I've adopted Mr. van Niekerk's techniques with great success indoors, but never applied it outdoors for lack of a suitable bounce surface. In retrospect, I guess I wasn't looking hard enough.
Speed Retouching: Direct flash photos often require retouching to make the images more attractive. I have streamlined my work flow to address both the highlights on my subject's forehead and nose, and the darkened rings below their eyes. Check out this comparison (Photo #3) of a cropped portion of the sample image.
- Clone Tool: Set to Lighten, 25%. Sample the light area of the cheek as your source point and "paint" over the darkened regions below the eyes.
- Brush Tool: Set to Darken, 20%. Sample the side of the nose as your source point and paint the highlights on the nose, forehead, chin, and cheeks.
- Burn Tool: Set to Shadows, 20%. The graduation gown is then "burned" to bring its color closer to a true black.
Ah HAH! Shortly after this shot was made, I noticed that second floor walkway surrounding the inner courtyard walls. It occurred to me that this could become a "ceiling" that I could use to bounce my flash. This, and the light colored walls, gave me a large bounce surface that I could use to produce a more even light. I changed my tactic: Instead of going to my subjects, I invited them to join me by the wall where I could photograph them. This trio of young graduates clearly shows the improvement of bounced flash over direct flash. And while I still used the "Holy Trinity" of retouching, I could usually skip the highlight adjustment.
I thought this trio of excited graduates would make a great photo for submission to the paper. After positioning them in the "sweet spot" in front of my improvised bounce surfaces, I made a simple smile shot. A reproduction of Photo #1 can be seen at the left.
Wardrobe Notes: Louisiana photographer Kirk Volclain, in a video from PhotoVision, made an interesting point: Shoes can be a very important part of a young woman's wardrobe. For this reason, I always try to include a full-length photo that includes the shoes. In this case, it was a bit of a challenge, because even my lens set to 18mm, I still had my back pressed against the wall behind me.