Computational Bounce Flash for Indoor Portraits

Abstract: Portraits taken with direct flash look harsh and unflattering because the light source comes from a small set of angles very close to the camera. Advanced photographers address this problem by using bounce flash, a technique where the flash is directed towards other surfaces in the room, creating a larger, virtual light source that can be cast from different directions to provide better shading variation for 3D modeling. However, finding the right direction to point a bounce flash requires skill and careful consideration of the available surfaces and subject configuration. Inspired by the impact of automation for exposure, focus and flash metering, we automate control of the flash direction for bounce illumination. We first identify criteria for evaluating flash directions, based on established photography literature, and relate these criteria to the color and geometry of a scene. We augment a camera with servomotors rotate the flash head, and additional sensors (a fisheye and 3D sensors) to gather information about potential bounce surfaces. We present a simple numerical optimization criterion that finds directions for the flash that consistently yield compelling illumination and demonstrate the effectiveness of our various criteria in common photographic configurations.