- Kevin Kubotas Lighting Notebook: 101 Lighting Styles and Setups for Digital Photographers
- Sketching Light: An Illustrated Tour of the Possibilities of Flash
- Off-Camera Flash Techniques for Digital Photographers
- On-Camera Flash Techniques for Digital Wedding and Portrait Photography
- Speedliter's Handbook: Learning to Craft Light with Canon Speedlites
- Understanding Flash Photography: How to Shoot Great Photographs Using Electronic Flash
Good digital photography is the result of the right combination of equipment, technical photography skills and the development of an artistic, or aesthetic, eye. Only then can you recognize a potentially interesting picture or create one in an artificial setting, such as a studio. Learning how to use fill-flash is one of the technical skills that will lead, first, to better-looking photos and, second, to more opportunities to discover and capture them.
Essentially, fill-flash adds light to the darker areas of a scene already lit by other light. This technique works outdoors and indoors. Outdoors, you may find yourself in the woods, under a heavily shaded tree or in a deep shadow cast by a building. Conversely, fill-flash is an excellent aid when shooting in direct sunlight. The strong light of the sun casts the deepest shadows, so use fill-flash, in combination with the sun’s ambient light, to give your photos a more even cast of light. Indoors, fill-flash allows you to lighten the shadows in a room or reveal the details in the darker areas. When shooting people indoors (or outdoors), fill-flash eliminates shadows on their faces, especially so the eyes can be seen.
Using fill-flash on many digital cameras, compacts and DSLRs, is an automatic function, which is another good reason to use it more often then you probably do, or would consider doing. For example, in a Nikon camera, select the “P,” or Professional, mode, so the flash only fires at your command. You can use other shooting modes, but then the camera may force the flash to fire or not fire independent of your control, or the camera can’t set matching shutter and aperture options.
When it comes to choosing a flash unit to create fill-flash, the marketplace is filled with many choices. Check the Digital Photography Equipment Review section of the PhotographyTalk.com Web site for information on various flash products.
If your camera has a built-in flash unit, then you can produce adequate fill-flash with it; however, a built-in flash typically doesn’t have the power of a separate flash unit or recharges as fast. Surprisingly, a compact camera that is suppose to be easy to use often requires photographers to make more adjustments to use fill-flash effectively than with a DSLR camera. That’s simply because the DSLR has more complex and automatic controls and settings than a compact. With a built-in flash unit, you must also be closer to your scene or subject because the light won’t cast as far; and you may miss digital photo opportunities while you wait for the flash to recharge.
For most amateurs, and many professionals, a smaller, less-costly, separate flash unit will create enough fill-flash for all the pictures they shoot. Even a modest flash unit will cover much more distance and recycle faster (almost instantly) than a compact. Larger flash units don’t offer any extras, just more power and, therefore, more distance. A wedding photographer, for example, might need that extra power and distance or a studio photographer working where there is already a great amount of light. A larger flash unit may also be necessary if your camera’s sync speed is slow, such as 1/180th.
Learn more about how to use fill-flash in Part 2
Photo Credit: PhotographyTalk member "Laura"