Question: Bounce reflectors for indoor portraits

Discussion in 'Photography' started by BD, Apr 18, 2006.

  1. BD

    BD Guest

    Hey, folks.

    I have a 300d with a 550EX flash, and an off-shoe cord. I have Lots of
    lenses, but no real lighting equipment to speak of.

    I am working to improve my technique with portraiture.

    Basically, my tastes are such that I prefer b&w to color, and I like to
    experiment with lighting and shadow.

    I did a recent photo shoot in which, rather than using direct flash,
    just leaned a large white piece of cardstock against a nearby chair,
    and aimed it so that the light would reflect off the card and onto the
    subject. I put the flash on the off-shoe cord, and just pointed it at
    the card.

    TTL seems to have done all the work, as the results were nice - drop
    the color with Photoshop's Channel Mixer, add a little Diffuse Glow,
    and I was happy with the results.

    So the question is - is this technique 'too hokey'? Is hanging
    reflectors around the subject and using a hand-held flash with TTL a
    'reasonable' strategy for inexpensive diffuse lighting?

    And, more importantly, if this is the level I'm working on, is there
    something just as simple, and reasonably inexpensive, that I could use
    to improve my results further? I'm looking for something simple and
    obvious, that would make as much sense as hanging white paper

    A remote flash would be a good idea, but I can't really justify the
    expense if I can get 80% of the same result for 20% of the cost...

    I may invest in a 'real' White/Silver/Gold bounce reflector set...


    BD, Apr 18, 2006
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  2. Old flash units are cheap, and so are optical triggers. You
    don't need to spend much at all. In fact, for $100 you can have
    a very versatile lighting setup, with two remote flash units.

    For example, you can get Vivitar 283 flash units for less than
    $20, and if you are patient you can find one with a VP-1
    variable power module. Add an $8 optical trigger and a $10
    tripod, and for less than $40 each you have a remote flash unit
    that can do most anything, plus it is lightweight and travels

    To diffuse the flash, try using a rubberband to hold an 8.5x11
    inch piece of white paper wrapped around the flash, folded
    and/or cut as needed to bounce the light where it should be.
    You might also find a white plastic container that can be cut so
    that it will fit over the flash unit (or buy a commercial one
    for $20). (I cut the bottoms off of isopropyl alcohol
    containers to fit over Nikon flash units. The Vivitar 283 is a
    little bigger, so some other container would have to be used for

    The trick to using all of that is *manual* control and exposure.
    Set the on camera flash as appropriate for straight on lighting
    (which might amount to just enough of a flash to trigger your
    remote units), and set the remote units to what you think is
    about right. Take a test shot and use the camera's LCD to tell
    you if the exposure is right (most cameras can be set to flash
    areas that are over exposed). Adjust exposure or lights as

    (Then of course you can blow the whole "cheap" part of this by
    getting two or more Quantum external battery units to power
    your flash units... but it still isn't really expensive.)
    Floyd L. Davidson, Apr 18, 2006
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  3. BD

    k-man Guest

    Photography is all about lighting. So, your technique is not too hokey
    at all. Floor reflectors, wall reflectors, overhead reflectors.
    Whatever it takes sometimes. As long as you're not scaring away your
    clients, that is. Ever see how they shoot movies? On the big screen,
    you might see a close-up of two people walking alone through the woods.
    Step back 20 feet and you'll see that those people are surrounded by
    lighting guys holding diffusers and reflectors as close as they can to
    the stars' faces.

    Unless you're trying to make someone look evil (i.e., with very harsh
    lighting), you should never use direct flash. Bounce it if you can or
    use a diffuser cap. There are exceptions of course. But, in general,
    for people, stick to bouncing and diffusing.

    I can't remember his name; but someone is produces what is essentially
    a heavy, white, plastic globe that sits on your flash. Looks almost
    like a generic household hallway ceiling globe. Works well, though.
    Gives off some pretty diffuse light. People use it for weddings and
    other work where you can't bounce off a ceiling or wall (works
    awesomely for outdoor group pics). Even with that, though, you might
    still want to bounce the light for close-up portrait work. Just
    depends on the effect you want. You might want to just hang up a
    couple incandesent lamps to add to the effect.

    k-man, Apr 18, 2006
  4. BD

    BD Guest

    For example, you can get Vivitar 283


    Clearly, I need to educate myself on how these things co-exist with the
    primary flash, in terms of metering. But yeah, for that, the price is
    certainly right.

    My next shoot is likely to be sooner than I could collect all the bits
    for a remote slave flash - so I expect I'll use the cards for the next
    gig and investigate a slave flash afterwards. It does feel a little
    less 'predictable' doing it this way - but the TTL goes a long way to
    making it easy.

    BD, Apr 18, 2006
  5. BD

    Pete D Guest

    Saw an interesting article about cheap lighting on used
    $20 work lights as studio lights, with being able to white balance in camera
    or in post it makes them a good cheap alternative.
    Pete D, Apr 18, 2006
  6. BD

    BD Guest

    Saw an interesting article

    Yeah, that looks great! Thanks!
    BD, Apr 18, 2006
  7. BD

    BD Guest

    Saw an interesting article about cheap lighting

    Is there any sense out there as to what kind of lighting might be
    cooler in temperature than the high-power halogens in the article?
    BD, Apr 19, 2006
  8. BD

    Lionel Guest

    Yes, absolutely. Why waste money on fancy equipment that won't give
    you a better result anyway?
    Lionel, Apr 19, 2006
  9. BD

    Lionel Guest

    No, that's pretty much the only reasonable option. You could try
    putting a blue stage-lighting gel in front of the halogens.
    (I've researched doing this, but haven't actually tried it myself.)
    Lionel, Apr 19, 2006
  10. BD

    BD Guest

    Yes, absolutely. Why waste money on fancy equipment that won't give
    you a better result anyway?

    I think some inexpensive lighting might give me a better result, in
    terms of sheer contrast in the image. I just bought a small lighting
    kit similar to the one on the site that was quoted
    earlier. It was cheap enought that it made sense for another option.
    BD, Apr 19, 2006
  11. BD

    BD Guest

    You could try putting a blue stage-lighting gel in front of the halogens.

    Sorry - I meant cooler in terms of _real_ temperature - ie making the
    model break out in sweat, melting gels, setting off fire alarms...
    These lights apparently get pretty toasty after awhile. ;-)

    I chatted with a co-worker, and all he could think of was some
    high-output fluorescents.
    BD, Apr 19, 2006
  12. BD

    dj_nme Guest

    These days you can get compact fluros that have an equivalent output to
    a conventional 200W incandecant bulb.
    They look like they are usualy marketed as "trumpet" or "spiral" tubes,
    mainly because the fluro tube itself is quite long and has been shaped
    to fit in an ordinary light fitting.
    The only problem with fluros is that the higher the output, the harder
    is (for the manufacturer) to control the colour temperature to give a
    "daylight" 56K output.
    At least if you've got all the same sort of globe or tube, a custom WB
    could be taken to offset any colour cast.
    dj_nme, Apr 19, 2006
  13. BD

    Lionel Guest

    <grin> I use the cheap work light option myself, & yes, they sure do.
    Opening all the windows & using one or two big floor-standing fans
    That, natural light + reflectors, or strobes are pretty much your only
    other options.
    Lionel, Apr 19, 2006
  14. BD

    Stan Beck Guest

    There are four ft. fluorescent tubes that have a good, well balanced color
    spectrum. They have a CRI (Color Rendition Index) of 92 to 95 (100 being
    sunlight). I used these in my studio for about 30 years, when I was
    painting. They are often found in printing companies, where critical color
    matching is needed.

    Don't look for these at Wal-Mart, though. You can sometimes find them at
    Lowe's or Home Depot. or lighting supply distributors. They usually sell
    for about $10 per tube, or less.

    You will still have to do a custom white balance, but that is easy.

    The best trick is to get two or three metal tube or wood coat/hat racks
    (like you see in offices). Mount a two-tube shop light vertically on the
    riser part, then swap out the cool white tubes with those I described
    above.. Put castors on the base so you can roll them around at will.

    You will be starting with a better color light than regular fluorescent, it
    will be more diffused than spots or work lights, and it will be a lot

    Stan Beck
    From New Orleans to Brandon MS

    To reply, remove 101 from address.
    Stan Beck, Apr 19, 2006
  15. BD

    Pat Guest

    Nothing beats good lighting, no doubt. But there's nothing hokey about
    what you are doing. Another cheap options, before you invest in "real
    equipment", is to crumple a piece of aluminum foil up into a ball, then
    carefully uncrumple it, get it smooth and tape it to a piece of
    cardboard. Makes a great reflector. But be careful to avoid hot

    As mentioned earlier, but not emphasised enough, tape a 3x5 card to the
    backside of your flash. Leave it sticking up and inch or two. Then
    put your flash pointed straight up -- even in daylight. The reflection
    off of it gives the eyes the highlight they need. If shooting to the
    side, adjust acordingly.
    Pat, Apr 19, 2006
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