Can you fix too much fill flash in photoshop/lightroom?

Discussion in 'Beginner Questions' started by tina___cliff_t, Jul 2, 2009.

  1. I've been working with fill flash. The sun here is insane until 8 o'clock at night, and I always had a problem with the backgrounds being really washed out, but the people would look fine.

    The last ones I did, I tried using more fill flash so the backgrounds would come out. Hoping I could get the whole picture to look properly exposed, but no. Didn't turn out.
    Is there a way I can even this out through photoshop/lightroom?

    AND...I noticed I had a real hard time getting the exposure to be right. The sunlight is really harsh, and I couldn't seem to find a happy medium. It was either not enough flash, leaving them to dark, or too much, and well it looks like the photo below. Any tips on how to compete with the sun?
  2. I think we just picked the worst time ever. It was hot & the sun was bright, even though it was already 5:30pm.
    This is another one I wanted to try to fix the shine & the color from the flash. (I might be, being to picky, but I tend to do that).
  3. The photo on the left can be tweaked to bring up the couple without also brightening the background, no problem there.
    The photo on the right looks fine, don't worry about it. But I'll admit to actually liking some obvious direct flash photos. I use it a lot, even when I could use subtle fill flash. I also have a weakness for the snapshot aesthetic. I like the spontaneity. So my advice may be suspect. But I wouldn't change it. Besides, if you brighten the background the shadows cast behind the couple will show more clearly. Just leave it as-is, it's fine.
  4. -- "The last ones I did, I tried using more fill flash so the backgrounds would come out. Hoping I could get the whole picture to look properly exposed, but no. Didn't turn out."
    That will not work ... you set the flash to give the proper amount of light at one certain distance. Behind this distance things will be darker, before that distance they will be brighter (that unavoidable). If the background is brighter than your subject, you can set the exposure for the background, fill with fillflash so that the subject is ok too. But if the background is already darker than the suibject, fillflash will not help because it will make the subject brighter as well (and since the subject is nearer, the effect in it will be stronger).
    Because you tried to bring up the background, you also raised the amount of light for the foreground (which you now find as unwanted). The worst that can happen, is you blow the highlights ... that can become unrecoverable quite quick.
    My personal setup in situations like that is ... shoot raw ... use -1/3 to -2/3 EC ... use -1FEC to -1-1/3 FEC ... all those images will need some tuning in the rawconversion, but usually none of them will have blown highlights.
  5. You need to learn how to control the light ratio between ambient and flash. This covers it well. Read parts I and specially in your case, II.
  6. I would leave #2 alone. But if you want to play, make two new layers. On the first new one make a selection of the subject and save it. Then go to layer, layer mask, reveal selection and all the subject is masked. Make your lightness correction with levels or curves.
    Go the top new layer. Recall the saved selection, invert it, make the reveal mask as in above. Then clip the mask to just that layer. The last two might actually be one a single step, layer-clipping mask. This keeps the adjust with levels or curves confined to that layer. Sorry I don`t remember exactly as I seldom do it & PS is on another computer.
    You will probably want to feather the edge of the selection one or two pixels AFTER you save it. And again after you invert the recalled selection. Otherwise it can look like a pasteup.
    There might be a good RGB channel from which to make the mask. If not, use the magic wand or the new selection nested with it starting in CS3.
  7. You could fix it when you take the shot by using - FE and +EV.
  8. Honestly in my opinion the problem with the 2nd pic isn't even that there's too much flash (which as you can see from the comments already given is a matter of personal taste) so much as that the flash is incredibly harsh. You can see that in the long dark shadows cast by the couple on the grass. I played around with the image a bit in Photoshop to balance out the brightness of the couple with the background but it still didn't look right because of the harsh shadows being cast. So the photo would actually take a fair amount of work to fix AND look natural as it's not simply a problem of the couple appearing too bright. Those shadows have to be fixed which means a lot of clone stamping or other techniques in addition to evening out the brightness and fixing the blown out whites of the guys shirt. Or another way to put it is that it will take a lot of work to make the picture look natural, where you don't have soft even light with harsh shadows and blown out highlights. To even out the brightness is relatively simple, to make the final product appear natural to your subconscious eye isn't.
    To keep things simple, if you're using Photoshop and want to try fixing either image, Shadow/Highlight would probably take you a long way without resorting to masks and layers and cloning.
    The way you'd fix the shadows is by shooting the flash through an umbrella, or by using an off camera flash and bouncing it off of something large and white (like foamcore) to soften up the light and therefore the shadows as well. Seeing as you've posted in the beginner forum you probably don't have umbrellas and off camera flashes, but it's an fyi anyway.
  9. Take a look at for some great articles about this very subject.
    You can make some corrections in Adobe Camera Raw with the adjustment brush, but anything other than subtle changes will look strange...
  10. My experience with Canon gear.
    Suppose you have the camera set up on evaluative metering, flash turned on. You point the camera at the scene in photo #1. What happens is that the camera sees the dark shapes in the foreground as part of the scene and then sets exposure too high, causing the background to blow out.
    One way around is is to point the camera at the background, put it in M, dial in exposure, then have your subjects step into the frame, then shoot. You can then control the amount of fill flash with FEC. Thus, your exposure (fstop, shutterspeed, iso) controls background exposure and your flash (FEC, or if you're a flash guru, manual flash power control) lights up the foreground.
    In photo #2, evaluative metering will see the white shirt and as a result the exposure will be less. Wedding photographers who shoot people in black tuxes and white dresses know about the pitfalls and perils of evaluative metering, and will often put the camera in M mode. I believe Nikon has smarter and more forgiving metering algorithms.
  11. Thought it was an interesting problem and fixed things up a little in PS, but on-camera flash is what it is. When you're using fill flash, remember it's a fill, and the ambient light is your main source. It's just to keep the shadows open and crisp things up, and as in all things Bauhaus, less is more.
    A modifier of some kind can make a tremendous difference in cutting the flash-on-camera look you dislike--my preference is a simple bounce card which you can buy or cobble up from foamboard and velcro. If you can get your flash off camera, raise it high to eliminate shadows, and feather it (aim it at the furthest part of the subject, so the edge of the illuminated area tends to hit nearer areas), you can get a very natural effect.
  12. Here is an example of what the background looked like when taking a picture with only available light. So I'm trying to balance it out there where the subject is lit, but the background looks exposed right. :)
    Thank you for all the tips so far, and I will read the links.
  13. This was shot in shade with the background being much brighter than where the subject was standing. This is the approach-
    Treat your flash as the main light and use the sun as your fill light. Use the shutter speed to control your ambient light exposure. In this shot, the shutter speed was only 1/100, so the sky was a bit overcast, but normally on a bright sunny day, expect to be in the 1/250 range to keep that ambient light in check. Set your flash to manual mode. Use your f/stop to decide how much light to let in from the flash . I can bet this was shot on half-power. In this shot, the flash and the f-stop were set to match the exposure of the background. The key to this technique is to treat your background as one entity controlled by your shutter speed and to treat your subject as a seperate entity controlled by your f-stop. If, with your flash set, your background is too dark but your subject is properly exposed, slow down your shutter speed. If your background is just right, and your subject is too light, change your f-stop to let in less light.
    The only problems you will run into is if your exposure gets close to the ambient light exposure. Then your flash becomes fill flash, not the main light source, so the whole system changes anyway.
    Another problem I see from your shot is the quality of light. It looks like it was shot with non-diffused on-camera flash. The shot I've posted was shot with off-camera flash (look at the catch lights), more specifically with a hot-shoe flash fired with radio slaves mounted on a light stand with a quantum battery and a medium sized soft box. Sound like a lot, but its is actually a pretty easy setup to work with.
    You might benefit from the One Light dvd by Zack Arius (sp?). He goes into great length explaining this technique and shows some location shoots as well.
    Go outside one day with a guinea pig and test test test. Good luck, and it will click one day soon.
  14. Can I add that I didn't adjust the color for the web... gag...
  15. James G. Dainis

    James G. Dainis Moderator

    What you are talking about is not really fill flash. When you have a subject in bright sunlight you use fill flash to lighten the dark shadows on their faces. You have a bright background and subjects in shade. This is like taking a photo of a person indoors in front of a window and having the person and the outdoor scene both exposed properly. Meter the background scene and set the camera exposure for that, within the shutter limits of the camera flash sync speed. Let us say it is 1/250 @ f/8. Then set your flash for f/8 if the sync speed is 1/250.
  16. Any better?
  17. Wow, it gets technical fast, doesn't it? Jen's concept of setting the exposure for ambient light (the background) with the shutter speed and the aperture for flash intensity (the foreground) is correct, but note that with modern rigs you can also vary the flash intensity to fire at half-power, fourth-power, and the like, which is useful when you want shallow DOF and would rather shoot wide open. There's probably a menu option for controlling flash intensity on the 40D--check the manual.
    Note also how much difference Jen's softbox made to the quality of her picture. If you're shooting with the built-in flash on your 40D, you can't get it off-camera or bounce it off a card, but there's an old trick that will not only cut the flash intensity, but diffuse it and soften the shadows appreciably: a hanky wrapped around it loosely. Good luck!

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