I'll fully admit it - even after all these years of taking photos, I try to avoid using a flash at all costs.
I'm guessing that if you're reading this article, you've been in the same situation...
Lighting is obviously one of the most important aspects of a photo, but lighting with a flash can be a struggle.
Sure, a flash is a great way to help get a good exposure, but sometimes it's at the expense of harsh lighting and strong shadows on your subject.
But with the right flash photography tips and the right gear, we can get over our fear of using the flash!
Option 1: Bounce the Light
One of the most common ways of making flash lighting more pleasing is to bounce it.
Bouncing light helps enlarge and soften it, which in turn makes it look less harsh and less artificial.
Flashguns typically allow you to tilt the head upwards at varying degrees and swivel it around so you can make use of a wall, ceiling, or even a reflector or mirror to increase the size of the light source.
Of course, there are problems with bouncing light.
First, it can actually make the lighting have too much contrast, which is just as big of an issue as light that's way too harsh.
Second, bouncing the flash can result in deep shadows and blown out highlights in certain areas.
Lastly, bouncing light requires that the bouncing surface be neutral white. If it isn't, you run the risk of having unnatural looking color casts in your image.
Option 2: Use a White Bounce Card
To get around the shadowing problem that I noted above, you can use a large white bounce card.
The large white bounce card reflects light forward onto the subject, even when the flash is tilted upwards. That results in soft fill light to minimize shadows.
This technique is also a great way to add a catchlight in your portrait subject's eyes, as seen above.
Many higher-end flashguns have an integrated white bounce card, but if your flash doesn't have that feature, all you need is a piece of white card and a rubber band, and you can fashion a DIY card.
Option 3: Use a Light Modifier
I think we can all agree that the light emitted from an on-camera flash is terrible. If you need convincing, just look at the image above! It's far too harsh, necessitating a means of lighting the scene with softer light. Bouncing the light or using a white card can help with that.
Another way to do that is to fire a flashgun from a more neutral position, say, to the left or right of your portrait subject.
That allows you to get a little more distance between the flash and the subject for a softer look, and you can manipulate the direction of the lighting for a more creative lighting scheme.
Of course, not all situations allow you to have your flash off-camera and mounted on a tripod with an umbrella. Besides, that takes a ton of extra work to set up and move around.
Yet, you obviously need a way of getting soft, pleasing light...
A more practical solution for softening the light from a hot-shoe mounted flash is KOBRA Flash Modifier, the gadget seen in the image above.
This modifier is a completely innovative way to modify light because it has a built-in reflector that bounces light forward through its clear silicone body.
That gives you two layers of diffusion so you can more accurately control the light.
That also means that you don't have to rely on having a white ceiling or white wall to bounce light.
With KOBRA, you bring your white wall with you because the light bounces off the internal reflector, creating beautiful, three-dimensional light that results in far better images.
In fact, KOBRA lets you paint with the light, not spray, which is exactly what you want!
KOBRA is easy to use too.
It attaches to your flash with a state-of-the-art, patent-pending molded attachment system. That means it's totally self-contained and doesn't need any magnets or hook and loop closures to keep it on your flash.
One of the big selling features of the KOBRA is the weight. It's just 4.5 ounces (o.1275 kilograms), making it super light for a modifier!
KOBRA even multitasks by allowing you to shoot in vertical and horizontal format. It even secures the KOBRA Color Gel System as well.
Even the materials it's made of are innovative. It's molded from high-grade, flexible clear silicone that's immune to temperature fluctuations.
That means that it will return to its original shape, even after being folded up and stored in your camera bag.
In other words, if you really want to take control of portrait lighting while also giving yourself more flexibility to be creative, the KOBRA Flash Modifier is the way to go.
It's small, yet packs a powerful punch, durable and well-made, and gives you the kind of lighting you need to create gorgeous portraits.
If you aren't intrigued yet, check out the KOBRA Flash Modifier in action in the video above!
Wrapping It Up
Getting beautiful light with a flash is paramount to getting the top-quality images you want.
Bouncing light can help, but can also result in deep shadows.
Using a white card can help, too, but if your flash doesn't have one built-in, you have to DIY one, which can look a little low-brow.
If you ask me, the best bet is to modify the light with something like the KOBRA Light Modifier.
It generates the most pleasing light for the best results, it's easy to use, durable, and affordable, too!
What's not to like about that?!
Visit KOBRA's Kickstarter page for more details and to lend your support.