The first time that I heard a comment about my pictures and my use of fill in flash, ampoule I had no idea what my photographer friend was talking about. So I just smiled and acted like I knew what he was talking about. Not being one to be left in the dark, though, I decided to do my homework. What I discovered has been an asset to my photographs and particularly to my wedding photography work.
Fill in flash is used when photographing subjects in bright sunlight. Using your flash in the bright light??? Yes! Bright sunlight can lead to harsh shadows, particularly on the face. By using fill in flash, you can supply extra light evenly across the face, while having little to no effect on the already bright areas of your photo. The light boosts your shadows and gives a much more pleasing result.
Fill in flash is also appropriate when your subject is backlit. It allows you to keep the details of the background while avoiding a silhouette of your subject. Your flash illuminates the front half of the subject, while the backlighting usually gives a very appealing highlight to the subject. The third use of your fill in flash is in shady areas. Using your flash while the subject is shaded keeps any harsh sunlight off of them, while allowing you to control the light that falls on the front of them.
Three pieces of advice, though… First, don’t stand too close to your subject or you will wash out the front details. I would suggest standing no less than 5-6 feet away from your subject. If you need to get in closer, use your zoom. Secondly, experiment with your camera’s flash settings. I used to rely solely on letting my camera decide if the flash needed to trigger or not. Now instead, I turn the flash off “automatic” and chose the “force flash” option. This means that my camera flash will go off regardless of the light meter reading if the flash is open. If I think then that turning the flash off would be appropriate, I just close the flash hood. Lastly, if you think that your camera’s flash is too bright on your subjects, an inexpensive fix is to rubberband a coffee filter to it. It’s cheaper than a flash diffusion hood, and you can simply throw it away if you don’t like it!
Play with these ideas! See what you think! Some photographers shoot with no flash at all, while others rely on what the camera tells them. Knowing when to take advantage of what your camera’s flash can do, though, can help prepare you the next time a new lighting situation arises.
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Direct Sunlight: with and without flash
Backlighting: with and without Flash
Shade Example: with and without flash