Please note that this is an audio transcription. Grammer and punctuation will not be perfect.
Hi there everyone and welcome to the Photography Podcast on Photography.ca.‚ My name is Marko and we are coming to you from Montreal, Quebec, Canada, on this November 2, 2006.
It is a beautiful sunny day in Montreal, albeit cold, and sunny days are a great time to talk about fill flash.‚ This whole podcast is actually inspired by a new member that posted some pretty interesting pictures on the Photography.ca bulletin board.‚ I quite like those pictures, but I thought that those pictures could be even better if they would have just used a little bit of fill flash.‚ In a nutshell, what fill flash is, is it fills the shadows of scenes and it is particularly useful in portraiture.‚ So even on a sunny day, which may seem counter-intuitive, a great thing to do is use a bit of fill flash. ‚What happens is the sun, especially when it is high above, will hit the subject’s head and cast like a shadow in their eyes and on their nose and it is not attractive at all.‚ So, you have this person with dark circles under their eyes and it is really not so flattering and sometimes it is really distracting.‚ What is a really good thing to use is fill flash.
Now, most modern SLRs and digital SLRs have the ability to use fill flash.‚ Sometimes you can use fill flash on the little flash that comes with the camera or if you have an actual camera that you mount on your flash via the hot shoe, you can definitely use fill flash there.‚ It is such a simple procedure.‚ All you have to do is turn on the flash and fire the camera and there you go, you have fill flash.‚ You should know what settings you are on.‚ You could be on a manual setting, you could be on a more automatic setting, but even in the sun, take a picture of a person and use the flash.‚ What is going to happen is that flash is going to fire at the person and it is going to fill their face with a bit of light and generally it will make the picture more attractive.‚ Actually, for this podcast, we are going to put up a couple of shots on the blog with and without fill flash and you can kind of see the differences.‚ Now the interesting thing about fill flash is that you can vary the amount of the fill flash.‚ What most people will do is they will put it on an automatic — they will put their camera rather on an automatic setting, turn on the flash and just shoot and although generally that is better than not using any fill flash at all, especially on a bright sunny day, it is not the best thing possible.‚ It has been my experience that the best shots or generally very good shots that use fill flash have the fill flash used at a strength that is less strong than the ambient light.‚ That is to say, the light that is lighting the subject, the natural light, let us say, well, the fill flash should be less strong than that light.‚ What happens is if the fill flash is at the same strength as the light that is naturally lighting the subject or the ambient light, it does not quite look as flattering as it could.‚ If the fill flash is stronger than the subject, well, then it is not even called fill flash anymore.‚ That is really the main light for the subject and that makes the subject.‚ Unless you are looking for a specific effect, it makes it look less pleasing than normal.
That said, for that special effect, I mean you will see this all the time in fashion or fashion magazines where the model is just blasted with light.‚ She is flawless generally and they will retouch her for hours afterwards and she will look good, but it is not generally the most natural look for general photography I would say.‚ A good thing to do is read the camera manual and figure out how to adjust the flash.‚ It is usually under something called flash compensation or fill flash, but it is generally really easy to do and what you want to do, again, is let us say you are using the little flash on the camera, you just want to lower that by one or two or three stops even and what that will do is it will just add a touch of light to your subject and light them in a very pleasing way.‚ If you were to use, let us say, minus one stop of light from the flash, what the flash is doing is it is calculating the amount of light in the scene that is naturally there and then it is giving you one stop less, minus two gives you two stops less, minus three gives you three stops less.‚ These flashes can work in different fashions, it could work by stops or other increments but what looks very natural or more pleasing, let us say, is when there is less light coming from the flash than the actual light that is lighting the subject.
Personally, when I use fill flash, I almost always choose, let us say, minus one and a half or minus two stops of light, so I am just giving the subject a little bit of light, but I am not accentuating the light from the flash so it tends to look more natural.‚ If you have a hot shoe mounted flash or a more professional flash that you mount on the camera, it will usually be really, really easy to figure out how to give less fill flash or negative flash, let us say.‚ There are some arrows or there is some button that allows you to do plus a third of a stop, plus two thirds of a stop, plus one stop, or minus a third, minus two thirds, minus one, minus two, minus three, etc., and you could just play with those and see the effect that you are going to get.‚ In fact, I highly recommend, especially if you are not so familiar with fill flash, is to just go ahead and experiment, as always.‚ Take a shot with the regular flash setting, just turn it on and shoot, see what you get.‚ Minus it by one stop of light, shoot it, see what you get.‚ Minus it by two stops of light shoot it, see what you get.‚ Compare all three and see which one is most pleasing for you.‚ It would be my guess that those shots that are minus one to minus two, they might well be the most pleasing shots, they certainly are to me, but everyone is different.‚ Of course, if you are going for the exact opposite effect, you could choose whatever you want, but then I would suggest to you it is not called fill flash at all.‚ If you go plus one or plus two stops of light from the flash, you are doing the opposite, you are getting a cool effect if that is what you want, but then it is not called fill flash.‚ That is your main light and the main light is lighting the subject and the ambient light is actually acting as a secondary light.‚ It is no longer the main light.‚ You can also, of course, use fill flash from secondary sources of light by either having a secondary flash somewhere or a secondary light somewhere, but if you are already at that level, then you pretty much already know what you are doing.‚ I guess this particular podcast is geared for just using your camera to add some extra light to the faces of someone.‚ We are talking in particular about portraits because it is really hard to fill flash or to use fill flash on a landscape scene.‚ Flash typically has a very short range or reasonably short range and if you are taking picture of a mountain or anything like that, well, your flash will just never hit the mountain, it will never make a difference.‚ That is why it is particularly useful for portraiture or even close up photography, but photography that is relatively close to the camera as opposed to landscape or scenic photography.
That covers it for today’s show.‚ It was a really short show.‚ I will be putting up some photographs on the blog that go along with the show notes and you could really see the difference by using minus one and minus two as opposed to the normal shot and as opposed to no flash at all.‚ I am going to put those up so people can see the differences and hopefully learn from them.‚ As always, if you are able to comment or choose to comment it is so appreciated and if you are interested in having your photographs critiqued, well, just join the bulletin board on Photography.ca, upload a couple of pictures and it is absolutely my pleasure to critique them.‚ In fact, I would like more members to critique them as well, but each and every shot that gets uploaded that people want critiqued, it gets critiqued by me.‚ I have a little bit of experience so I hope the tips that I have given other people thus far have been useful and appreciated.‚ Well, that is it for us again.‚ This was our fourth podcast on Photography.ca.‚ We hope you enjoyed it.‚ As always, you can leave comments on the blog or through the bulletin board and we will be back in two weeks’ time to do another podcast.‚ Thanks so much for listening everyone and happy shooting!