BetterPhoto Q&A
Category: New Questions

Photography Question 
Julie A. Tamblin

How to Avoid Shadows Behind Subjects

Am just a beginner w/an Olympus E-620 and recently took some pics at my nephews wedding both in the chapel and at the reception. I used an additional electronic flash (FL-36), but still had trouble w/shadows behind the subjects? Pics shot in Program mode. What do I do to avoid shadows and is there an easy way to clean up the shadows after the fact in Photoshop Elements or some other photo program?

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7/25/2010 12:00:09 PM

Carlton Ward
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/13/2005
  Hi Julie,
Bounce the flash off the ceiling or walls if you can, this will make a huge difference in your shadows.

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7/25/2010 3:17:51 PM

Julie A. Tamblin   Tis me again, Carlton,
Neglected to state in my question that I did try to bounce the flash off the ceiling and walls. Sometimes it seemed to work and others not?? J

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7/27/2010 5:23:26 PM

Carlton Ward
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/13/2005
  Hello Julie,
This is a common problem, which is why LARGE softboxes and ringflashes are so popular, they do a better job of wrapping the light around the subject and diminishing shadows. Every place you shoot will have their challenges and bouncing is always the simplest solution if it works but depending on ceiling height, etc - this can be problematic as well. Also when you bounce the flash, it will pick up the color of the wall/ceiling you are bouncing it off of and cast that color onto your subject. I always carry a white balance card as well and use it when I am shooting several shots in the same light. I have the 14" one which folds up and fits easily in my case.

John Siskin is a teacher here and has a blog - - that is loaded with information. I took one of his lighting classes and highly recommend it as he covers a lot of ground and is an endless resource of information.

I wish there was a one-size-fits-all answer but there isn't, so we just have to keep learning, experimenting & practicing ;)
Love in Light,

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7/27/2010 5:46:34 PM

Carlton Ward
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/13/2005

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7/27/2010 5:48:01 PM

Julie A. Tamblin   Carlton,
Thanks for the advice and encouragement. Think I know what my next photog class will be!

Have a great week!


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7/27/2010 6:06:57 PM

Dennis Flanagan
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/31/2005
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  Jennifer, I'm guessing that you shot your photos with the camera sideways to get a vertical aspect to it. If that is so, a flash unit is to the side slightly? A flash bracket that lets you tile the camera yet keep the flash over above the camera works great to reduce the harsh shadow. With the flash above the camera, the shadows are hidden for the most part. Another thing do to is try keeping your subject from being too close to a background. That way the shadow is on the floor and hidden.

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7/30/2010 10:27:13 AM

John H. Siskin
BetterPhoto Member
John's Photo Courses:
4-Week Short Course: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
  Hi Jennifer,
Thanks, Carlton!! The key aspect of a light that defines the way the light makes shadows in the size of the light source. Consider a table lamp in a living room. If you take off the lampshade the light makes harder shadows. The transition from light to shadow will be sharper. If you put the lampshade back on the light will make softer shadows, with more transition. This couldnít be because the light was spread more by the shade: the bulb is already round and spreads light in all directions. This happens because each point on the surface of the lampshade is lighting the subject. So the subject it lit from points above and below where the bulb lit the same thing. This is the purpose of an umbrella, light panel or a soft box: it lights the subject from more places. If a personís nose is making a shadow with an on camera strobe and you make the light source larger, perhaps with a device like this:, the shadow will soften or go away. A really big light source, like a 4X6 foot light panel or a 60-inch umbrella will really reduce shadow problems, but it is hard to put one on a flash bracket. Carleton is right bounce flash is the easiest and quickest way of solving lighting problems, but the shoe cover can work and is cheap and easy to fit in the camera bag.
Thanks, John

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7/31/2010 7:37:27 PM

Peter K. Burian
BetterPhoto Member Since: 4/8/2004
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  Have you tried using wireless off-camera flash? For example: Hold the flash above the subjects so the shadows fall lower than usual.
The owner's manual explains how to use this feature with certain FL series flash units. It's quite easy and can be very useful.

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8/2/2010 8:53:43 AM

Greg McCroskery
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/27/2003

If you are not using a diffuser, or reflector of some sort on your flash, that is part of the problem -- any diffuser or reflector will soften the shadow edges somewhat (although not totally eliminate shadows). I use a "Better Bounce Card" reflector for most of my on-camera flash work, and I really like the results. You can make it yourself easily (it's cheap), and there is an online video showing you how to make one and how to use it.

Two other tips for wedding flash are to make sure that your flash is balanced with the ambient light at the altar for all formal, posed church shots -- this minimizes any shadows greatly (plus makes for beautiful photographs). In addition, at the reception try to avoid shooting subjects close to walls, or if you must, try positioning them in front of indoor plants, etc. that break up the shadows.

I hope this info helps.

God Bless,

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8/24/2010 11:48:51 AM

Carlton Ward
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/13/2005
  I typically use the Stofen diffusers on my 580 & 430EX flashes but also have a snoot & mini-softbox made by David Honl.
I have yet to try the booty's that John suggested but will get a pair soon. Anything that fits easily in my camera backpacks are good and the booties are small.
Fabulous Booty Light

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8/25/2010 5:32:25 PM

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