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Category: New Questions

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Photography Question 
Laura Kalcheff
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/12/2007
 

Indoor Flash: Avoiding Shadows


I just use my standard flash when taking photos with my Nikon D40x and always get people's shadows against the walls. How can I avoid this? Should I buy another flash to attach to the camera - one that is stronger?

12/11/2010 1:43:55 PM

 
Mara Denardo
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 6/21/2006
  You should definitely have an accessory flash, bouncing the light with that will eliminate shadows from your subjects, and background lighting will also help.

12/11/2010 7:04:39 PM

 
Randy A. Myers
BetterPhoto Member
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member since: 8/20/2002
  If you don't want to buy a flash, you can try to use something like the "Puffer" by Gary Fong. It will help soften the shadows. If they are posed shots, move your subjects as far as possible away from the background. The best would be to buy a flash and learn how to use it. I usually bounce it of the ceiling if the ceiling is white. If the ceilings are colored or dark, it would be best to use a light modifier. Good luck and have fun shooting.

12/12/2010 8:25:04 AM

 
John H. Siskin
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John-Siskin.com
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  Hi Laura,
Remember, your flash is really the only light in the room when you use it, so if there were five lights in the room to begin with, there is now one - right on top of your camera. It's rather like strapping a flashlight to your head in a cave. Automatic flash will get you the right amount of light, but not the right quality of light. You might want to try using a shoe cover as an accessory: www.siskinphoto.com/magazine/zpdf/bootylight.pdf, it is probably cheaper than the Gary Fong unit. Bounce flash can also be good, if you have a white ceiling or wall. Adding another light adds more shadows, so you need to be very thoughtful about how you use it. Thanks,

12/12/2010 11:55:20 AM

 
Randy A. Myers
BetterPhoto Member
Contact Randy
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member since: 8/20/2002
  The "bootylight" is for use on an accessory flash. The puffer is used for built in flashes. I just put it out there as a cheap alternative to buying a separate strobe and light modifier. It is nowhere near as effective, but if you don't use flash very much, I would think about it. There are others out there besides the "Puffer". I've used styrofoam coffee cups before on strobes. Just holding up a thin sheet of white paper over the flash will help.

12/12/2010 1:17:30 PM

 
Usman Bajwa
BetterPhoto Member
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member since: 4/11/2006
  To take care of the harsh shadows while shooting indoors, one of my photographer friends uses a home-made cover that he puts on top of the on-camera flash. The material he uses is the normal plastic bubble packing. The circular bubbles diffuse and spread the light evenly and greatly reduce the harsh shadows. I have seen the comparison and it really works well.
Another thing that you can try is to shoot it from a slightly elevated position, so the shadows will fall low behind the subject/person you are shooting.
UB.

12/12/2010 9:06:02 PM

 
Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member
cammphoto.com

member since: 7/17/2003
  I too have used the bubble-packing trick to soften the harshness of my flash unit.
(Another thing that works well is the thin foam packing used to ship framed pieces of artwork.)
You can't wrap the material too tightly against the head though or the flash will just shoot through it without affecting the shadows. If you "balloon" the material slightly away from the front of the head the flash output will scatter and soften harsh shadows.
The same material can also be utilized in macro to soften harsh sunlight. With the camera set to go off on the timer, you can hold the diffusion material out of frame at a right angle to the sun during exposure.

12/13/2010 3:15:28 AM

 
Dennis Flanagan
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 12/31/2005
  No matter what you do, there will be some sort of shadow. To minimize a harsh shadow, the suggestions are all good. Another thing is to try not having your subject to close to a wall. Another tip is to keep you camera flash in the same plane as the camera to that the shadows are directly behind the subjects, not offset to the side. That gets to be a problem when you tilt your camera sideways and the flash is offset about 6 inches to your right or left, depending on how you hold your camera. I use a flash bracket and a Gary Fong diffuser with fairly good results.

12/13/2010 9:21:09 AM

 
Laura Kalcheff
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/12/2007
  Thanks, everyone, for taking the time to help me out! I think for now I will go with one of the homemade options since this shoot is tomorrow but I will look into the Gary Fong products.

12/13/2010 12:55:45 PM

 
Bruce A. Dart

member since: 1/7/2007
  There are tons of "light modifiers" out there for nearly every flash. Each does different things and most of these will soften the light to help minimize the shadows, but as Dennis noted, they will still be there.All of these suggestions are good but there is more. Remember that we are dealing with physics here (hated it in school) and the falloff of light varies in an inverse proportion. Translated: it is an f/stop; in a short distance it is half as much or twice as much depending on how you move, nearer or farther. Dennis also hit the nail on the head with the distance the subject is to the wall. Shadows will be more obvious the closer you get to a wall and less obvious as you move away. Another factor is light placement. If you raise the light, as we do with portraits in the studio, generally about 45 degrees, the shadows drop behind the subject (if they are away from the background). The other solution is to get the flash off-camera and raise it. There are adapters that connect to the flash and the hot shoe that let you do this. Several cameras (my Nikon D200 does) allow you to trigger the flash remotely, meaning you can use more than one flash and place it off camera. Even with a "slave" unit (remote trigger) you can move the flash off camera and even trigger it with the little pop up on the camera. By adjusting the flash output and shooting on manual you can control the effect. John touched on another aspect. Light is light and now that we can control white balance, it doesn't matter where it comes from, so to speak. Room light, flashlight, daylight or strobe. As long as you can color balance you can create, create, create!!

12/14/2010 6:30:51 AM

 
Tim Reardon
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/10/2010
  have the subject stand further away from the walls do some test shots til you no longer see shadows behind your subject if you cannot have subject too far from wall, get a fill lamp/flash and place on floor behind subject to remove the shadows behind them

12/14/2010 6:37:23 AM

 
Simon  A. Stone

member since: 9/21/2005
  if you are doing just the pop up flash on your camera, one of the best flash diffusers I have found is a 35mm film container. they are usually the most neutral plastic you can find. also they are free if you ask for them at your favorite photo lab. just cut a little slit in the side of them big enough to slid onto your flash and shoot away. a friend asked me and my other photography buddies to try it out and we were all impressed with the results

12/14/2010 7:28:39 AM

 

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