Using A Flash Indoors

utilizing your flash for different effects



Getting to work at Kings Dining & Entertainment I was forced into an unfamiliar situation, using flash indoors to have well lit photos. When I first started I was nervous and tried to start with a dongle to defuse the light and that did ok but it didn’t light up my subject enough; to be fair it was a flat dongle that I wasn’t super experienced with and have since played with more to get a better feel for it. Utilizing this method worked for a bit but as I got going I began to just tilt my flash down directly at the subject and it lit them well enough to get through the evening (this first night was at the Mayo Bowl so there were celebrities all around and it was already a high tension night trying to make sure I got photos of the athletes and celebrities). By the end of the night I had gotten the photos I wanted but they felt bland to me and while some mediums and outlets this type of lighting is appropriate and favored I wanted a better solution, some depth with the images I was capturing. This began an experiment that I would embark on over the next several months using flash indoors every time I went in to a Kings Dining & Entertainment location.

The first evening I got to work at Kings Dining & Entertainment on a standard evening I started out with what I knew and what had worked, tilting my flash down toward my subject to light them. My main worry was making sure I could do the job and get the standard photos that they were used to so I stuck with routine, get the job done, use flash indoors and get the shots I need. To be honest the first night was more about getting over the nerves of having to go talk to people and asking them if I could take their photo – don’t get me wrong I love people and I love getting to meet new people and talk, I’m very much a social person, but walking up to them to create this pitch where they’d be comfortable with me taking photos of them was new territory.

My 2nd experience at Kings Dining & Entertainment was more of the same, getting familiar with the job and getting to know the staff at that location. This was all still new territory so I was just focused on performing up to par, what I had seen their other photographers in the past do. In most cases using flash indoors can be thought of as pretty straight forward; put your flash on top of your camera, defuse the light and aim it directly at your subject. To be fair, this definitely gets the job done and lights up your subject great, this article isn’t to knock on that or to say it’s the wrong way to do it. As I get further into this article about using flash indoors I’ll show some different techniques that result in different styles of photos – not better, just different with an artistic approach.



It took until my second event with Kings Dining & Entertainment to feel comfortable using flash indoors in the standard manner that I began to experiment with my off camera flash. The first half of their training event I had the flash on top of my camera or wasn’t using it at all but once they moved into their conference room the lighting was dark and it was hard for me to be up in front of anyone snapping photos. So to get around that I used my flash off camera with a radio trigger and my longer focus lens to be able to sit back further and zoom in while having my flash closer to get the shots I was after. This produced some images where the lighting wasn’t straight on and gave a little more depth to the subjects I was photographing and ultimately let me to using flash indoors in a different way.

When I’d returned to the Back Bay location of Kings Dining and Entertainment for my next standard night, I was itching to experiment with using flash indoors. I had grabbed a few more standard off camera flash images and then remembered I’d wanted to play with first and second curtain flash. This method of using flash indoors allows for you to open your shutter and begin capturing with the flash firing at either the beginning or end of your exposure. This can create for some really fun effects where you’ve got light trails but you can have the subject look in focus because when it fires at the end (2nd curtain) your sensor picks up that lighting the best to help make that stand out most in your shot.



For this shot of the guy bowling I placed the flash on a tripod in front of him, slightly to his right as he was facing it, (to the camera’s left) and sat on the other end of the bowling lanes with a 70-200mm f/2.8L lens and used a 1st curtain flash. With the exposure slowed down more it allowed me the ability to capture his motion and then flash him at the end to get a clear picture of him to show through. This was a really fun shot and he loved it as well and can be used for a variety of different sessions (mostly I’ve seen this technique used at weddings during dancing portions).

For this shot with the DJ I worked with him for a bit to get the best shot and we tried a variety of different poses and flash placement but we ultimately landed on placing the flash in his DJ booth directly under him. He posed and held still for the shot while I moved the camera in a circular motion with the exposure open and then with a 2nd curtain flash made him pop from the rest of the motion blur (which you can see more of the motion I used by looking at the basketball backboard lit up on the left). We experimented and played with this for a fair amount of time and the results were a lot of fun.

After those successful experiments using flash indoors I was obsessed with it and loved the results, as did Kings Dining & Entertainment. The next event was their grand opening of a new location in the Seaport area in Boston. I brought my flash along and a tripod and went to town the whole night using my off camera flash and mostly setting the flash to the side of my subject allowing the light to illuminate half of the subject and give some depth. Of course I went back and forth and put the flash back on top of the camera as well for some shots of people but really was afforded the opportunity to experiment in this setting.



It was also during the Kings Dining and Entertainment grand opening event that I remembered a trick I’d seen sometime in the past or read about where you bounce the light off of the ceiling to get a little more even and defused lighting. I was working on getting a picture of some food and I just couldn’t get the flash placed correctly so I opted to have the light from the flash bounce of the ceiling to finally get the light I was wanting.



The next time I was working at Kings Dining & Entertainment was kind of a happy accident, it was Halloween and I’d originally been scheduled to come in and shoot but it was going to be a slow night and everyone was surprised to see me there. After some conversation we opted to have me do some marketing photos and work with the bar and kitchen to get some food and drink photos for the night. This allowed me to further experiment with using flash indoors and for these shots I utilized a mixture of off camera flash shots that angled in from the side as well as some that bounced light off the ceiling.

For these drink shots I used an off camera flash and angled the flash on the side of the drinks to give the drinks the right amount of light and depth. The manager that night did awesome with preparing these drinks and making them look great!

I did notice with using flash indoors that I preferred bouncing the light of the ceiling for food especially as it gave more even lighting without adding unwanted shadows. For these food dish images I placed the off camera flash relatively close to the food and bounced the light from the flash off a low ceiling.



Once the location in Seaport opened up I was there for all of their events to capture the festivities of them opening the new location. With the VIP party I continued to experiment and placed the flash on the tripod near my subjects and bounced the light off the ceiling if the ceiling was low enough. I really love this affect as it allows for me to be further from my subject and still get them lit correctly. Bouncing the light of the ceiling provides a well balanced and even lighting if you’re looking to use a light setup like a flash.



With the brand new location up and running and the word being out, the Seaport location was constantly filled up with people and was the place to be. I opted to transfer over to this new location and shoot there on my weekends and the first weekend there I began experimenting with backlighting my subject. I’d read about it sometime in the past when I was studying how to use a remote flash and some of the techniques you could use but had never tried it. Right before this I had done an engagement session where I backlit the couple during a rain storm and the pictures came out beautifully so I wanted to keep experimenting with it.

The backlighting of my subjects really provided a fun effect where they had a touch of rim lighting, where the edges of their figure were lit up more, and were still well lit. I loved utilizing this for certain shots to give a unique and artistic effect to the images and Kings loved the shots as well. Backlighting your subject does really great if you also want to get some atmosphere in the shots as well, if you look at the shots above you’ll see some particles in the air that were lit up when the flash fired. This is a great effect as well if you’re wanting water or any kind of small particles to be lit up and highlighted for a shot.

The next weekend I was working at Kings, I was happy to continue to utilize the skillset I’d picked up and rotate each of the different styles in. Depending on the shot I was wanting to obtain I would switch it from a backlit shot with the DJ over to an off camera flash that bounced off the ceiling as a group of friends enjoyed drinks together. It was great to know the shot I had in my head and know the flash positioning I wanted – which only came from practicing and knowing the end result of each.

My remaining 2 weeks with Kings was filled with more experimenting and honing my craft. I switched between all of the flash positioning, depending on the shot I was after, and got a lot of fun images. I’d highly recommend getting a RT flash, whether it’s a Young Nuo or Canon, and going out to experiment with it as much as you can. If you have the opportunity to work with someone, practice placing the flash in different positions around them and directing the flash in different ways to bounce light off surfaces close by. If you have questions about any of these shots or techniques, feel free to shoot us a message – there will be more in depth posts about each of these individual concepts to come in the future.


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