First a disclaimer, the subject matter of these photos is not really relevant to this post.  The important thing is the light and the  shadow that it casts for the purposes of this post.

I am not an expert on flash photography and generally avoid it when I can.  But when done right, flash can play a very important role in your photographs.  So I have been studying up on flash and lighting in general in an attempt to incorporate it more into my photography when appropriate.

I did a little experiment with a speed light (flash) to try out a few different techniques.

The first photo is using a direct flash.  It is off camera (triggered with a transmitter and receiver) and pointed directly at the subject.  This method lights the subject, but it is a harsh light and the shadows created on the wall almost distract from the subject.

Example of using a direct flash on a subject.

Direct Flash

Next I used a 40″ shoot through umbrella (which can be had for a relatively small investment).  By placing the umbrella in front of the flash you are changing the light from the more harsh direct light seen in the photo above to a less direct light that wraps around the subject.  In my case I changed the flash from the 2 to 3 inch direct light to a 40 inch light with the use of the umbrella.  (Umbrellas come in a range of sizes from 30″ to 60″ and sometimes larger.) The resulting photograph still has a shadow, but notice how different it is from the first photo.  The shadow is softer and less prominent.

Example of a subject photographed using a shoot trhough umbrella.

Flash using a shoot through umbrella

Finally I pointed the flash at a wall that was perpendicular to the wall behind the subject.  This allows the flash to bounce off the wall and wrap around the subject.  You can change the size of the flash by moving it closer to or further from the wall you are bouncing it off of.  Int he case of the photo below it was about 3 feet from the wall.  This resulted in basically no shadow at all.  (Note, the flash should have been moved to a different angle to get better light directly on the subject itself).

Example of a photo taken by bouncing the flash off a nearby wall.

Bounced Flash

The conclusion, you need to light your subject with whichever technique works best for you and the look and feel you are trying to present.  But to eliminate harsh shadows bouncing the flash or using a shoot through umbrella can be beneficial.

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