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getitdigital review: Fill ‘Er Up! When to use a fill flash…

June 7, 2010

This is part of the getitdigital review blog tips and tricks section that hopefully will assist you in taking better pictures:


Most photographers like to capture images without the use of flash if possible. The more natural lighting, like what the human eye sees, is what every picture taker wants.getitdigital review fill flash 2 Not the hideously blue and over exposed mess we’ve all seen created by using the pop up flash on our old point and shoot cameras. Yet, there is still a place for flashes. Whether you are at a high school graduation or a star studded event the flash can come in handy. There is another use for the flash that does not receive a lot of attention and that would be as a fill flash.

getitdigital review fill flash 1The concept is quite simple, if your subject is hidden by shadows and the finer details will be lost in the shadows, a fill flash will provide enough light for those details to be seen. You can even use that little pop-up flash that manufacturers slap on to the top of most SLR cameras.

This does not mean that you should just leave the flash up and use it for every picture. There are essentially three questions you must ask yourself before employing a fill flash.

1.  Is your subject in shadows?

2.  Is there more light in front of the subject or behind it?

3.  Will a flash be effective at this range? Are you close enough to use a flash?

Now to explain:

If your subject is in shadows, a fill flash can help even out the exposure across the photograph. Let’s say you are taking a picture of someone with a hat outdoors. That drooping brim can cause the entire face to be underexposed. A fill flash can assist in highlighting the face while maintaining proper exposure in the rest of the photograph.

If there is more light in back of your subject, than in front of it then your subject is “backlit”.  While your eyes may be able to pick out the details, the camera cannot and you will get a silhouette of your subject. A fill flash can alleviate this issue by front lighting what you are taking a picture of so you will have a more even exposure. The  silhouette will become a memory.

If your answer is “yes” to the first two questions then you must ask the third. Flashes in general are only effective up to a certain distance. For instance, the very popular Canon T2i has a flash that is effective at a maximum of 13 m under ideal conditions.  Under normal conditions the pop up flash will be drowned out by ambient light after several feet and bright, outdoor light will reduce the effectiveness to only a few feet. That means that if your subject is too far away for the fill flash to be effective, there is no point in using it anyway.

Conversely , if you are able to answer “no” to any of the above question then using a fill flash will not be appropriate.  If the background is too dark then you’ll have an over exposed subject and most times the background will not even be visible.

Using a  fill flash can be the difference between shots like this:

getitdigital review fill flash 3

and this:

getitdigital review fill flash 4

Enjoy and Happy Shooting!

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