Best position for a second flash?

Posted on 2007-08-05
Last Modified: 2010-04-27
Let's say I had a built-in flash on my camera and a secondary flash with a slave unit.
Without using umbrellas or elaborate backdrops, what would be the best place to position the second flash to reduce shadows for portraits and/or objects (like a statue or vase)?
(I would be willing to bounce the secondary flash off a white piece of foam core board.)

I would appreciate it if someone please explain in detail about the positioning of the second flash.
Question by:dgage123
    LVL 38

    Expert Comment


    It really depends on what kind of effects you are trying to achieve. Photographic lighting can get quite complicated quickly. Before you even get to the second flash, here's a couple of things to do:

    If you are using a main camera flash, try to move the light as far away from the lens as possible. You see this in practice with wedding photographers, where they have the flash mounted on a bracket off to one side of the lens.
    Soften the main flash with a bounce card or mini softbox, so it's not as harsh as the direct light would be (Lumiquest makes some nice ones:

    Here's a nice outline of simple lighting with diagrams and results:
    PhotoFlex has some nice material at their "lighting school" ( Most of it will be pretty extensive, but you can learn a lot.
    The B+H Professional Lighting SourceBook has some good ideas and tips, you can view it online or order it here:

    LVL 4

    Author Comment

    Thanks for link to the great diagrams, LHerrou!
    In your comment, you suggest moving the flash away from the camera. This would be possible with my Canon A-1 SLR 35mm, but not with my Canon G6 digital because it has a built-in flash.

    QUESTION: Is it possible to still get "good" (properly/optimally lighted) pictures with the built-in flash turned on? Or would it be better to turn the built-in flash off and instead put the second flash on my Stromoframe bracket ABOVE the camera?

    My original thoughts were to set up the external flash with a slave, however, if I did, I would therefore have to have the built-in flash turned on.
    Do I have any other options ... without connecting the external flash to my camera with a cord?

    I have actually been "pondering" a simple (though possibly non-existent) two-flash set up for a long, long, long time.
    LVL 38

    Expert Comment

    Well, one option is to rig something (and I have done this myself) to mostly cover the built-in flash. A piece of white index card works well, use painter's tape (which leaves no residue) to fasten it on. Leave just enough of a gap that some light can escape and trigger the slave flash, usually by curving the index card into a sort of dome over the built-in flash, so the light escapes on the side.

    LVL 4

    Author Comment

    Okay, let's say I covered my flash enough to still set off the slave on the second flash. Is there a "best place" to put that second flash? I guess the type of answer I would be looking for would be something like: 'You would always put the second flash above and at a so-and-so angle from your subject if you want to avoid harsh shadows, blah, blah, blah.'
    I am seeking for as close to an idiot-proof one-size-fits-all setup as possible. In other words, something like: You would never place you flash in this and such position because...  Or: the most common mistake that people make (or believe) when shooting with two flashes (or an auxilary flash) is...
    So, am I grabbing at straws???
    Thanks! dmg
    LVL 17

    Expert Comment

    If in a studio type setting you can set the second flash behind the subject pointing to the background.  This is usually only possible when you have a custom box for the subject to stand on with the flash in the box.  I have seen this a few times in studio shoots but never on the street.  

    You could place the second flash above if you have a pole mounted flash but positioning can be crucial.  

    If you have the means you would be best to have two external flashes.....then you use them to either side of your subject at a 25-30 degree angle to cut out shadow.  Soft boxes work well for this.
    LVL 38

    Accepted Solution


    Since your "second" flash is now really your primary flash (since you've cut off most of the light from the on-camera flash), you want to have your primary flash anywhere from 10 degrees to 90 degrees off the line of the lens. If possible, you still want to soften that light as well.

    (interesting discussion / lesson here:
    LVL 4

    Author Comment

    Thank you for your responses and links; I finally got around to perusing them. I feel that my initial question should have been more about proper lighting, not necessarily proper use of a second flash. I was trying to decide whether or not to sell a brand new flash that had features far above what I would ever want or need.

    The info at was informative. Additionally, I know if I ever need exceptionally in-depth info, I can go to as a resource.

    However, after looking over some of the material and lessons at, I found it extremely helpful because it branches off into so many aspects and in-depth discussions of photographic lighting. In the near future, when I have more time, I am going to read those pages more thoroughly and I believe that my questions will all be answered, and then some.

    Thanks for your help!

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