Moore Tips: Using Bounce Flash

from scary to soft and beautiful

giveaway is closed: simona walters is the winner!

You’ve probably seen photos where the light looked soft and beautiful and photos where the light looked harsh and made a person’s wrinkles and lines show up…possibly making them look older and a little scary.

I have some super simple tips today to help your flash photos go from scary to soft and beautiful.


I also have an awesome giveaway for you!  Just share your questions or thoughts about bouncing flash in the comments and you’ll automatically be entered in the giveaway for your favorite Kelly Moore Bag!

using your flash more effectively

In the below photos, I’m going to give you my step by step process that I think through in my head (I go into more detail in my video above–make sure to check it out)!


step 1: evaluate my surroundings

My dance floor was relatively dark, but I had LOTS of interesting ambient lights around the room to add interest to the background of my photo. 
This is my FAVORITE reception scenario.  So I knew I was going to use the ambient lights in the room and my flash. 

step 2: setting your camera before the flash

I set my camera setting first with my flash off. My camera settings were around 2.0 Aperture, 400-800 iso, and around 25 shutter speed.

What?? a SLOW shutter speed?? Yes!! I do this ONLY when there is no or minimal ambient light on my subject. By doing this, I blur my background ambient light, but my subject is frozen with my flash. I always feel this gives the photos a sense of movement.


step 3: turn on your flash

I know this sounds like a super easy step but it’s easy to forget.  You’ll take a photo, wonder why it’s so dark, and think you have your settings all wrong.  

The truth? You got everything set and forgot to do the last step!


three steps for bouncing your flash

Needing help with just one of these steps?  Check out the video times below to go straight to the step you need most.

Step #1 (5:50) Observe your surroundings and evaluate your light sources
Step #2 (6:03) Always set your camera first
Step #3 (7:50) Turn on your flash

real life examples 

If you haven’t gotten to check out the video yet but you’re wishing someone would walk you through how to set your flash in real life.  Make sure to check out the times below to see a couple of real life examples in some different settings.

Shooting with ambient light (8:10)

Shooting without ambient light (11:32)

Shooting with ambient light as a backlight (14:25)


Enter the giveaway!  Just share your questions or thoughts about bouncing flash in the comments and you’ll automatically be entered in the giveaway for your favorite Kelly Moore Bag!


2Suesblack_front_ccc6a5b2-34bb-416f-b184-0c5abe0f7e05_grandethe 2 Sues at your next shoot

The 2 Sues Kelly Moore Bag is the perfect companion when you have several flashes, lenses, and camera bodies that you need to bring to a photo shoot.

You can’t go wrong with the spacious bag that carries everything you need and more.  Stash all of your gear plus a couple of snacks, emergency items for your bride and groom, and any little things you’ll need to sustain you through out the day.


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91 responses to “Moore Tips: Using Bounce Flash”

  1. I only use flash as a last resort but when I do it’s always bounce flash!! White walls and ceilings are my friend.

  2. Lauren Jones says:

    These are great tips! I’m horrible with flash and these tips definitely help with my basic understanding. I had no clue that you could still shoot with such a low shutter speed and still get your subject in focus! I’m so excited to try that out at my next wedding!

  3. Great tips! I’ll pass them along to my daughter who just got her first “real” camera is learning about aperture, flash, etc.

  4. Do you use any modifiers when bouncing the flash?

  5. I really need to remember and try this. Going on a family vacation next week and I avoid using my camera in dark spaces because the flash makes everything so harsh, need to try this and see if I can get some good flash photos. Thanks for the tips!

  6. meganleigh298 says:

    What kind of flash do you use? I’ve been wanting to purchase one for a while now but not sure what to get! Thanks for all of the awesome advice!

  7. Bounce flash can be pretty intimidating at first but once you actually start to use it you can do so many things with it. It’s very versatile and can really change the dynamics of a shoot.

  8. This was so helpful! Thank you!!

  9. The only thing I would suggest for this post is to address the sync speed of the flash in relation to the camera, otherwise great post!!

  10. Sandy Molck says:

    This was a really informative video. You did take the scary settings and made them understandable. I have been afraid to go off auto with my flash, but this has me excited to give it a try!

  11. Wonderful! I have been so scared to use a flash, I do no like the harsh light that it gives. Do you have a preferred flash? (I have a Canon 7D) Thanks Kelly!

  12. Thanks so much for this video, very helpful! I find using flash so intimidating! What do you do for bouncing when you are in a large venu with the white walls? Like a church ceremony?

    • Kelly says:

      I bounce! You’ll be amazed at how it still works even with tall ceilings! Your flash may have to work extra hard and put out more power, and you may need to up your iso, but it usually works great!

  13. I’ve already shared this post as its one of the BEST tutorials on flash bouncing I’ve ever seen. As a primarily natural light photographer, this was extremely helpful for those times you have to use a flash. Will be practicing. Keep the tips coming!!

  14. laurel365 says:

    Thank you! Any tips for cases where there is nothing good to bounce off of, and a reflector isn’t possible?

  15. What’s your favorite flash for travel? It’s often nice to have the option, but so many are bulky and maybe not worth taking up the same space as an additional lens, even if something like my (very beloved) spacious Two Sues bag!

  16. Tracy Lee says:

    I see alot of photographers with diffusers or small softboxes on their flashes. What is the best scenario for using these or are they even necessary?

  17. Hello! Thanks for this…it’s so helpful! I have 2 questions (and want to be entered to win πŸ™‚ ) about flashes and bouncing lights – 1. Do you have a recommendation for a good beginner flash to get for a Canon Rebel T3i? 2. How do you determine the best place to bounce the light from (especially if you’re in a space with dark walls and/or a high ceiling)?

  18. I also have a question about using a diffuser. When using the diffuser on my flash, it seems I have to point the flash directly at the subject in order to get a sharp photo. I know the diffuser is meant to make the light softer, so is it not meant for using to bounce the light? Or is it that I am not using the correct settings on the camera? Ugh . . . I am having such a hard time articulating my question. LOL Maybe I am essentially asking the same question as Ms. Tracy Lee above? By the way, thanks for the tips on photos in front of the Christmas Tree!!! πŸ˜‰

  19. Cindy Tung says:

    I recently got a flash as a gift but definitely found it intimidating to use. I appreciate the tips about evaluating ambient light and what I want to be lit by what before setting up the flash!

  20. Nalane Singh says:

    Whats a great beginner camera and flash for me to get? Right now I use an iphone and theres no way to bounce the flash, most of my pictures are deer in headlight pictures, great tips in your video thanks for sharing.

  21. These tips were so helpful! I got a flash in December but my pictures have looked horrible! I knew to bounce the light but I think I was bouncing off of color, giving an awful cast of color on my kids. I loved getting to see the difference of the photos! Keep the videos coming!

  22. Soooo helpful! I am so intimidated to use flash. Is there any background lighting situation in which bounce flash would NOT turn out well? What should I be aware of? Thx!

  23. Your video was very informative, I can’t wait to order my flash and get started.

  24. So very cool to think this technique is that simple. I imagine it take some practice. When would you NOT ever want to do this?

  25. When using ettl, what metering mode do you use on your camera? Evaluative, center weighted, or spot? And are you checking your histogram when using the flash? If so, how are you looking at it to know that the flash is at a good setting?

    • Kelly says:

      Are usually just take a shot, and then look at the photo to determine what I need to change. I always have my highlight indicator on so I will know if if anything is overexposed

  26. K.M. says:

    I always struggle with flash. Bouncing it is something I never think to do. Thanks for the tips! (Love the tip to turn the flash ON, lol)

  27. Is there a way to do this with the flash that comes with mirrorless cameras?

  28. I love to use flash as a last resort and I also learned to bounce it. Great info on here!

  29. The suggestions for bouncing are very helpful, but honestly, the reminder to set the camera ahead of time is the one I needed most. I’m a spur of the moment photographer, but I could still take the time to choose the settings before I start shooting rather than adjusting as I go.

  30. rengstrom says:

    I love using the sphere over my flash but sometimes even that is too bright. I will try to bounce more- thanks for this tutorial. For larger groups at an event what would you recommend for flash settings??

  31. ltb321 says:

    You described my situation perfectly. I purchased the flash and wasn’t happy with the results. Its been sitting in a drawer since. After watching this i’m excited to experiment with it and give it another try. Thanks

  32. I love your insights Kelly! I’ve never really loved my reception photos that have blur on my subject but, you are right. It does create a sense of movement. I’m so inspired to go back to some of my older shots and edit them!

  33. Thanks for all the tips! I’ve not had to shoot with flash a whole lot, but when I do need it I know I’m always stressed and worried.

  34. CAS1951 says:

    I have just recently started using flash, as I predominantly shoot landscapes. Now that I have started photographing birds, flash helps! I use 1/4 power if I am fairly close.

  35. MaggieB says:

    These are great tips that I can’t wait to put to use. I’m always finding myself in situations where it’s too dark but the brightness of the flash is just too much. Thank you for sharing your expertise!

  36. Do you use off camera speedlites for portraits/weddings too? Any tips for shooting outside in direct sunlight (with no shade)? Also – I noticed you switch the way you hold your camera when shooting vertically – do you go with whatever is comfortable at that moment? What if you were using a flash bracket…or do you ever use/recommend a bracket?

    • Kelly says:

      I do use off-camera speed lights as well. See a few blog posts back to see my lighting set up for off-camera shooting! When you are bouncing flash, there is no need to use a bracket. Years ago I used one, but quickly stopped because it seemed so cumbersome!

  37. lperritt says:

    Thank you for these tips. I can’t wait to try this!

  38. Thanks for this!! I always get nervous when there isn’t a white ceiling/wall to bounce on – I love the idea of having an assistant hold a reflector to bounce from, but if you can’t do that, do you have any other suggestions outside of being able to utilize an off camera flash set up?

  39. I use an off-camera speed light with a modifier. But sometimes … just lately … my flash is not going off when it should. OR it will only light half of the shot. I don’t have the shutter speed too high, so that’s not the issue. Any ideas why my flash wouldn’t be flashing consistently when it’s supposed to? Is my flash malfunctioning?

  40. [email protected] says:

    Thanks for the information! I’ve never been successful with bouncing my flash. Can’t wait to try it again!!

  41. jkegcarter1 says:

    Okay, so I am doing pictures for our baccalaureate service at church this Sunday… I want to use flash but the graduates will be walking down the center isle not near any walls and we have a very tall vaulted ceiling and no windows in the sanctuary! Should I even bother trying to use flash or just adjust my setting to get the shots I need? I have photographed several times in there without flash so I know I can do it.. But I struggle!

  42. Sophia says:

    Wow! I never use flash because of the harsh light and the shadows it casts, but now I will definitely give it a go!

  43. Thanks for the help! I love the look of “motion” but capturing that perfect still image! Love it!

  44. ccmonty says:

    Thanks for the great tips. I’ve been using flash more recently and bouncing flash and it’s great to get some good, practical advice.

  45. Marie Wood says:

    It was a game changer the day I learned about bouncing my flash. thanks for the great tips though as it’s always nice to have some good reminders!

  46. Thanks so much, Kelly, for the great video! While I’ve been aware of bouncing possibilities I’ve always been intimidated by the process. Thanks so much for the great explanation! Can’t wait to try it out!

  47. Super tips. I use a flash occasionally and always bounce it, but the tips you gave about how the camera and flash talk to each other really helped clarify the settings and how they work. Thank you!

  48. Sometimes (such as in a church), I find that the ceilings are too tall for bounce flash. Do you recommend a white card that attaches to the flash?

  49. Lisa Robson says:

    Thank You for the information. I prefer natural light but when it isn’t available I use bounce flash.

  50. This is one of the most helpful videos on flash that I’ve seen! Thank you for the great tips and the walk thru!

  51. Thanks for the helpful tips. I’m new to photography and am interested in any information I can get my hands on.

  52. Becky Kelly says:

    Thanks for the info! I loved the idea of using the reflector for bouncing the flash. i may need to try practicing with that!

  53. Amy Schrodt says:

    Awesome tips. I appreciate you showing the differences with direct flash and bouncing with the model. Seeing such a difference between the two is a great way to make sure we are all bouncing our flash!

  54. Ah these tips help so much! I’ve never been super happy with the results I get when using a flash. But now I can’t wait to try again!

  55. great tips! i hear the word “flash” and i cringe. i’m not very good at using a flash. i’ll have to practice using your advice. Thanks again!

  56. Oh my goodness! I have read and read and read anything photography I can get my hands on over the past 6 years. I never once heard of using a shutter speed of 25 to blur the ambient light! That is crazy! And just up my alley. I can wait to try it!

  57. Diana Camden says:

    Thank you for this post. I love that you showed sample shots of how to use flash effectively. With it and without it is especially helpful. Isn’t photography amazing?! What flash would you recommend for a beginner? I have a Nikon d3300 and am really just starting up my photography again for the first time in years.

  58. Hi Kelly! Thank you so very much for making something so scary less threatening! Sometimes I feel as though being 54 years of age and attempting to learn new things is a challenge! (Wasn’t so when I was a spry spring chicken!) I love photography and it is a very healthy outlet for me now that I am retired from my 9-5! It’s when someone like you takes the time to carefully word your instructions and examples that I can learn and not feel as though it is too late to do so! Your kindness exudes in all of your videos, making me want to watch even more. I feel hopeful and for that I think you a cazillion times over!! I have purchased one of your bags and I LOVE it! I would LOVE to have another. They are so well made and functional. I’m get excited every time I use it! Flash is hard-you are generous and graceful! Thanks!!!!

  59. Cindy says:

    I have avoided using flash photography. I can’t wait to put some of your tips into action! Thanks for sharing!

  60. no question, I just hugely appreciate this! I’ve had my camera for a while, but am only just now getting brave enough to move into manual mode. Thank you!!!

  61. Really feel like my photography has improved using a bounce flash! Thanks for all your tips!

  62. Do you always only use bounce flash or OCF on a stand as well?

  63. Kat Peterson says:

    I love this tutorial!! So much great info, I had to watch twice πŸ™‚
    Normally I just use my diffuser but this empowers me to play around with bouncing from camera more often. This seriously rocks!

  64. junip xx says:

    For bouncing flash does it only mean indoors? What if I want to take a picture at night but don’t want that huge flash that makes thing look fake?

  65. I absolutely hate harsh light! I always bounce my flash! Do you have to constantly change settings when you shoot with flash?

  66. Rendi Smith says:

    This was so so helpful for me. Using a flash intimidates the heck out of me and I try to avoid it at all cost. This seems like something that seem fairly simple to try out. For someone who is just starting out, can you recommend a good flash to buy? I get so overwhelmed by how many options their are.

  67. Aubri Poon says:

    I’m deathly afraid of using my flash – even photography college couldn’t get me to work up my nerve. Thanks for this tutorial it makes it seem easier. How do you find places to bounce your flash off so quickly?

  68. Cindy Bazzel says:

    I am definitely still learning to use my flash. I had someone help me with the settings for the lens I most commonly use but I wonder about all the settings. Thanks for the tips and the great opportunity to win a beautiful KM bag πŸ˜‰

  69. Hi Kelly,
    Thank you for the tips and giveaway. My question is how do you use flash in a very high ceiling and dark church. I used a bouncer one time, but it seemed I still didn’t get a good lighting to my subject. What would you do if you were in my situation. Thanks again!

  70. Chelsea Dahm says:

    So awesome to learn!!!! I use bounce flash sometimes with my alienbees!

  71. Thanks for the tips about the bounce flash. Can’t wait to try it out!

  72. Kellie says:

    Thank you for sharing these great tips!! What type of flash do you use? I have a Canon, but they have tons of different models. Which do you suggest? Thanks!

  73. I am so excited to try this method! Thanks for showing me how it should be done eighth the first time!

  74. stayoung says:

    Thanks for the video. I would love to see how you handle this with fast moving kids. It makes perfect sense with a cooperative subject and slow shutter speed- but not with quick moving kids who arent really posing for the test shots. I suppose you get comfortable enough it becomes more second nature on settings? Thanks again!

  75. JoAnne Grace says:

    Ug, there is no audio! I really wanted to watch/listen. But, I did just buy by 2 sues bag! Thanks πŸ™‚

  76. So cool! I’ve used bounce flash and some minor OCF recently, which I’ve been terrified to try and I am in LOVE with the results! I’ll never shoot a wedding reception without them again!

  77. What if your ceilings are too high for a good bounce or if you need a different aperture to accomodate a larger group? Low light makes me uncomfortable.

  78. Thanks so much for sharing those helpful tips! I will definitely be able to use them in future shoots!

  79. Kelly, this was the best tutorial on bouncing flash I’ve seen! I learned so much in this video and am super excited to get out there and practice. Need a flash first. Ha! Its now on my Christmas wish list! Thank you for sharing so many great tips. A lot of what you shared I’ve often wondered how to do. Now I know. Thanks!

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