Fill in Flash
When to use flash in the daytime even on sunny days
This is the term given to adding just a touch or “ping” of light to brighten otherwise shadowy or shaded areas. A bonus is that it also brightens the colours.
For example, if your subject (portrait) is outdoors with harsh shadows from the sun across their face, try setting your flash to auto or ETTL and firing a bit of flash in. It should be just enough to brighten the shadows.
Take all camera meter readings and get the overall exposure right before turning on the flash. These days cameras and speedlights are intelligent and “talk to each other” but they don’t always understand each other!
(If it is too much or too little, you can adjust the power output of the flash (FEC – Flash Exposure Compensation) to compensate or switch the flash to manual and play with the power output from within the flash’s menu).
The flash will hit the subject, bounce back to an on board sensor and switch off when enough light has hit your subject.
The beauty of digital is you can keep practicing until you get it right at no cost.
Fill in flash works best if your subject is far enough away from any background that could create harsh shadows. If a background is unavoidable, hold the camera landscape (or normally) as opposed to upright or portrait as the shadows will be less noticeable.
Basically, try to make sure the flash or speedlight is above the camera’s lens when shooting direct flash with close backgrounds and use a diffuser if you have one.
Ok, let’s look at some examples…
These were all taken at the same wedding and for some I used flash, others I didn’t.
This first image has no fill in flash, the people are facing directly into the sun so they are squinting and have some harsh shadows present.
By changing the angle slightly and adding a touch of flash, the colours become more vibrant and there is noticeably less shadows on the faces, particularly around the eyes…
By turning the people away from the sun a little, you can eliminate the squinting but you still get shadows as you can see in this image and the 100% crop…
But by adding some fill in flash using E-TTL or full auto, you can clearly see the difference once again, in particular, the eyes which now have wonderful catch lights in them bringing them to life.
The next time you are out and about shooting in bright sunlight, use your flash and see what results you can get. The main thing is never to think flash should be confined to indoor or night photography.