Monday, September 24, 2018

Using fill flash

Umbrella man - with and without fill flash

If you look at the two pictures above, you may initially think they are exactly the same.  Yet, upon closer inspection, differences begin to emerge.  Differences in shadow, colour, white balance, and details are clearly visible.  So, why the difference?

One of the best tools you can have in your photographic arsenal is a good flash.  The image on the left (before) did not use a flash, the one on the right did.  There was certainly enough light present to take the photo without the use of a tripod, extreme ISO values, or flash, so why was one used?  The answer is in the details.

Fill flash is defined as the use of a flash to fill in shadowed areas, usually on the subject, which otherwise would appear dark and lack significant detail.  The shadows exist because light cannot adequately get to those parts of the image.  Flash then fills those shadows, providing enough light to ensure that image detail and colour all are expressed.

When do you use fill flash?  The need arises when your subject is underlit because of background lighting (backlit situations) or if light is being blocked from part of the subject.  In this case the sun is coming from behind the subject (notice direction of shadow) and the umbrella is also blocking any ambient light that otherwise might be available.  Flash provides that extra light.

Notice as well how the colour is different - look at the colour of the brick work and the wall in behind the statue.  The camera's white balance has been altered and the second image is far better than the first.

There are a lot of little tips and tricks to using fill flash; you can do it with the flash built into a camera but are typically severely limited by distance.  Generally though, it is a simple matter of turning your flash on even though there is enough light to take a photo without it.

Here is an idea - which is the main reason why I do these blogs - take two photos, one without flash and one with.  You will see that it is a simple matter of just popping it up.  An external flash unit will do a better job, but you may be able to see the difference with a built in one.  Push play and have a look; zoom in - did it make a difference.  Sometimes it will, other times not so much.  But the more you do it, the more you will see what works and what doesn't, and your photographs will improve in the process.

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