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Lighten Up – Understanding Fill Flash for Photography

Posted in Photography By Guest

Fill Flash for photography

Digital cameras today are becoming more and more intelligent and creative to keep up with the skills and needs of all different types of photographers. While digital cameras do a good job automatically adjusting light settings, exposure and focus, we can still come across situations that make taking the perfect snap a challenge. A common problem is when the subjects in a photo appear as dark silhouettes standing in front of an otherwise normally-lit background.

Dark shadows on the subject occur when the background behind a subject is lighter than the foreground. This often happens outdoors, in front of windows, or when there are multiple light sources in a particular setting. Sometimes when a subject is positioned directly underneath the sun, shadows can appear under the eyes or face. Meanwhile, facing your subject away from the sun will make it much harder to discern any details as they will appear as nothing more than silhouettes.

To counter this, using a ‘fill flash’ can literally fill in the dark space between the photographer and the subject. While it may seem strange to use the flash on a bright, sunny day, it will actually assist the correct placement of your primary light source to ensure the subject is illuminated and clearly visible.

The kind of fill flash you use will depend on a number of different factors:

  • Gauge the amount of flash you’ll need – one temptation when taking photos in dark settings is to overcompensate and use lots of flash to light up your subject – the result is a ghostly white, washed out appearance. The secret is to find a middle ground by setting the flash to burst just enough to illuminate the shadows, while ensuring that the finer details of your subject can still be fully appreciated.
  • Make sure you’re within range – remember that most digital cameras have a flash range of around 10 meters, so keep this in mind when shooting your photos. If you’re sitting in the nose bleed section of a concert there’s very little point in aiming your flash at the performers up on stage.
  • Get to know your camera – for many compact cameras you may need to engage the ‘Force Flash’ mode by pressing the small lightning bolt icon. Meanwhile, DSLRs offer a greater advantage as the range of options for fill flash is much greater. This allows you to manually adjust the flash and exposure settings, based on your own judgment of the scenario, or you can use the automatic flash exposure settings on the camera. In addition, most camera manufacturers like Canon offer additional DSLR-compatible flash accessories with highly advanced flash metering features to ensure photos are always correctly exposed.

Whether you have a compact camera or you’re using a professional SLR – photography tips like these can help you get your lighting just right.

This is the guest post By Marina Pliatsikas who writers for Canon. If you are interested to guest post, Contact us suraj[at]machoarts[dot]com or check out the guidelines here.

8 comments
Home of Cats
Home of Cats

If my friend know it, I guess he will say "you miss off something, clean up the dust on the surface of your camera first" :)

Paul
Paul

A picture is worth a thousand words. An example of a photograph with and without fill flash would have been very useful.
Or better yet, examples of different flash powers, distances to subject, etc.

Amr Boghdady
Amr Boghdady

Thanks for the helpful post :)
I'm always having problems determining the right amount of flash needed though, I need to practice a bit more I guess..

Adrian Spencer
Adrian Spencer

I remember when I first got my head around fill flash - it opened up a new world of capability for me. Don't try it with a fish eye though!

techwench
techwench

thanks!!! for the article which you have posted and commented links are informative stuff

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Liju Augustine
Liju Augustine

I think #2 and #3 are the most important points here. Not to discount the other point, but without knowing your camera well and the distance to the subject, no one should expect a nice picture.

Liju Augustine
Learning by sharing - http://lfotos.wordpress.com

Alexander
Alexander

You're so right about this. I remember reading about this a month back or so. Back then I was shown 2 pictures as examples to give me the idea. Although they didn't really go into detail as much as you did here.

Adding what you said together what with I read back then gave a perfect mixture.