Monday, 25 October 2010

Photography Basics - Using Fill-In Flash

Author: Shannon Yates

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When fill-in flash is used correctly where there's a bright or backlit background, it can help to hi-light the face of your subject and help to draw focus to them instead of on the bright background. And in an environment that is side-lit, it can reduce shadows caused by necks and noses. By experimenting a lot early on, I learned many important lessons regarding flash, and these are lessons that have stuck with me over time.
First and most importantly, understand the range of your cameras flash. If you're cameras' flash isn't very strong, you will have to move in closer to your subject. If you find that the flash isn't as effective as you would like at lightening shadows on your subject, move in closer.
Don't get too close to your subject either. The built-in flash on most cameras can easily become too intense if the photographer is too close. This can result in the "white-out" problem where you will start to lose definition of your subjects face, or in extreme cases, their face can simply become a white blob. If you find that the flash on your camera is too harsh and you don't have a diffuser, try holding a paper napkin over the flash as an "on-the-spot diffuser". I've produced some better than acceptable results with this technique when using compact digital cameras. Note that sometimes you may need to fold the napkin over once or twice to diffuse effectively. Take a couple of test shots to work out how much diffusing you're going to need, then finally take your shot.
This is an easy technique to try for yourself at home, and you don't need any specialised equipment to experiment with it besides a napkin and your camera. Almost all but high-end professional cameras have a built-in flash these days. All you need is a nice day, a willing subject, and maybe a napkin or two.
One last tip: I would always recommend using a napkin over a tissue. Try to keep tissues away from your camera as they tend to have a lot more loose fibres than napkins. The fibres get airborne and will undoubtedly get on your lens.

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