Using Flash Exposure Compensation (FEC)

We did a post a little while back about using exposure compensation with flash. Exposure compensation can be a great way to use flash during the day and make the background a few stops lighter than the subject. I love to use this with weddings to make my subject really stand out.

But what if you want to control the light on the subject only and not the background. Obviously you can adjust your flash power or even move the flash distance. But did you know you can also control the flash right from your camera? Today I want to talk about using the flash exposure compensation (FEC) on your camera. Most DSLR’s will have a FEC button on the camera and in this post I will refer to the controls on the Canon 5d.

On the Canon 5d and many other Canon DSLR’s the FEC button is located with the ISO button on the top of your camera. Just click the button and with the click wheel on the back of the camera adjust the flash exposure in 1/3 stop increments.

Flash exposure compensation is a way to adjust the brightness of the image without adjusting the exposure at all. It will only adjust the output of the flash. When does this come in handy though? There are many times where you will want to adjust the amount of your flash but one of the top times for me doing portraits is when shooting outdoors in the sun. Photographing a lot of weddings, I never get to fully control the settings that I am shooting in. Sometimes we are photographing the bride and groom and the only place to shoot is full sun and it’s 2:00 in the afternoon. One way to avoid the ‘raccoon eyes’ that the full sun will give you is to use a little bit of fill flash. When using fill flash the goal is to have the flash be a very soft fill, you want just enough flash to fill in the shadow areas. For portraits when using fill flash I will normally set the flash exposure compensation to between -1 and -2.

Also if you want more info on how to use fill flash check out our article, Using fill flash to improve your photos.

Many times indoors you might want to adjust the flash exposure by increasing the amount of flash. When shooting in a large room if you are a far distance from your subject you can adjust the flash exposure higher to get a better reach from your flash. Remember your flash is just another tool that you have in your creative bag of tricks. Just like with anything in photography there isn’t an exact ‘right’ way to use your flash. Once you know how to control the flash effectively then experiment and have fun with it! Lighting is always a great way to make your work stand out and so much fun to be creative with.

If you have any questions on flash photography or other uses of off camera lighting let me know with a comment below. I am always working on more lighting articles to share.

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Author: Mark Stagi

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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