Fill Flash - Convince me

Discussion in 'Lighting' started by Shangheye, Dec 27, 2009.

  1. Shangheye

    Shangheye Member

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    Ok...so I am traveling to India in a week an I am having a "moment" with my equipment. Basically it is flash or no flash...that is the question. I am very much a natural light photographer, but I do expect high sun in the sky and strong shadows, and am wondering if I am going to regret not taking it with me for fill-in images.

    What is the view out there? I am 50:50 at the moment, and need something to push me over the edge either way. Maybe you couldpost an image to show me, where without fill-in you would have lost a great image.

    Many thanks.

    Rgds, Kal

    PS images will be a mix of colour and B&W
     
  2. Mike1234

    Mike1234 Inactive

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    If you don't understand I'm not going to try to convince you.
     
  3. goldenimage

    goldenimage Subscriber

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    the only type of photography i use fill in is portrait images, reason being is putting catchlights in the eyes, I sometimes use my flash as main lighting and let the ambient light be my fill. my scanner decided to put a funky line down the middle of the image
     

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  4. BetterSense

    BetterSense Member

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    For B&W, how many stops 'under' do you set fill-flash? For color?
     
  5. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    IMO, don't bother at this point. Your trip is a week away...and, personally, fill flash would not do me much good unless shooting a staged and controlled photograph. I can't think of a situation in which I would use it while traveling. However, you and I likely shoot differently. If you will be doing planned shoots with models/subjects, then there could potentially be a lot of use for fill flash...but even then, you would be learning to use it a week before leaving on your trip, and your results would likely be spotty without enough time to spend on it when shooting. However, you might as well have a flash with you if it is not too much hassle. Try some. What the hey. I always being a flash (Sunpak 555 and filter kit) on my road trips, "just in case", and I literally have not used it once. When it comes to anything not staged, I prefer to just shoot it as it lies, without any fill light.
     
  6. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Do your cameras have leaf shutters, or synch with flash at high (1/250 or shorter) shutter speeds? If not, fill flash can be quite difficult to use, and I wouldn't suggest trying it for the first time on a trip.

    A better idea would be to pack a foldable reflector, and an assistant :smile:.

    If you are going to experiment, and the ambient conditions permit use of shutter speeds that you can synch flash with, and you are shooting with negative film, than I usually recommend using it at one stop less than the main light.

    Matt
     
  7. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    I cannot convience you. It works if done right. Set the f/stop or one or two numbers highrer [smaller aperture] then the guide number calls for. As noted before, you need to do this before you go on the trip, because you need to see the results.

    Steve
     
  8. Mike1234

    Mike1234 Inactive

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    That reply was meant to have a smiley face... :smile: It takes time to get a true feel for what works best in a given situation... each situation is different.

    Fill flash can often be a good thing if done properly. One common method is to underxpose the scene/subject by 1/2 stop and underxepose the flash by 1/2 stop so the combined exposure on the subject sums to proper total exposure. This really softens the shadows and adds highlights in the eyes while bringing the subject forward a bit by underexposing the background that little bit. But that's just a rule-of-thumb and that mix isn't always appropriate nor is fill flash always desired. You'll need a powerful flash with complete exposure control and a very fast flash synch speed on your camera/lens if you shoot in daylight. I always shot manual camera and manual flash to give me complete control. Synchro sun and combining any ambient light with on-camera flash can take some time to learn to do correctly and quickly. Add the ability to remove the flash and aim where you like or use bounce methods and the complexity is compounded greatly. How far away is the wall your bouncing off of and how far is the wall from the subject? What is the reflectivity of that wall? What are you tring to accomplish with the added light? Multiple slaved fill flash just adds another dimension especially if you're adding color. How deep in this rabit hole do you want to go? :D

    The point is you're going to have to experiement and I strongly urge you to take one shot without fill flash and then another with. Experiment a lot before your trip.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 28, 2009
  9. lxdude

    lxdude Member

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    I suggest taking a foldable reflector or two.
    You can purchase one with sides of different colors, like white or silver or gold, which open and collapse with a twist. Or a reflector can be as simple as a piece of white cardboard, mat board or foamcore or even two to four smaller sections hinged together with tape, so when held with the taped sides at the back they will make a reasonably rigid single card. Covering with finely wrinkled foil can increase reflectivity. If the subject can hold the reflector for a face shot that makes it simple. Holding it yourself while shooting is somewhat awkward but possible. You can put it on top of your feet to reflect up and maneuver it how you want with slight foot movements, if your subject is seated or is not standing closely.
    In a pinch, even a newspaper can be used as a reflector.

    One big advantage to using a reflector, especially if you haven't used flash much, is you can see what you're going to get before the shot, so exposure and modeling will be known quantities.

    One big disadvantage is the need to have a subject who is either interested/patient/cooperative/helpful enough.

    On the other hand, you don't have to explain why you're using flash in broad daylight. :wink:

    If you do elect to use flash, you should follow the advice to experiment a lot before you go.
     
  10. eddym

    eddym Member

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    Leave the flash at home, unless you think you might need it for indoor shots. Fill flash is a non sequitur for street shooting.
     
  11. rthomas

    rthomas Member

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    Look for natural fill (walls, reflections from windows, etc)! This can make for great shots. If I use fill flash in broad daylight, I typically set it about 2 stops under the main exposure (on the F100 I found that -1.7 worked great in TTL). If I'm not using flash (this is normal), I tend to overexpose a bit in bright light, losing highlights for shadow detail.
     
  12. goldenimage

    goldenimage Subscriber

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    i usually go 1.5 stops under. in the above portrait i used 1.5 under t hen adjusted my shutter 2 stops faster. that pretty much had my flash as my main light, i was trying to get more of a studio look than an outdoors shot. i would never use fill for street shots or landscapes. good luck
     
  13. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    Kal, since you are more inclined to use natural light, I'd say leave the flash at home. If you're worried about shadow detail then why not handle that in the development and the printing phase. Besides, shadows can be very effective....
     
  14. erikg

    erikg Member

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    Flash can be a pretty handy tool in the kit. Check out the Strobist site, read a bit and see if you can pick up enough to have confidence in yourself when on your trip.
     
  15. Shangheye

    Shangheye Member

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    These responses are wonderful...and cover pretty much my whole conundrum...I shouldn't have expected less!

    I do know how to do fill-flash, though as 2F and a few have mentioned, when I have had the flash with me on trips, I have never used it. I am talking here of my latest flash which is a canon Speedlite 580EX. It's big and epensive and it seems crazy to drag it all the way across the world to either not get used or get stolen (GOD FORBID!)

    I do have an old fixed head 220EZ, and the comments in this thread and some PM's have got me thinking small may well be ideal here. I am only looking for it in portrait situations, and so can leave out the bounce capability etc, and I can bring it out for specific occaisions, take little room, and not unnerve anyone with a huge appendage to the camera...going to test it out, since it has been 10 years since it was last used...fingers crossed..

    By the way, my approach to fill varies. In general to create some background separation under-exposing the scene by about half a stop, and knocking about a stop off the flash compensation seems to work fine in relatively low contrast type light. For high backlight, I ironically find (at least with Canon) over exposing the flash by a stop seems to displace the shadows...anyway, long time since I did it...

    Rgds, Kal
     
  16. Martin Aislabie

    Martin Aislabie Subscriber

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    Something as simple as a newspaper can make an effective reflector to fill in the shadows.

    Obviously, avoid the harsh noon day sun & shoot people either early or late in the day.

    I use fill-in a lot with people shots outdoors in almost any light (my preference is 1.5 stops) - it avoids the p*ss hole in the snow look around their eyes while retaining a natural look

    Martin