Looking for constructive feedback on using fill flash when takine people pics outdoors.

Discussion in 'Lighting Equipment' started by skersell33, Jul 2, 2006.

  1. I enjoy taking people pics... particularly outdoors and candid. I have a habit of forcing the flash to fill in harsh shadows. I've been told I overuse it and need to learn how to work with the natural light available. I use a Speedlight SB80DX. Sometimes with an extension braket to pull flash about a foot further away from the lens to help avoid hot-spots. I try to bounce whenever possible. Can some professionals out there tell me if I should be concerned about others opinions on my use of fill flash. Should I spend more time learning how to work without it or spend time learning how to better use it? Attached is an example of a picture I took of my son in the pool. Afternoon light was pretty bright behind him. I'm just shooting away... as he is very active. This is what I got. I happen to really like this photo. Some say there's too much obvious fill flash. Feedback on this photo and change/suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
  2. I agree that there is too much flash in the photo. You could drag the shutter a bit more and set the fill fash compensation a bit lower. For me the shadow under the chin when the sun is obviously behind looks very artificial.

  3. Sherry , You have a great photo of your son in the pool. I feel that fill flash is a tool to use when taking a photo that does not have perfect light. I also think that if the first thing you see when you view a photo is the tool (fill flash) then you are taking the viewers eye away from the subject . In this case your sons face. I think I have success in a photo, when you are paying attention to the subject of the photo and not things like, focus, background, color, tone, sharpness, and fill flash. The Idea in a good or great photograph is to communicate something inside the viewer with something in the subject. You photo does that, it might have done it even better with a little less flash, or maybe not. Thanks for sharing it
  4. I'm far from being a professional, but maybe it'll help: Tissue paper. I always put a piece of tissue paper in front of the flash, the effect is then like a softbox, and there are no wite spots on the face, it doesn't always work well, but usually people looking at the picture can't tell I was using a flash.
  5. Hi Sherry, you have a great model! You need to determine if your going to use the SB80 for fill or as the key light. Here you have used the flash as a flat key light with no fill by the sun. Your shutter is too fast and no ambient light is present. Learn to balance your flash a little bit above or a little bit below ambient light depending on how your using the available light. The ambient light should be apperent in your images if you are balancing light. Drag the shutter to bring up the backgound light. If your shooting digital its a great learning tool. Look at my gallery, all the outdoor shots are using the sun, at least 1-strobe if not two and a reflector. Good luck and enjoy yourself, develop your own style when it comes to lighting. Regards
  6. Kids love playing with water, your son is a good looking boy and the picture is excellent. I think the flash set 1 stop less than the meter reading will help. Minh
  7. WOW... this is the first time I've posted a question on the forum. Thank you all for you such quick feedback.
    Anupam - Yes, I've been told to set the fill flash compensation a bit lower. I'll have to work more with that and see what I get.
    Michael G. - Thanks for you comments and compliments.
    Yan R. - I've got a mini-extension reflector that extends out over the top of my SB80DX as well as a diffuser. Maybe I should just pull that out as habit... as it kinda has the same effect as tissue paper.
    Phillip F. - Very nice attached photograph. Beautiful lighting. I tend to pull my kids in the direction away from the sun because they end up with squinty eyes. In this case I able to get his big, beautiful eyes wide open. I do shoot an old/heavy Nikon D1, which I still love. Although I appreciate the recommendation to use reflectors... underneath children is almost impossible. And I mostly enjoy taking candid shots of children forever in action. I do plan to invest in a reflector set, as I have some jobs coming up for baby model portraits. Should be interesting and I'm sure I'll be posting some of the pictures for feedback. Thanks again!
    Minh N. - I will take your recommendation (along with several others) to bring the flash down a stop. Thank you for your time.
  8. As a rule of thumb, if a viewer can tell it's a flash picture, you've probably used too much flash !
  9. If you like what you're getting, why be concerned about what others think? If you are shooting professionally, maybe, but are you? Even then, if your clients like your work, why worry?

    Your example shows obvious fill flash, but it has it's own charm. The droplets of water on his face wouldn't show as sharply and brightly if you used less flash or a reflector. The light is harsh, as unmodified fill flash will be, but it doesn't particularly bother me in this image.

    If you want to learn to pull back on fill flash, or use reflectors, then just start experimenting and see what you get. In the Wedding Forum, look under the Lighting category. We conducted a Fill Flash tutorial over there a little while ago which you may find useful.
  10. I use a little flash when I think the background is bright enough to fool my camera's light meter. When the background is too dark, that presents a different problem.
  11. Another option is to not fight (or try to fool)nature. I was playing around with two flashes on light stands at the beach the other day- Trying out some stuff I picked up off the strobist site. Because of the wind, using umbrellas was out of the question. I had no one to hold a reflector. So....set the two stands up, one in front of the couple a little above head level at a 45 degree angle. The other is to the side of the couple, camera right (in the surf-can't believe it didn't get knocked over). direct flash, no diffusion. I figured I'd go for a surreal effect. The sun was already below the horizon so it didn't contribute much other than a wonderfully colorful sky. I don't think anyone would doubt that flash was used here. Because there wasn't really a way to make it look natural, at least to someone who's watched a bazillion sunsets, I decided to make it look surreal.
  12. I was at a wedding this weekend and the photographer used an extension cable on a handheld flash.

    That would make your fill flashed portraits look like they were done with studio flash, and seems like it would be easy to do.
  13. Also I've seen people use no flash with back lit subjects, by offering more exposure (compensation of 1.5 - 2 stops over) you could keep the rim light effect you have with the backlighting and have the face properly exposed. Of course the background would be lighter.

    You still might like a tiny bit of fill or use of a reflector to bounce the light back into the face though. Hey, it's your art, experiment until you get it how YOU like it.
  14. First off - I love your pick. Yeah that shadow is a shame - and it can be reduced a BIT with a lower flash setting - but instead of screwing around with that I have another trick for you.

    Set your camera to Tv mode (exposure priority). Set it to your camer'as sync speed (my camera has a sync speed of 200).
    Meter for the sky (or the background) and lock it in.
    Put a diffuser on your hotshoe flash (my fav is the gary fong diffuser www.garyfong.com). Aim it directly at the subject and take your shot.
    A diffuser is the key here. While I like the Gary Fong one - there are lots of options out there.
  15. I should add - that my previous post is for situations like a sunset - like the example above. No need for large lights etc (distance to subject depending of course)
  16. Thanks all for taking the time to respond to my question. I think because of the criticism, I've become "fill-flash paranoid". I don't want to be afraid to use it. Let's face it... there are just going to be times when you have to use it, right? I am going to try to make it a little less obvious though.
    Nadine O. - I was liking what I was getting and so did the majority of people that saw my pics of my kids that I take. They liked them so much they hired me to take pics of their kids. But a few too many negative comments on the use of fill-flash... and I'm beginning to doubt my work/style!!! Thanks for the suggestion one the tutorial. I've been hired to do model portraits for babies and children and I keep getting more and more jobs, so I'd really like to improve my work as I go.
    Laurie M. - I agree with you, in that it all depends on what kind of feeling you're trying to create with your photo. With my kids in action, all I'm trying to do is catch the shot. But since I'm getting hired to do more portrait work, I'd really like to learn more about lighting.
    Thomas H. - Thanks for the reminder. I have one of those extension cables. Need to just put it on and leave it there. In this particular picture, if I had it on, I could have had the flash underneath him, stood back a bit further and it would have reduced that harsh shadow under his chin and reduced the noticeable flash. Thank you for reminding me that it's MY work. I haven't had a customer complain yet!
    David B. - I have a diffuser that came with my hotshoe flash. Again, just need to pull these things out and start using them. I'm sure that would be really helpful. So with all the much appreciated suggestions and really taking the time to work with some of the gadgets I have, I hope that as I continue to add to my portfolio, that you all will see my work improve.
    I do know that babies and kids on the move are hard. Sometimes you just can't mess with stops and metering and you just have to shoot away and hope that you get a few good ones.
    Attached is a portrait I took for a baby model. Please comment +/-, as I did use fill flash in this also. Again, thank you.
  17. Looks good to me. I personally think that if the image is lit by direct sunlight, the harder light of direct flash looks OK--it matches the main light source. In the shade or indoors--that is another story. There, softer, more diffused fill is preferable.
  18. Sherry, I think that both of the pictures you have posted in this forum are very good. I am also using the same SB-80DX strobe that you use. As a general rule, whenever I am taking pictures of people outdoors in the sunlight I always use fill flash. In order to compensate for the suns bright highlights and dark shadows that result, fill flash really helps to fill in most of those shadows. I always use the diffuser when shooting people because it does help to soften the harshness of direct strobe light on skin and sometimes I will try the built-in bounce card. In both cases, I usually have to increase the flash output by 1 to 1.5 stops.
    Keep up the good work and happy shooting!
    Cheers! Wade
  19. I would try this. Switch the flash mode from TTL to aperture mode (so the flash is reading the light). Try and "fool" the flash to output only 1/2 or 1/4 the normal amount of light by setting the FLASH at an aperture 1 or 2 stops larger (smaller number f:stop) than you set your camera lens. Example: The camera indicates a correct exposure of 1/125 sec at f:8.0. You then set the flash to aperture mode at f:5.6 or f:4.0 and take the picture. this should add enough "fill" light to open up shadows without giving you the hot spots.


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