a giant diffuser bouncing light back into the frame. Many of her features come to life, her nose and lips in particular.

Ceiling Bounce (RIGHT image): In the final image you may notice hardly any shadows at all. For this shot, I pointed my flash directly behind me, angled towards a white ceiling and another white wall. I love how three dimensional the image looks and the little pop in her eyes.

I don’t believe there is any WRONG way to light an image, it is all subjective and a matter of personal preference! But I am curious, which one do you prefer?

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