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Lighting is Easy Blog

Free resource for learning how to use off-camera flash and studio lighting.

The Easy Way to use Fill Flash

Chuck Vosburgh - Thursday, August 02, 2012

Most photographers shy away from using fill flash because it seems complicated. Use this two-step process to easily get great results every time.

Photographer: Chuck Vosburgh. Model: Kimberly Ridgeway. Photo Editor: Jessie Adler. Photographer’s Assistant: Patricia McGlinchey. 

The Problem

The subject is in the shadows, so if you make the subject look good, the background will be too light or completely white. If you make the background look good the subject will be too dark. You want both the background and the subject to look good.

 

The Solution Step One

Start by getting a good overall exposure of the scene. Use Manual Mode on your camera and set the shutter speed to 1/125 second or less. Don’t worry about how your subject looks, just get the background looking the way you want it to by leaving the shutter speed at 1/125 second or less and change the aperture (f-stop) to adjust the exposure. 

The solution Step Two

All that’s needed to make this photograph look great is to add enough light on the subject to make her look good. If you have a light meter, this step is quicker, but for this example I’ll assume you don’t have a light meter with you.

Put your flash on a stand or have someone hold it. Put the flash on Manual Mode and set the Power to 1/2. Take a test shot and see if the subject is too light or too dark. In this example, the subject was too dark. Adjust the aperture up or down. Since this example the subject was too dark, the aperture was opened up a couple of stops. You can also adjust the power of the flash to make the subject lighter or darker, or move the flash closer or farther away.

FAQ

What if my aperture is open all the way and the subject is still too dark?

If you can’t or don’t want to open the aperture any more, increase the power on the flash.

What if my aperture is open all the way and my flash is on full power and the subject is still too dark?

Move the flash closer to the subject take a test shot, adjust the distance until the subject looks good.

What if the subject is still too dark?

Increase the ISO on your camera or add another flash or a more powerful flash.

Why it Works

The flash will lighten up the subject, but since the background is pretty far away, the flash won’t reach it. A regular flash only reaches about 10-20 feet, usually closer to 10. Remember, the shutter speed must be slower than the sync speed of your camera. 1/125 second or less is safe. Read your camera’s instructions or experiment to see if you can go higher. The shutter speed controls the exposure of the background and the aperture controls the exposure of the subject. The flash power and distance can also be used to control the exposure of the subject.

The Setup:


Equipment Used:

Canon 5D camera body

Canon 70-200 lens

Two Pocket Wizard Plus IIs, one on the camera and one on the flash

A Canon 550EX flash held by an assistant


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