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Indoor flash tip: point the flash the wrong way

One of my favorite techniques when using a camera mounted flash indoors is to point it behind me. Unfortunately, this only works if you have a flash with a rotating head, so compact camera owners or anyone else stuck with a built-in flash are out of luck.

It works like this: mount your flash and then rotate the head so that it points behind you and at about a 30 degree up angle. When you look through the viewfinder, the flash head should be aiming back over the top of your head. Now, whenever you make a photo, stand with your back about 3 feet from the nearest light-colored wall. That’s it! What this does is converts the wall behind you into a very large light source. And the larger the light source, the more even and natural the lighting will be on your subject. You should get nice soft shadows, even illumination, and large, bright catch lights in your subject’s eyes.

Reflected light
Pointing the flash the “wrong” way converts an entire wall
into a reflector that creates soft, even illumination.

What about outdoors? You can achieve the same effect anywhere by using a reflector. This is the idea behind umbrella reflectors that you sometimes see in professional studios. The umbrella does the same thing as the wall—it spreads out the light. You can also get the same result with collapsible reflectors or with a large piece of white foam board you can pick up at any craft store for a few bucks.

Or you can do what this clever photographer did! Same principle, with the advantages that it’s highly portable, works indoors or out, and it’s guaranteed to put a smile on your subject’s face!

John Watson

John is the original founder of Photodoto, but after running it for 4 years he had to focus on different things. If you’re interested in what John has been up to recently, you can check is personal blog or browse his photo blog.

  • The Flash Helmet is funny as heck!

    I have to say even when i point my Canon 380EX 10 degrees back, it baffles a lot of people. One friend keeps reminding me that I needed to fix my flash (and take off the lens cap)! But it sure makes for softer lighting. Thanks for the write up.

  • One of my favorite tricks. I need an umbrella hat.

  • Haha OMG! That flash helmet got me going. Good read =)

  • Great idea, I’ll have to try that once I get an SLR..

  • Yeah. I’d easily use one of those helmet-umbrella-things if I got paid for the photography I was doing at the time.

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