Try "foofing" your flash for better pictures in dark spaces

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Sometimes things don't always go as planned.

This week, I was assigned to photograph the Indy Give! campaign's Masquerade Ball in the new Gold Room at the The Mining Exchange downtown. 
Indy Give! Kick Off Masquerade Ball in the new Gold Room. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Indy Give! Kick Off Masquerade Ball in the new Gold Room.

The Gold Room is a very cool space. Newly renovated, it has an Art Deco feel to it with a balcony overlooking the dance floor and a small cabaret-like stage. The room also has some cool uplighting that gives it a great vibe. But, it’s a bit dark for photography.

My initial plan was to light the space with a couple of lights placed on light stands in the room. I arrived early, set up the lights and did some preliminary shots to see how it would look. I quickly realized that the lights just overpowered the space and the feel.

So, I had to change my plan and do it fast. Guests were already beginning to to arrive.
Indy Give! Kick Off Masquerade Ball in the new Gold Room - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Indy Give! Kick Off Masquerade Ball in the new Gold Room


I put on a Speedlite, a flash that I use on camera, and started making some exposures with it. Right away I could see that it worked better than the remote lights I had set up in the room. I could still get the uplighting to come into play in the pictures.

But I didn’t want to use my flash directly, it would overpower the guests at the party and it’s the worst kind light. Very unflattering.

Instead of pointing my flash directly at my subject, I pointed it toward the ceiling and a little behind me. Celebrity wedding photographer Denis Reggie pioneered this technique.

He calls it “foofing” your flash — it works kind of like using a soft box or an umbrella with a flash off-camera. But it's a quick and dirty solution to photographing in a dark space. As long as the ceiling is white, the light bounces off the wall and illuminates your subject in super flattering light.
Indy Give! Kick Off Masquerade Ball in the new Gold Room - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Indy Give! Kick Off Masquerade Ball in the new Gold Room

The problem I had, though, was that the high ceilings in the room were making it difficult to “foof” off the ceiling.

It used too much of my battery and the light came straight down on top of the subject's head. So instead of using the ceiling, I used the white wall behind me to bounce the light off and I made some wonderful portraits of the party-goers. 



The next time you find yourself taking pictures in a dark space, look around and find a wall to "foof" your flash off of. Your pictures will be better and the people you photograph will love them:) Happy shooting!

Colorado Springs wedding photographer Sean Cayton loves remarkable photographs and the stories behind them. You can see his wedding work at caytonphotography.com, his personal work at seancayton.com and his editorial work in the Colorado Springs Independent. Submit your photo and the story behind the image - no more than two a week, please - to sean@caytonphotography.com for consideration in upcoming blogs.

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