Tutorial: DIY Bounce Card

As you know, I describe myself as a natural light portrait photographer.  I love the depth and interest that natural sunlight brings to a photo.  By comparison, flash photographs can come out looking harsh and flat.  That said, the sun is a dynamic and somewhat unpredictable light source.  An evening shoot, depending on the setting and the weather, could turn into a difficult task without the help of some artificial light.  So when I shot Isaac and Juli’s vow renewal ceremony (in the evening, under the cover of a pavilion), I knew that I should be prepared to bust out the flash if needed.  Generally, my game plan when shooting with flash is to bounce the light off the ceiling, which maintains some of the depth of the photograph by placing the light source above (rather than directly in front of) the subject.  But I knew that this particular pavilion has a high, dark-colored ceiling which would absorb a good amount of my bounced light.  I would therefore need to send the light in two directions – up and forward.  Some of it would bounce off the ceiling and some would shine directly on the subject.  This is generally accomplished by using a bounce card – a white card attached to the back of the flash that reflects some of the light forward when the flash is pointing up.  Unfortunately, this shoot was booked at the very last moment and I was not in possession of a bounce card.  You know what that means… time for a DIY project.  I wish I could tell you that this was all entirely my idea, but that would not be entirely true.  I found my muse in this video by Peter Gregg.  The video is sort of long but here’s a summary:

1. Cut a piece of sturdy paper into the shape of a trapezoid.

2. Attach it to your flash (Mr. Gregg wanted to sell me a velcro attachment strap.  I used tape instead).

So here’s my flash all decked out with its bounce card:

And to give you an idea of what it does, I photographed a shelf without the bounce card:

Notice that the top of the shelf is casting a triangular shadow because all the light is bouncing down from the ceiling.

Here’s the same shelf with the bounce card:

There’s still a little shadow because there is still some bounced light, but it is much less harsh.

Of course if you plan on doing lots of flash photography, a good bounce card is probably a smart investment.  But if you find yourself in a last-minute bind, this little trick just may serve you well!

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