Monday, September 23, 2013
Outdoor Flash Basics
Flash...it's an amazing tool
Open Up The Shadows:
The myth we need to ignore is when it's sunny, there's plenty of light, so why use a flash. In bright sun, the contrast range between the highlights and shadows is so high, shadows go black and little detail is revealed. Think about the boy in the baseball cap. With flash added, the highlights aren't impacted, but the dark areas are opened up and reveal detail. So, whether you take that shot of a person with a long brim hat, a clump of flowers that have deep shadows, your pet in the sun in the backyard, or any other situation wherein deep shadows hamper a good image, use flash to add light to the dark areas.
As amazing as flash is, it does have limitations. Let's revisit the baseball cap situation. If you stand along the first baseline and your son is standing on second base, don't expect the flash to fill in the shadow on his face. The light from a flash can only go so far. If you use a built-in flash, think no more than 12 feet away from your subject. If you use a powerful accessory flash, double it and maybe even a bit more depending on the f-stop. Get away from being the person who at the opening ceremony of the Olympics in the nosebleed section of the stadium uses flash to photograph the athletes on the field.
Check to see if your camera has what's called Balanced Fill Flash or a Forced Flash On mode. These offer a bit more control than standard automatic. If you leave the flash set to automatic, it will only fire when it's dark that defeats the purpose of using it outdoors. Forced Flash On tells the camera you want the flash to fire every time you press the shutter. So, if you're within 12 feet of the person with the hat, the additional light from the flash will help open up the shadows. Balanced Fill Flash allows you to adjust the amount of light that's emitted from it. This is powerful as you take control over how much light is added. The more natural the effect, the more successful the image. You don't want the photo to look flashed. You want just enough to fill in the shadows to soften the contrast.
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