Using fill flash to improve your photos

Using Fill Flash To Improve Outdoor Photography

I talked a little on using Fill flash for outdoor portraits a few weeks back with a example of how to use off camera lighting to fill in shadow areas of the image. Today I wanted to take a little bit of a step back and review what fill flash is and some of the benefits.

Fill flash is a technique that allows you to reduce shadows and optimize the light balance of your photos, especially outdoors. It brightens the shadow areas without making photos look overexposed, and giving the shadow areas the correct exposure can help make colors pop. Although your camera may be getting enough light to take an adequate photo without the flash, you can greatly improve photographs by controlling the flash yourself – and, while it may seem odd to use the flash outdoors, can give some great results.

Before you get started, check your camera’s instructions manual to determine the most effective range of your flash. Also, check to see whether you’re able to use flash exposure compensation. If your camera is equipped with flash exposure compensation, you’ll be able to use fill flash techniques most effectively. Flash exposure compensation allows you to add the perfect amount of light to your photo. The optimal level of flash exposure compensation will depend on such factors as time of day, sun position, and whether or not the day is overcast.

How To Determine If You Need To Use Fill Flash
First take a hard look at the scene you are photographing and your subjects. Took at their face and every detail of the light falling on their face. Do you see deep shadows beneath your subjects’ eyes or noses? Is anyone wearing a hat that casts a shadow over part of his or her face? If the answer is yes, then you need to use fill flash. If your subjects look a little shadowy or the light on them is just very flat, you can use fill flash to brighten them or make them stand out better.

Some times when Fill Flash can come in handy

• When the sky is overcast
• In shady settings
• When the sun is directly overhead, and shadows are strong
• On snowy days, in beach settings, or any time the brightness of the background is distracting
• When taking still shots or nature scenes
• For action shots, especially those depicting active children or pets
• At sporting events

Some Quick Tips on Using Fill Flash

• If you’re already using flash, then you may need to get closer to your subjects. Remember most speedlights do have a limited range on how far they can reach and depending on the power you set of the flash this will vary.
• Take some test shots with the flash exposure compensation set at various levels. Try the following: -1/3, then -2/3, -1 or even lower. Remember the goal of fill flash is not to overpower the scene but to gently add some fill flash photographylight to give details to the shadows. Your flash exposure compensation will increase or decrease the amount of light the flash is putting out.
• Look at the shots that you’ve taken to see which looks the best and most natural. Use the flash exposure compensation value you like best to take the rest of your photos.
You will probably need to experiment as you learn this technique. Remember, keep shooting, keep experimenting. Photography is a constant learning process, your technique and style will always evolve as an artist but keep at it!

Improving Your Photography Techniques With Fill Flash
Now that you understand a little more about how fill flash technique works, get out and shoot. Remember to share photos with us on our facebook wall here:

If you like our articles remember to share them on Facebook, Twitter or +1 them on Google. I appreciate you spreading the word to your photo friends! Also remember to always start a conversation by leaving a Facebook comment at the bottom of the page. I love to hear from you.

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Author: Mark

Mark is a fine art wedding and portrait photographer from Northern California. He has been passionate about photography since childhood and started his studio 12 years ago to bring a fresh style of photography to the wedding and portrait world.

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  1. Thanks for the tips! That is a good point to use the flash even outdoors. I’m going to try it more!

  2. Great stuff – one of my favorite fill-flash techniques outdoors (especially with a nice blue sky) is to pop a color temperature orange (CTO) gel over the flash or into the diffuser. When you white-balance for the foreground subject, it gives you that Sports-Illustrated look.


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