One of my favorite techniques when using a camera mounted flash indoors is to point it behind me. Unfortunately, this only works if you have a flash with a rotating head, so compact camera owners or anyone else stuck with a built-in flash are out of luck.
It works like this: mount your flash and then rotate the head so that it points behind you and at about a 30 degree up angle. When you look through the viewfinder, the flash head should be aiming back over the top of your head. Now, whenever you make a photo, stand with your back about 3 feet from the nearest light-colored wall. That’s it! What this does is converts the wall behind you into a very large light source. And the larger the light source, the more even and natural the lighting will be on your subject. You should get nice soft shadows, even illumination, and large, bright catch lights in your subject’s eyes.
What about outdoors? You can achieve the same effect anywhere by using a reflector. This is the idea behind umbrella reflectors that you sometimes see in professional studios. The umbrella does the same thing as the wall—it spreads out the light. You can also get the same result with collapsible reflectors or with a large piece of white foam board you can pick up at any craft store for a few bucks.
Or you can do what this clever photographer did! Same principle, with the advantages that it’s highly portable, works indoors or out, and it’s guaranteed to put a smile on your subject’s face!