Why use Speedlites outside in sunshine?

Discussion in 'Lighting Equipment' started by ron_brown|6, Apr 25, 2012.

  1. I was looking at a Photography website and someone had mentioned using a speedlite(s) outside when shooting in the sunlight. It wasn't a Q&A forum, so there was no link for me to ask, sooooooo, can anyone tell me why a person would use speedlites outdoors in the sunshine? I'm confused about this because I've never known it to be done. Can anyone please help and tell me the purpose of this?
    Thanks in advance for your help. Ron
  2. It's done all the time, and for a very good reason: to fill shadows. Especially on a bright day, you don't want your poor subject to be staring right into the sun. You'd end up with squinting eyes, wrinkled noses, and often with glaring hot spots on foreheads, etc. So, you put their backs to the sun ... and that leaves their faces shaded. If you simply meter for their faces, you might get just what you're looking for (a nicely exposed face, and no squinting eyes), but then you'll probably be greatly over-exposing the background.

    Enter the flash! You can keep the background from over-exposing, and use the flash to bring some light to faces. Also very helpful when the light is coming from some other angle, and causing raccoon-eye shadows, hat brim shadows, hair shadows, etc.

    It can take some practice to get the balance right. Too much flash, and things just look ... wrong. If you're early in the morning or late in the day, you mght also need to gel the flash with a warming filter so that the stark white of the flash doesn't clash with the warmer light of the low sun.

    And, of course, there's getting the flash off the camera (remote triggers, synch cables, etc) to avoid the flatter dead-on light that can result from having it in the hot-shoe. Helps avoid red-eye, too, of course.
  3. It's done a lot more often today than in the past. Modern TTL flashes like those from Nikon would do it very well.
  4. We also do it to play with the color balance between ambient color and flash color and gels. For example, you could set your camera to tungsten lighting, use a warm gel over the flash, and it gives a neutral color for the subject, while throwing the surrounding outdoor areas toward the blue side.
  5. The hottest topic with speed lights out in bright sunlight is high speed sync. Without this technique you are limited to the shutter speed sync of 200-250. If you have a pocketwizard Flex or mini you will be able to synch up to 320 to 400. When you take the flex or mini a step further you can use high speed sync off camera. Go to pocket wizard and look up high speed sync.
  6. It was done aeons ago, when one had to actually know something to make it work, and now anyone can do it. As others have said, it gets subject's faces out of direct light. It also reduces contrast by filling in shadows, and if you have x-synch that goes to 1/2000, you can overpower sunlight easily to create night effects, etc. or...do fill at amazing distances with a simple flash unit.
  7. Ron, maybe a little late to the game but I thought I would post a couple of examples as to what fill flash can achieve.
    Because I want to keep detail in the landscape and the sky, I expose for the ambient. In my case the best angle for the photo had the sun to our backs and therefore through our faces and fronts into shadow. You can post process this to make it work however...
  8. Not only can it simply filll shadows, it can also give some pop and sparkle on a dull/cloudy day. I keep flash turned on even on my point and shoot cameras for snapshots. It helps when it's needed, yet the flashes on those usually aren't powerful enough to result in objectionable overexposure when it isn't needed.
  9. ...Since I had a flash along, I set it on manual (about half power if I remember correctly) about 20ft back to pop some fill light. Not your most amazing photo ever but I think it shows the idea.
  10. James,
    Your subtle flash fill in works nicely.
    Even though the flash was used, there is no shadow on the ground caused by the flash.
    In one prior example of flash fill in with bicycle racing, some expert argued that there was no flash light used, since there was no shadow on the ground caused by the flash.
    Latest breed of mirrorless cameras with face detection and automatic back lighting, provide some substitute to use of flash, for non-experts.
  11. Frank, thank you.
    In full-on harsh midday sun, I find it near impossible to cast a shadow from the fill flash (you could however overexpose the subject's fronts if not careful)
  12. Thank you all for the responses. Thanks for the photos James, they definitely show a great example of what I was wanting to know.

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