Synchro-Sun “Fill-Flash” Lighting TechniquesUsing Flash to control contrast
The thing that stands out to me most prominently, that gives away the experience level of anew photographer, is the failure to use fill flash to control contrast. Unfortunately,sometimes I see this in the work of new professional photographers, particularly in weddingcandid shots outdoors in the sun. Now, the client may not know what it is that thephotographer did, or did not do that made the photographs better, but they certainly willrecognize that one looks “professional” while the other doesn’t. Using fill flash to controlcontrast for those inevitable candid photos in the bright sun is just a fundamental techniquethat every photographer needs to know how to do.Many photographers, even those who have been shooting for many years, have a hard timecalculating the correct exposure when using fill flash. If you don’t know how to use fillflash, or have a hard time calculating the correct exposure settings, I hope to make thatprocess easier with the information I am providing here.I don’t like to use fill flash to shoot
as the quality of the light from the small lightsource of the strobe is quite “hard” and tends to bring out the texture and white specularhighlights in the skin. Large, softer light sources such as the slightly overcast sky, the sky atdusk after the sun has set, or the soft box or umbrella in the studio, are much moreconducive to lighting portraits. However, for larger groups that have to be shot in thesunlight, as well as candids and action shots, using the strobe to fill the shadows is essentialto producing professional work.
The challenge with fill flash is to use just enough to fill the shadows, or bring them intothe range of the film, but not to overpower the natural light.
For group shots, or anysituation where I have the control to be able to turn the subject, I will usually have thesubject back lit, with their face in the shadow. That way they are not squinting. The idea isto bring that exposure close to the level of the sunlight. But I still want the subject to
Caution: Don’t forget the importance of using shade on the lens. This will beparticularly important when you are shooting in the sun with the subject backlit. Youmust keep the sun off of the lens.)
To some extent, the level of fill is personal choice. You will find the look you like anddevelop your technique to achieve that look. In the two images that follow, the first hasmore fill than the second. Now in this case, the group was already in the shade and could
Fill Flash Lighting TechniquesPage 1 of 5Copyright (C) 2005, Michael N...4/1/2006