Introduction: Zero-Cost Built-In Bounce Flash

About: I'm an Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor at the University of Kentucky. I'm probably best known for things I've done involving Linux PC cluster supercomputing; I built the world's first back in Fe…
Got a camera with a built-in flash? It points forward, right? That gives rather harsh lighting.

Here is a zero-cost way to fix it for many cameras, especially the Sony NEX-7.

Step 1: Up

Here's the fix: use your finger to point the flash tube up.

Not all built-in flashes allow this, but many do. For example, the Sony NEX-7 shown here has a spring-loaded pop-up flash that you can point upwards by simply nudging it backwards with your finger. This simply bounces the light off the ceiling.

The main complication is that, as you can see in the photo, this will probably require you to shift your grip of the camera slightly so that your index finger is used to nudge the flash rather than to push the shutter button. Further, you probably want to think twice before using the EVF (electronic viewfinder) when nudging the flash. If you are holding the camera to your face, you'll be using your forehead as the main reflector -- which is ok, but will give a bit of a warm color tint. Colored ceilings also may impose (easily-correctable) tints.

Step 2: It Works!

Judge for yourself: here's a shot using "nudged" bounce flash and the same thing using the flash in its normal position. Note how much more natural the shadows and highlights are in the bounced version.

It's also worth noting that this shot was taken in my daughter's bedroom which is painted "pixie dust," i.e., pink. Thus, I did have to adjust the white balance on the bounce shot, but that was quite easy.