Thursday, May 21, 2009

using fill flash to "brighten" your photos

I have weddings on the brain - my first wedding shoot is rapidly approaching and I am in full research and learning mode. Lighting at any wedding is crucial, so I will definitely be posting more and more on using your flash in photos.

Behold, today's lesson:

This is a problem I've encountered MANY times - where the background is bright or well lit, and the foreground is shadowed or dark, and my focal point is therefore too dark to see. In this photo, since the sun is behind the leaves, the leaves are too dark to see the beautiful green color.

In this situation, your camera's light meter will pick up on the brighter part of the image and decide the photograph is well exposed (when clearly it is underexposed). What's a photographer to do in this situation, you ask?

The simplest answer, applicable to both point and shoot and SLR users - is fill flash. In essence, you activate the flash manually, providing additional light for a better exposed photo. Fill flash helps with photos where your subject is backlit (see above), and also to eliminate shadows cast across your subjects face (for example, under one's nose or chin, or a face peering out from under a hat)

Most point and shoots (and SLRs) allow for the photographer to manually pop up the flash for a picture. Check your manual to see how you can force the flash to pop up. The key is to dial back the brightness of the flash so that you don't have flash blow out. Again, check your manual to see how you can lower the output of your flash - some cameras have a fill flash setting, while others allows you to lower the output in halves or thirds. I do this ALL the time with my point and shoot because my camera's flash is CRAZY bright...

Any questions? Leave a comment or email me.


amyhogan May 22, 2009 at 7:54 AM  

i was wondering, instead of using fill flash, would it work just to manually expose for the tree?

Melissa May 22, 2009 at 12:34 PM  

Hi Amy - good question. You can definitely switch to manual exposure to see if that will fix the lighting problem.

In this photo I actually tried that first, but it just wasn't enough to get the leaves exposed properly. The other risk is by manually exposing the photo to get the foreground correct, you could way overexpose the background. Fill light helps to achieve a more balanced exposure overall.

Hope this helps!

amyhogan May 22, 2009 at 3:53 PM  

Thanks Melissa! Another question - would the fill flash work on an object as large as the tree? I thought that it only illuminated objects up to 6 feet away or so ...

Melissa May 25, 2009 at 7:56 AM  

Depends on how powerful your flash is - generally speaking external flash units are more powerful (and will produce light at a greater distance) than a built in flash.

For this photo just using the built in flash plus manually overexposing the photo might have been the right amount of light - otherwise I would focus on branches/leaves that were lower on the tree and try fill flash.