Tip Thursday: indoor flash

Ok, so you have been asked to do some indoor portraits or you want some better photos of the family than the normal snap shot. But you don’t have fancy studio lighting. No problem.

First you can use soft natural light from either a window or open door way. The best light comes from a north facing opening but any will do. If the light is harsh it can be diffused with a gauze type of window curtain or even blinds.

Click photos for larger view

This self-portrait was done next to a west-facing doorway. A black blanket for a background, and a white sheet to camera right to reflect some light back on my face. I also wore a black t-shirt to enhance the effect.

Next we have the case of using one on camera flash. I am not talking about the built-in flash but one that allows it to swivel and pivot. By bouncing off the ceiling or the walls we get room filling light that does not make the subject look spotlighted or the background dark.This photo is with just bounce flash off the low ceiling. Notice that it is nice room filling light. If you have a dedicated flash it will automatically determine the exposure or you can do it manually and adjust by the histogram.

This photo was done with natural light to camera left and the flash bounced to the right to fill in the shadows.

Now we come to more fun. You can simulate a studio set up if you have more than one flash. I use a Sigma 500 super dedicated flash as my main but I bought some used manual flashes to supplement. The only requirement is that they allow manual power adjustment such as 1/2, 1/4 and 1/8 etc.

I bought a couple of used Sunpak flashes and a used Vivitar 5000. The Vivitar is a powerful flash i use for my main light. For diffusers I use small ebay softboxes designed for small hotshoe flashes.

This photo uses a combination of bounce to fill the shop area and direct to light the subject.You can use PC cords to set off the flashes or optical slaves but I use a set of Chinese radio triggers called Cactus triggers. You can find them on Ebay. You can see that by using bounce and direct I have nice even light, no shadows in the eyes and soft shadows.

I can also set them up as studio style lighting. Using a softbox and a beauty dish combo. One to either side of the model.This young lady wanted photos for her boyfriend that is a huge New Orleans saints fan. She lives in a small apartment and I had to go to her place to shoot. I didn’t lug big lights. Just the three flashes one was used to light the background one in the beauty dish and one in a diffuser. The background is just two white sheets sewn together. One does not need fancy equipment just a desire to elevate your photos above snap shot status. I have a set of sheets in red and one in black.

One of the best sites for DIY photography stuff is here and you can learn a lot about off camera flash here

I hope this inspires you to try for indoor photos that look more professional.

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