Techniques: Fill Flash

So before I was saying how flash can be useful for all sort of situations. One of those situations is when you're shooting in bright sunlight. So you probably have noticed that when you're shooting daytime, sometimes your subjects have lots of very harsh shadows on them. Now sure you an face them towards the sun, and I have done that someones, but that can mean you don't get the background you. Another issue is that it can be rather unpleasant for your subjects to be starting into the sun as they tend to squint which doesn't look great.

32mm 1/5000s F2.8 ISO 100 - UTS Rowing Club Haberfield, Sydney, Australia

In this image the group is facing the sun so their faces are well lit but you can see they are squinting quite a bit because it was very bright that day

This is an example image of what happens when your subject has the sun behind them.

18mm 1/1600s F2.5 ISO 100 - Queenstown, New Zealand

So you can see here that the subject has some strong shadows covering their face and this is happening because the sun is on the side of them.


So what can you do when this sort of thing happens? Well you can make use of fill flash. This is basically flash that you use to help remove the shadows on your subjects. So you can aim your flash at your subjects, or do it off camera and fire it on an angle, and fire fire away using ETTL mode or Manual mode on your flash if ETTL isn't doing what you want it to.

There is an issue here with the flash sync speed because flashes often don't work with a shutter speed above 1/250s without some sort of High Speed Sync (HSS) ability. You can also stop down your aperture until you get a shutter speed below 1/250s but then you may be compromising your depth of field. Most decent flashes will have HSS which means they should be able to work with faster shutter speeds. Do keep in mind that the power of your flash is diminished during HSS and this is due to the way HSS works, although that's a story for another day.

You can use an ND to get your shutter speed down to 1/250s without stopping down your aperture but then your flash will also need to work hard to compensate for the ND filter. However this is still a viable option in many cases nonetheless.

The following is the same photo from Queenstown but this time I used a flash to brighten up the shadows.

18mm 1/1600s F2.5 ISO 100 - Queenstown, New Zealand

As you can see it makes a big difference and so this is another way that you can deal with certain tricky lighting situations.


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