(Candid from recent wedding, bounced off close ceiling to far left)
I loves me some Strobist. David Hobby has completely changed the popular conception of what your average photographer can do with flash light because of his dedication, creativity, and clear writing. But he said something once that made me gasp in horror, and I’ve been wrestling with it ever since — that the light you get when you bounce an on-camera flash off something all looks pretty much the same.
OK, I get what he’s saying. I love bounce flash because it’s convenient and allows me to provide decent light pretty much everywhere, but simple physics tells us that if your light source is large and far away (like, say, an entire illuminated patch of ceiling), then everything is going to be illuminated pretty much evenly. And, as Joe McNally keeps hammering home, if you want a scene to be as interesting as possible, don’t light all of it.
But the truth is that there are as many different flavors of bounced light as there are things to bounce off of. Want to control the light? Simple — get closer to your source (narrowing the spread). Kind of hard with ceilings, but pretty easy with walls. Want an instant tungsten gel on your light? Bounce your flash off of some wood. And, of course, there can be value in mixing a total, even fill of ceiling bounce with some more direct, Strobist-style light — evening out tones and lightening shadows. Heck, you can even get hard directional light if you’re near mirror-like surfaces.
It’s worth experimenting with. Try bouncing off of a really low ceiling and see what the challenges are — low-enough ceilings can give light almost as hard as direct flash. Then try bouncing off something really far away and see what settings work for you (try high ISO, low aperture, high shutter speed to start). See what the differences in light quality give you. Try walls, ceilings, even floors. Heck, I made do for an entire outdoor wedding by bouncing off of the trunks of palm trees. Go nuts.