FAQ Fridays: California sunbounce reflector

It’s time for another FAQ Friday post. This week’s question is from Lisa who is asking about the CA Sunbounce reflector. If you’ve been thinking about an outdoor reflector vs and umbrella, hopefully this post will clear some things up.


I’ve read your Gear List and found the California Sunbounce item to be very interesting/useful. I’m pretty certain I will purchase it, but first I had a few questions. I noticed that you almost always use two SB-600s speedlites attached to it and you also always use it outdoors.

My questions are:
Do I need to use two speedlites? At the moment I only own one SB-600 and would prefer to not have to purchase another one any time soon. If I went on a 2 hour long shoot (with one to two clients) and brought backup batteries for my speedlite, would you say that is efficient? Also, is the canvas large enough to light full body shots?

Second question is, I know it’s called a “sunbounce” but can I use it indoors similar to an umbrella? It looks as though I can definitely try, but would you recommend it? I prefer to shoot in natural light outdoors as well, but everyone now and then I get requests from clients who wants a few indoor headshots.

I just threw a bunch of questions at you but I hope you can help answer as many of my questions as you can.
Any thoughts would help. Thank you!


The sunbounce is a great reflector, especially outdoors… you will love how rigid it is. If you’ve tried, you’ll know that an umbrella outdoors is like a sail in the wind. With even the slightest breeze it can topple over and ruin your gear. That’s why a rigid reflector like the CA Sunbounce works so well.

With regards to your questions, you don’t have to use two speedlights. Actually, with two speedlights it gets quite heavy and tilts down the speedlight bracket a little bit. The main reason we use two is to 1) provide more power under daylight and 2) get faster recycle time and 3) we have them handy so why not.

Here is a little more explanation:

  1. More power: When you shoot with a shallow depth of field outdoors (f/1.4 to f/2.8) your shutterspeed will be around 2000 to 4000. This puts the flash into HighSpeedSync mode which in reality is multiple pulses of lower powered light vs a typical one strong burst of light. So when you have two speedlights it provides you twice the amount of power (most of the time you may not need the power, but sometimes in harsh daylight it will come in handy).
  2. Faster recyle time: With two speedlights you can cut the power needed by each light in half. So essentially, if you needed 1 light at full power… you can now use 2 lights at half power, which results in faster recycle time and longer lasting batteries for the session.

You will be fine with just one speedlight, but in certain situations you may find you want the faster recycle time or more power. Since we have multiple speedlights handy, we mount them on just in case.

Can the sunbounce light up full body shots? They come in different sizes. The one we have (Micro-mini) is 2’x3′ and lights half body shots well. You will notice a little fall-off below if you try to use it for a full body. The full sized (Mini) is 3’x4′ and will be able to light full body shots much more evenly.

Can you use the sunbounce indoors like an umbrella? Yes, certainly. Both work off the same bounced light principle. By bouncing your light off the sunbounce reflector or umbrella, you are increasing the size of the light from your speedlight. With larger light, you get softer shadows. The only difference you will see is that umbrellas give round catchlights, while your sunbounce will give rectangular catch lights in the eyes of your subjects.

Hope this clears things up in regards to the CA Sunbounce reflector vs an umbrella.

What is FAQ Fridays?
FAQ Fridays is an ongoing weekly feature on this site where WE answer questions submitted by you. We hope this new segment will help with many of your photography challenges. As always, you can ask questions in the comments section if it relates to that certain post.

Here is a list of: all previous FAQ Fridays posts

If you have specific questions that do not relate directly… then feel free to submit your questions by using the FAQ Fridays Submission Form page.

Alternatively, you can email your questions to: faq -at- prettygeeky.com (note: email broken up to prevent spam bots).

  • Jennifer said:

    So aside from using the reflector, how would I achieve this sort of coloring: http://prettygeeky.com/images/uploads/2011/savannah/savannah-001.jpg
    under natural light?
    When I shoot under natural light, I always get these dark, harsh colors like this
    with lots of shadows. (It was a rainy overcast day)

    Do you photoshop to achieve that sort of light, soft, vintage feel coloring? Or can my camera do that for me?

    • tyger said:

      That photo was taken right before sunset, you can see a hint of the sunlight lighting up her face. During those hours the light is not as harsh. But you can still achieve that kind of softness on overcast days; you would just need to pay attention to the direction of light.

      • Jennifer said:

        Should my camera settings be set differently?