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.