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Bounce flash tutorial for flash haters

nianys

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Aug 23, 2012
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Provided Sony NEX flash tutorial.

You've read for years about how high ISO performance in a camera is irreplaceable, of it frees you from the use of flash, how you can't possibly buy anything that shoots less than ISO 12800, right ?? WRONG.
We all know how ugly is built-in flash, how it screws the lighting and ruins your pictures, right ? Wrong again !! Bounced and/or diffused flash is the answer to well lit, sharp, well exposed pictures, and icing on the cake it even works with the little dinky on camera flash unit that Sony included in your NEX box.

a785c0152c432fec4d1709198d33c4c5_0a9.jpg


This is a flash picture, as will be all the pics inserted in this post. Even and soft lighting, no harsh shadows, no blown hilights, just accurate colors and feel good exposure.

23cdc966544385d8bd4a1958ebdb2c74_49f.jpg


Here the "high key" rendering is deliberate. I could have done a more balanced exposure, like the following :

638c9ee53fa9981fe4fbba0a57d440c2_de9.jpg


Convinced ? Or at least curious about how I do it ?? Very simple, and I'm gonna show you how.

First of all, you need to get out the little screw-on flash that Sony has bundled with you NEX. It screws into the accessory port on top of your camera. You can find reflectors/diffusers for this little unit for about 20 USD on eBay, but it's extremely easy to just Do It Yourself (DIY, for short). Cut a piece of thin cardboard (business card type) slightly bigger than the flash head. Wrap it in aluminium foil. Fix it with a simple rubber band underneath the flash head. DONE ! Here's how my set-up looks like :

2d0b74b549a3a037a2826e842e92f857_3de.jpg


I could even have made the reflective surface more effective by making it larger. But this one works more than well enough. Once you've done the "hardware" part of things, time for the "software" (settings) part.

Set you camera on Manual mode. Set ISO to 400 (which you can modify later in case of need). Set you aperture. It's better to use rather large/wide (small F number) apertures, for faster shutter speeds and good ligh gathering. Let's say you're using a fast prime, you can set it to F2, for instance. Set your White Balance to K (Kelvin value) and chose 4300, for starters. You will fine tune later if needed, or can also use Custom WB (very easy to set in just one shot). Set a shutter speed of 1/100th second. Make a test shot. Do NOT trust the LCD for exposure compensation. In low light your LCD is "boosted" and does NOT gives you accurate feedback on the actual exposure you're getting (a noisy and nasty looking LCD is the norm in low light, no panic, lol).

f98326731bb5c8449321524eff560561_e1d.jpg


Review your test shot. If too dark, you can do four things :
1) use a wider aperture (unless you were already wide open)
2) use a slower shutter speed
3) use a higher ISO value (like ISO 800)
4) use positive flash compensation (in the "brightness/color" menu

If too light, you can do the exact four same things, in the opposite way :
1) use a smaller (greater F number) aperture
2) use a faster shutter speed (you'll be limited to 1/160, if this isn't fast enough, you need to use one of the other options)
3) user a lower ISO value (like ISO 200)
4) use negative flash compensation.

White Balance often needs to be fine tuned as well, a higher Kelvin value will give you warmer results (amber), a lower value colder ones (blue). Don't hesitate to use the extra fine bias grid for subtle adjustments. Experimenting is the only way to get familiar with the results.

The only mandatory for this set-up to give optimal results is a reasonably low, light colored ceiling. When we spent a week in our Vermont rental, I was out of this option since the house was ALL wood, which would NOT reflect light and throw white balance off beyond any control !! The one limitation you'll run into is that you can hardly use vertical orientation, it's not gonna yield too good results, unless there is a white wall properly positionned nearby, but success will be pretty random. Stick to landscape orientation and crop if needed.

998eb9f51915e8721ff4e9d2cf602d57_52c.jpg


The pointers I gave you are just that, starting points. But I've been experimenting with that technique for years (actually since 2005) and I've made litterally thousands of bounce flash successful bounce shots. I used to be the greatest flash hater. That was just insecurity and lack of skill. As much as I like pretty available light images, I'd rather take a good looking, well lit flash photo, than make a mushy one for the sake of "available light only" snobism.

Just for comparison here is a "no flash" shot (as stated before, due to the wooden ceiling not allowing bounce flash) :

79219141a5abb5a56fc4259d7d6f8de4_2ec.jpg


1/40th at ISO 1600, aperture probably F2.

I hope you all enjoyed this little tutorial, and I really, really encourage you to experiment with this little set-up. It takes 10 seconds to put together, and will give you 400% better reasults than using direct flash. Try it and let me know how it works !!

385d8d4c6c7f9d48b7606ba56558b8ae_7d0.jpg
 

Dioptrick

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Nice tutorial, thanks!

Hey nianys, for situations where there is no low white coloured ceiling for the flash to bounce back from... I've read that inserting the NEX flash inside a white ping-pong ball through a small opening, works too. Have you also had the opportunity to try this? The only pic samples I've seen were macros and close-ups. Wondering if it would also work for general snaps and portraits like you do. I've always wanted to try the ping-pong ball thingy but I keep forgetting to buy one when I'm up and about...
 

freddytto

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Thanks, I've tried this before and it is a good technique, I'm not a big fan of flash,sometimes often is too much direct light can ruin even with the PP, I can't fix it the picture and come out not really good.

Thank you very much for the tutorial is very useful and those examples are phenomenal.
 

quezra

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Aug 22, 2012
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Thanks, this is great! I've become something of an "available light" photographer, and NEX is spoiling me with its amazing ISO performance... but I do sometimes wish I could snap indoors pictures more consistently. Will be bookmarking this :)
 

Electric Shepherd

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Ben
A well written tutorial, well done!

The lack of bounce flash was a bit of a bug bear for me initially. However, I did what you've done in terms of a bounce adapter, although I bought one of the ready made devices to slip over the flash and it's worked well. Having said which, I've just bought the HVL-F20s flash with its bounceable head and increased power which arrived yesterday so looking forward to trying it out soon!
 

davect01

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I have and use both the Bounce and Ping Pong Ball method.

As mentioned the bounce is good if their is something close to bounce off of and the ping pong ball is good if direct light is needed.

Here is what the ping pong ball looks like attached:

2011-01-16+15.23.21.jpg


And the results.

Without ping pong ball, camera full IAuto:

DSC00999.JPG


With ping pong ball, camera full IAuto:

DSC00998.JPG


As much as I like the results, I still want upgraded flash.
 

NickCyprus

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Thanks for the nice DIY & tutorial!!!

I myself gonna try the ebay solution for the bouncer (its cheap :D)
You reckon I may get different results with it rather than the DIY version?

Question: when in Manual Mode can you adjust the flash compensation? Cause I think you can't :?
 

nianys

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Thanks for the nice DIY & tutorial!!!

I myself gonna try the ebay solution for the bouncer (its cheap :D)
You reckon I may get different results with it rather than the DIY version?

Question: when in Manual Mode can you adjust the flash compensation? Cause I think you can't :?

Flash compensation is available in the Brightness/Color menu in ALL modes.

I don't think a bought adapter would work any differently than a DIY one, only maybe a little better ?? (as in more diffusing power ?)
 

NickCyprus

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The little flash bouncer I bought from ebay really works!!!

Here's a test shot taken in low/bad light last night


With flash, no bouncer:
DSC05181.jpg


With flash and bouncer attached:
DSC05180.jpg
 

nianys

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On my 6 I have affected flash compensation to the AEL button (since I never use AEL at all). Works like a charm :)
 

Amamba

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A great tutorial.

However, isn't the diffuser simply reducing the flash output ? Won't you get the same results by bouncing the flash and dialing down FEC ?
 

sleekdigital

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May 7, 2013
Messages
135
Unfortunately, this doesn't work very well with the nex 6. The built in flash is just too wimpy. Maybe with a super fast lens it could work. With the kit lenses, even wide open at ISO 800 with max flash compensation the result is still underexposed by quite a bit. :(
 

Eddie

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Works prefect if you are the one, who use flash once in the while.
I'v used to been working with DSLR and all the toys what make's them famous and can not imagine my self with shooting whit in build flash. And here you go "genius lies in simplicity"

1/160 F3.5 ISO 800


Uploaded with ImageShack.us

The results...


Uploaded with ImageShack.us
 

sleekdigital

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May 7, 2013
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Here is how I use my in build flash on my NEX-6

Yeah, I finally noticed the flash could be tilted back that far soon after my post as I was messing with the mirror attachment. The tilt is better than the mirror approach, but still requires pretty high ISO in most situations. But still... pretty useful when you don't want to lug around a big external flash to bounce.
 

Eddie

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I never used more than 640 ISO on DLSR so 800 on Nex is more than enough.
Any way, external flash is on my list

Sent from my GT-I9100 using TalkNEX mobile app
 

davect01

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I never used more than 640 ISO on DLSR so 800 on Nex is more than enough.
Any way, external flash is on my list

Sent from my GT-I9100 using TalkNEX mobile app

I try not to go above 800 myself, but also love that my NEX can take very good, mostly noise free shots, even at 1600.
 

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