Fool Proof Flash
Okay, I'll admit it up front: I don't like flash. I want to know EXACTLY what I'm going to get before I shoot, and flash doesn't allow that. So when I HAVE to use flash, I want as few surprises as possible, and this simple setup has provided that for about 15 years now. Here's what it looks like:

The trick is a piece of white mat board (mine are now made of plastic for durability), made to stand vertically just behind the head of a bounce type flash unit, with the head directed 90 degrees up. It works with both 'vertical' (Vivitar 283) and 'horizontal' (Popular, Olympus) styles of flash gun, as long as you have a bounce head.

Here's the principle of how it works:

And here's a photo of the thing on a Pentax KM with a Popular flash unit:

Why does it work so well?
2-direction Light:

The card splits the flash beam about in half, with 50% going up to the ceiling and the other 50% going directly forward off the card. The fill from the card softens the dark eyes you usually get from a bounce flash without creating dark shadows of its own.

Soft Light:

Even if you don't have a ceiling handy, the large size of the white card creates a much softer light source than a direct on-camera flash for softer shadows and better modeling.

Flash Location:

The card is higher than the flash, well above the camera. Even though I first used this on a potato masher flash, I've found it works even better on camera, as the above-the-lens source doesn't cast any off-axis shadows behind the subject. In either case, it's too far off-axis to create redeye.

For Macro:

The softer light doesn't burn out the subject, and even at the closest distances your lens doesn't cast a shadow in the picture. Considerable light loss through the bounce also reduces the chance of overexposure. As in all macro flash work, it's best with TTL flash control. (Most of the close-up photos in the 'Tech Notes' section of this site were taken with this kind of flash and TTL control)

Wide Angle Shots:

The combination of ceiling bounce and broadly diffused fill covers the field of even a 20mm wide angle lens under most conditions.


Unlike most other flash options, the level of illumination is relatively uniform over a broad range of distances from the camera.

How Big Does It Have to Be?

My rule of thumb is, how big is the biggest pocket in your gadget bag? I started out with an 8 1/2 x 11 inch card so I could keep it in a file folder; my current cards are about 8" square to fit in my bag. The bigger the better, but beyond about a foot square you probably don't gain much.

So What's the Down Side?


It is more awkward to handle than the flash alone (but it's well worth it).


Due to the diffusion of the card and the loss of half your beam to the ceiling, range is greatly reduced compared to a direct flash from the same unit.

Vertical Shots:

While they can work well, shooting verticals makes an already awkward device even more difficult to handle, and results are less predictable.

Image Quality:

Not the photo's; yours. You look like kind of a geek dragging this piece of cardboard around on top of your camera. It depends on what you want to look good: you, or your pictures.

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