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Understanding Light

Lesson 18 of 34

Bouncing Speedlites

Mark Wallace

Understanding Light

Mark Wallace

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Lesson Info

18. Bouncing Speedlites

Lesson Info

Bouncing Speedlites

We are going to begin by bouncing our light. And so we're gonna start with the most basic light modifier available to us as a speed light, which is just a wall. And so we have a white, seamless roll of paper here. And I'll show you how you can get some really interesting looks just by using that. And so we're gonna do that. Lex is gonna come out here right off the bat. And John, I just realized I forgot to tell you that we're gonna need one of those V-flats for this section here in a little bit. And so I wanna show you how to do some very, very basic light modification stuff. So what we have here, we actually have three different speed lights and we are going to be using one to begin with, and then we're gonna start adding in some extra speed lights so that we can show you how to start shaping specular highlights and our key light. So we're gonna sort of do some stuff. But we're gonna start with just one light. And so what we're gonna have you do, Lex, is we're gonna have you stand rig...

ht here, just right here like this, facing this way. And then for this we're going to see if we can turn off all of our studio lights 'cause we want it to be nice and dark in here. And then for this what I'm gonna do is I'm going to use just this one light. On the camera? No , I'm gonna take it off the camera. And so let me just take this little box off for a second. Got it, okay, so just to make this really fast I have taken the soft box off the speed light, so it's just a bare speed light. So normally this would be a normal umbrella adapter. And I say a normal umbrella adapter, and I haven't even told you what those things are. But an umbrella adapter is this little guy that you can get that goes on a light stand that allows you to put a speed light on there. And it's got a little hole in it so you can put an umbrella in it. So they're normally called umbrella adapters. And so we will be working with those. Okay, so let's pretend like you have no umbrellas, nothing. You're shooting on location and you just wanna do some basic work. A white wall is gonna do wonders for you. Because what happens is a white wall is a large, soft, sort of like a soft box. So if I just click my flash right here, boom, you can see that I'm illuminating this entire thing. So basically what I'm doing is I'm creating a very large, soft light. And so we can take our normal speed light here and make a soft light. So Lex, I'm gonna have you come out about right there. And I'm gonna put this up about right here. And then I'm going to take my camera way out here. There we go. All right, let's see if I have enough space. So the settings on my camera, I'm shooting at an aperture value of 2.8, a nice soft shallow depth of field. And my shutter speed is at 200, so I'm trying to eliminate a lot of the ambient light. And then my ISO is at 100 because we have a flash, so we don't need a really high ISO. So for this we're gonna get a little bit of these lamps in the background. But we'll just show you the nice sidelight that we're gonna get. So from this, this is gonna pop up here in a second, you'll see that this nice sidelight works well. And if we just take this, move it forward, we're gonna move you back into this wall just a little bit. We're going to have you move this way so you're looking a little more toward me. We'll see if we can pull this one off. Capowie! Oh, I had light right into my lens. Yeah, yeah, so it's got a flare. We'll see if we can get this where it doesn't flare into my lens, yeah. See if that works, yeah, okay. So by moving, and we're in a really tight, constrained environment here. And could you push "F" so we could have that at a larger, a much larger screen. Yeah, there we go. So for this, that emulates a soft box. All right, we've got a very, very similar look as we would if we had a soft box. We have this large, wrap-around source of light. And we didn't use anything except for our white wall, which is really cool. And so we can do something else here that is sort of unique. So, John, what I'd like you to do is I would like you to bring that light foam core V-flap out here. And I am going to now disappear into the darkness. (someone speaks off-camera) You're good, you're fine. I'm gonna let you hold this. Thank you, I got this. So this is called a V-flat. It's just a big Styrofoam foam board piece of foam board. It's white on one side, black on the other. And it's taped together. So it's called a bookend or a V-flat. So what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna create a tiny little studio. So I'm gonna put this about like this. I don't know if you guys can see inside of here. And I'm gonna move it forward just a little bit. So I'm building a little box, just a little box. And normally what I would do is I would put another one of these on the other side so it would be a square. And then what we'll do is, Lex, we'll have you stand against the back of this, so this way. Yeah, just like that, boom. And then I will put this directly behind me. And then what I'm gonna do, if I have a camera here, is I'm gonna get inside this box. And normally we would have another panel right here. And so that would shape our light. And I'm gonna shoot right in front of this. We can focus in the dark. Caplowie! And so if you need to, in a pinch, create a really high-key, very low shadow kind of environment, this works great. And so you can do those types of things, and it works good. We'll also do something else where we have this going to the side here. Same little V-flat, same little place. Works like this. I'm gonna move this to the side just a hair. I'm gonna have you move to the side and go more into the corner and move this shoulder like that. Come forward just a bit. All right, now we're gonna get some pretty dramatic side soft light. And because everything's so close, you'll see that we get a much higher contrast look. And so for this, you have to sort of be careful of doing that, positioning your model or your person in the wrong place. Because you can go from soft light to pretty nasty light really quickly. And so try to keep your model centered on the panels and let that light sort of flood around. It's really cool. All right, let's get rid of this. So might find a light by bouncing it is where I would start if you're working with speed lights. Because you can emulate a soft box-type of look or an umbrella with just a white wall. No, we're done with that. The other thing we could do, and I've done this before with larger groups, is set several speed lights up and bounce off of white wall to illuminate a group of 10 or 15 people. It works really well because you have this really large source of light that just floods, and it's really, really cool. Yes? How do you know how far to set the person from the wall? So what I would do normally is try to keep that person as close as possible while still having enough room to get a nice portrait. So one of the downsides of doing what I just did in a really small space, you have to use a wide-angle lens. And so that's gonna distort your person. And so as long as you can get a nice portrait shot around 70 millimeters, that's sort of how I judge that. So I'm basing that really on the lens itself. And because with that little box setup, you've got white, and then you've got white, white, white, white. There's so much light bouncing around that it's pretty easy to expose for that. The light is pretty contained. It's really nice and soft. The other thing that I have done is sometimes I'll take a speed light and I'll have it hitting the wall and bouncing back. Sometimes I'll put another one facing the model at a very, very low power setting just to get a little bit more of a pop and a defined specular highlight catch light. Yes? So if you do the same thing but focusing on products if you're using a pedestal or a base, would you color it differently than the surrounding walls? Or even put a ceiling in? Help me understand a little bit more about what you're trying to do with that shot. So you've got a pedestal that's stone or wood or something? All of the above, but I'm just thinking using the light off of the floor, because it's not as tall as a person, I never thought about that before. And if the color of the pedestal is throwing off the light. Oh, I've got you. And if the floor should be buffed out with a soft or dark? Yeah, so the light on the floor influencing the light of the product, it really depends on how reflective your floor is. So one of the things that I've seen people have built out studios, a big mistake is they'll take that epoxy sealant on concrete and they'll make their studio look really nice. The problem is they just created a mirror. And so they have all kinds of problems controlling light. So that's one of those things. I've seen people like, "Why did we do this, it's impossible?" and what they end up doing is they'll get carpet remnants. And so you can just go to any carpet store, Home Depot, whatever, and get a scrap piece of inexpensive carpet that's really dark. And you can throw that down, and that's gonna absorb that light. That's a really easy way to do that. But as far as the pedestal is concerned, if it's pretty small, it's not gonna really throw a lot of light into your product unless it's highly reflective. And if it's highly reflective, then you need to use a big sheet of diffusion and then another big sheet of diffusion and then a soft box and really diffuse those specular highlights. And so it's sort of spread out in that really small specular reflections. That's how that works. Okay, do we have any other questions as we're going through here? Okay, we're gonna keep creating some really cool light. So one of the things that I really enjoy doing is just bouncing light off a wall. And if you had a ceiling, you could do a similar thing. You're gonna get really easy, nice effects. And so that is the way to go. Just keep in mind the position of the person in relationship to where the light is and their position to the camera. In fact, let me just show you how this can change. And so Lex, we're gonna show how you can go from a shot that actually works well to a shot that doesn't work well at all. So we're gonna bounce this, again, off the wall. Let's have you move forward just a bit. And she's about five feet from the wall here. And I'm gonna shoot into the wall. And we are going to get something that is not terrific. So when this comes up, what we're gonna see is a lot of wall. We're gonna clearly see the flash on the wall. And she's mainly in shadow, right. That is not so terrific. But if I move over just a bit, maybe even put the flash behind me, so I'll do this, flash is behind me. And then I'll have you move a little bit closer to the wall, there you go. So like that. Now watch what happens. Cabam, we're gonna see I'm gonna widen this shot out even more. There we go. So what we're gonna see now is much softer light. All we did was move the position of the light in relationship to this wall, so it's wrapping around her a little bit more. So let's have you step away from the wall about like that, and we'll see if we can do a nice shot with those lamps in the background. So what I'm doing is I'm pointing this flash to this wall to try to get her right there. Let's have you turn this way. Now this right now, I think we're gonna get too much side light. So let's just try this out. I think she needs to back up to these lamps here. But let's just see. I love focusing in complete pitch blackness. And just as I thought, we have too much side light coming into this shot. And here it is, bingo, too much side light. How did I know that we were gonna get too much side light? Well, if we look at the position of-- (someone off-camera speaking) Yeah, it's not wrapping around. It's just right here. So what we'll do is, Lex, let's have you back up some. We'll try to throw this in. We might not be able to get that wraparound light because this needs to be angled out a little bit more, if we could. But we'll just try it. We'll see if we can get a little bit more of that to fall in. Got a little bit more, not a lot more by moving her back from this light. We'll see how that looks. You can see that we got a little bit more than we had originally. But on the other side, we could've added a reflector to sort of bounce some more light in. But you can see it's important to realize where the person is in relationship to this flash 'cause it makes a huge difference. All right, so enough bouncing. We have done as much bouncing, I think, as we could in this situation. But the key takeaway here is when you're thinking about modifying the light and using all these modifiers and grids and special stuff, don't forget the simple stuff. Don't forget that you can just use a wall. It's gonna work for you.

Class Description

Short on time? This class is available HERE as a Fast Class, exclusively for Creator Pass subscribers. 

The success of every photographer — artistically and professionally — is based on a strong understanding of how light works. Join photographer Mark Wallace for a three-day course that will demystify the fundamentals of lighting and give you the concrete skills you need to get a powerful image using the right lighting every time you shoot.

Mark will cover everything you need to know about hard, soft, directional, and diffused light. You’ll learn about reading natural light and manipulating it with tools like reflectors and diffusion panels. Mark will also guide you through working with light in a studio environment. You’ll explore using basic studio lights to manipulate and shape light and working with strobes and speedlights. You’ll also learn about shooting on-location and how to balance shape, and color ambient light and light from a flash.

By the end of this course, you’ll be equipped with a whole new understanding of light that will help you to shoot more efficiently, capture consistently well-lit images, and reach new creative heights as a photographer.

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

Presentation 1

Presentation 2

Presentation 3

Zone Lighting Basic Setup

Gear List

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes


Claudia Ochsner

This is an excellent course. I recommend this course to every photographer, of any level who want to put money into lighting stuff. Mark Wallace has a gift to teach and to truly enlighten his audience about complex issues in photography. The money for this course is well spent, the time is more valuable than hanging around in forums and ask questions to others who don't have a clue as well. The products used ( partly promoted ) are very "American" - I have to say that as Swiss. Because you know there are two other brands which could compete at the top level of studio lights as well. Just kidding - But seriously - many thanks to Mark, John, Lex ( Gosh - you are so beautiful ) , CL and their team to help me to reach out for a new level in my photography. I am now going to push my boundaries, well knowing that understanding light is science, but for sure not rocket science.

Rose-Marie Gallagher

This was an outstanding course! Mark presented TONS of quality information, starting at the very basic concepts and working up from there. He is interesting to listen to and very understandable. Great examples that expand the learning. Highly recommended! Thanks for bringing Mark's class to CL...I hope there will be more.

a Creativelive Student

This is probably the first Creative Live course I have purchased that I've watched in its entirety. Every single solitary video. I feel so strongly about Mark's teaching ability that this is also the very time I have written a review. I first came across Mark Wallace on Adorama TV. Interesting and so knowledgeable. So I explored and found other tutorials by Mark on Pocket Wizard. So when Creative Live offered this three day course - I bought it without hesitation. Mark makes the difficult - easy to comprehend and the un-understandable - understandable. I have learned so much from him and I haven't even met the guy! There are so many questions I'd like to ask - that doesn't mean that the videos were lacking in any respect. Rather, time constraints prevented Mark from covering topics he wanted to cover. I am definitely going to purchase the original Mark Wallace Creative Live course on Speedlights. I am also voting for a course: "28 days with Mark Wallace," so that we can tap into his genius with Lighting. How about it Creative Live? Bravo Mark - a very successful course. I am looking forward to the next one.