Fill-in Flash Photography

If you’re shooting a portrait or close up where the subject fills the frame completely and your shooting in bright sunlight where the person is partly back-lit, the answer is most definitely yes!

It will bring the image to life by making it stand out against the background, it will also light up the face helping to remove unwanted shadows and adding a sparkle to the eyes.

You see, when you are shooting pictures of people where the majority of the light is from behind or where the sun is reflected off water, without your flash turned on their face will be too dark .

The same applies when the sun is casting a shadow across the face but with the use of your flash, you can eliminate dark shadows from the eyes and nose and create a better result which will please the most discerning critic. In affect this also helps to soften the face and in some cases helping to hide wrinkles, but remember you cant please everyone.

Which reminds me of the story of the wrinkled old Woman that had her picture taken by the local portrait photographer and even after the photographer spent hours retouching her picture he still couldn’t remove all her wrinkles. When she saw the picture she complained saying to the photographer, “This picture doesn’t do me justice,” he said “Madam you don’t need justice you need mercy.”

Why then, does you camera take a dark picture when the subject is back-lit, you see the camera will be fooled by the bright back-lit surroundings and set the exposure to cope with the bright conditions only allowing the face to appear dark, but with your flash turned on you end up with the perfect picture every time, so much so that your friends will ask how you did it. Also remember to use flash when bright sunlight is casting shadows over the subjects face, even if the conditions are not back-lit, it will also add a sparkle to the eyes.

By using your flash or turning flash on, you will fill-in the shadow areas making your picture much more pleasing.

Photographers please note, the best time of the day to shoot people is about two hours before sunset or two hours after sunrise, when the shadows are long and the light is soft and warm in color, especially by the ocean. It’s no wonder that professional fashion photographers shoot around this time of day.

Consider the days when I started out studying to be a young photographer at the age 13/14, the camera was a medium format size roll film camera, image size 6x6cm. and the film size was 120 black and white negative.

There was NO built-in camera flash, in fact there was no electronic flash, period. I use to own a flash gun that used flash bulbs, which I attached to the camera with the flash sync cable plugged into the camera bulb flash socket. The flash bulb was like a light bulb in size which you screwed into the flash guns bulb holder directly in front of the large flash reflector. The bulb was filled with magnesium wire and when you fired the shutter the batteries in the flash gun would ignite the magnesium in the flash bulb and create a flash. The flash bulb was covered with a protective layer of plastic to prevent it from exploding and I seem to remember that most times it was successful in doing so, but on the odd occasion it would explode… quite an alarming experience. It was a good idea not to work too close to the subject!

Back in the early fifties, it was quite an undertaking to shoot any event. But I was busy studying photography at school and in my spare time and was learning the basics.

Soon the early electronic flash guns started to arrive on the market and I remember that they had huge power-packs that you carried on your shoulder via a shoulder strap. Also flash guns were starting to get popular with novice photographers, with smaller size flash bulbs and then later the smaller electronic flash guns.

What does this mean to you, very little I expect but it may be of some interest to those of who might be of the same age as I was then, to know how far we have advanced. Just think for a moment and supposing you are 14 years of age now, how far things would have advanced when you get to be my age…

But you know, the same conditions apply when shooting an image if your in a ‘professional mode’, I mean careful composition of you picture, correct exposure and lighting and although with the advance of digital cameras the technology has changed, the above mentioned facts apply and are still as relevant to day as they ever were, plus the added advantage of your computer and the ability of digital manipulation.