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 Post subject: Fill flash for daytime shooting
PostPosted: February 4th, 2016, 7:52 am 
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Joined: February 18th, 2015, 11:11 am
Posts: 122
Location: Deerfield Beach, Florida
First, let me say that I have really been enjoying the photography on this forum!

Second, I'm noticing that I may need to use some flash in certain daytime settings. For example, if their is bright sunlight causing the shadows to be too harsh, or in dappled sunlight, when there is too much contrast between the light and dark.

I'd love to get some tips on what to use/how to use it for a little extra lighting. I recently purchased an external flash with a transmitter/receiver so I can take it off-camera. The flash also has a diffuser cap with it.

Here is a photo I took recently of a Brooks Kingsnake in Miami-Dade County, FL that illustrates the lighting difficulty.

ImageBrooks Kingsnake by Daniel Wakefield, on Flickr

Thanks in advance for your help!


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 Post subject: Re: Fill flash for daytime shooting
PostPosted: February 4th, 2016, 9:26 am 

Joined: June 7th, 2010, 5:46 am
Posts: 612
Location: Albuquerque, NM
For the particular photo you posted I really don't see much need for fill flash. You have details in both the highlights and the shadows. The dappled light gives a good "feel" for what it might be like to encounter that animal in the field. Lighting conditions are as much a part of an animals habitat as are the types of rocks, vegetation, etc. I'll take natural light like that over artificial light (even fill light), any day. However, I also realize that I am in the minority when it comes to herp photographers, most of whom seem to like really even shadow-less light. There certainly are times when fill light is useful though the trick I think is not to overdue it. I don't know what camera system you are using, but I'm sure it provides some means to adjust the relative flash to available light ratio. I usually prefer something in the -2 stop range for my flash when using it for fill. I don't want my fill to be obvious, I still want shadows. The best way to get a feel for this is to find a cooperative herp and shoot with several different flash outputs and compare the results to see what you like best.


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 Post subject: Re: Fill flash for daytime shooting
PostPosted: February 4th, 2016, 3:40 pm 
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Joined: November 6th, 2010, 9:59 am
Posts: 603
Location: Athens, GA (Columbia, MO)
In my experience, dappled lighting, like in your example photo, is tough to deal with. You would be better of moving the animal to a place with even light or shading the animal with your body or a collapsible diffuser. But if you are trying to get in situ shots, you have to work with tough lighting conditions a lot of the time. As Bill said, you will have to get out and play around with it, but you should expose the photo for the bright, sunlit areas. Set your flash strength wherever and check the resulting image to see if you need to dial it up or down to get a better balance (that's the beauty of the digital age). I think fill flash works better when dealing with side lighting or back lighting, as you can direct the flash to the shaded areas, but if you have to deal with dappled light, it can help.


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 Post subject: Re: Fill flash for daytime shooting
PostPosted: February 6th, 2016, 12:28 pm 
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Joined: February 18th, 2015, 11:11 am
Posts: 122
Location: Deerfield Beach, Florida
Thanks for the advice!

Yesterday was my first attempt at using some fill flash. It was bright sunlight instead of dappled light this time. I still need to work on it, but I think it's an improvement. Comments are welcome!

ImageYellow Rat Snake by Daniel Wakefield, on Flickr


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 Post subject: Re: Fill flash for daytime shooting
PostPosted: February 6th, 2016, 1:22 pm 

Joined: January 11th, 2011, 2:43 pm
Posts: 219
[quote="dwakefield"]Thanks for the advice!

Yesterday was my first attempt at using some fill flash. It was bright sunlight instead of dappled light this time. I still need to work on it, but I think it's an improvement. Comments are welcome!

That's a beautiful picture. The difference between night and day, without intending the pun. Great job!

No one's mentioned it but using flash also will allow you to capture greater depth-of-field because of the brighter light/smaller aperture.


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 Post subject: Re: Fill flash for daytime shooting
PostPosted: February 6th, 2016, 3:00 pm 
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Joined: November 6th, 2010, 9:59 am
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Location: Athens, GA (Columbia, MO)
Nicely done. Harsh sunlight is never a photographers friend, but the image is well exposed and the fill flash brought detail out of the shaded area.

rtdunham wrote:
No one's mentioned it but using flash also will allow you to capture greater depth-of-field because of the brighter light/smaller aperture.


It depends on the situation. In the rat snake photo above, there is more than enough light to get all the DOF you could want regardless of the flash. And of course you can sacrifice shutter speed and/or ISO to shoot with a smaller aperture as well. But yes, flash is especially useful when working in low light conditions with uncooperative subjects.


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 Post subject: Re: Fill flash for daytime shooting
PostPosted: February 7th, 2016, 9:40 am 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 10:14 pm
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Location: San Antonio, TX
I do like your ratsnake shot, but I'm not sure it is a good example of fill-flash yet. The idea behind fill flash is to use flash to bring out the dark areas of an image while allowing the natural light to expose the lighter areas. In other words, the flash "fills" in light where the natural light isn't available (i.e. backlit subjects or dappled light).

The trick to using it is that your camera will often use the flash to become the dominant light source when it is on unless you instruct it not to. I think that's what has happened in your ratsnake shot. It is very clearly shot using flash. You can tell this be the very sharply defined shadow behind the first loop of body. The shutter speed was reduced to compensate for the flash and that area was left unlit. In a "true" fill flash shot, that area would be lit by some of the ambient light.

You don't have the exif data on your shot so I can't see exactly how you set this up, but you might want to try is forcing the camera to use the ambient light for your exposure while firing the flash just to fill in the darkest spots. There are several ways to achieve this:

- You can using flash exposure compensation. Most cameras have this capability. If you set the flash exposure compensation to -0.7 or -1.3 or similar value, you force the camera to make up the difference using the available ambient light. The camera may stick with leaving the SS at the flash sync speed here so it can underexpose on some cameras but most modern cameras are pretty good at using flash exposure reduction. NB - this is a different setting than regular exposure compensation and is set using a different dial/menu on your camera.

- Many cameras also have some form of slow shutter sync although they call it different names (slow sync, slow sync flash, etc). In this case, the camera will base the exposure on the ambient light and the flash will fire at very low power to fill in the darker areas. With modern TTL systems this is pretty foolproof. You will generally be using a slower shutter speed here so watch for movement (you or the subject). You can achieve this indirectly (for those cameras with no slow-sync setting) by setting the shutter speed below the flash minimum sync speed and the TTL system will reduce the flash power accordingly therefore relying more on ambient light.

- You can go into manual mode and do it all yourself. Set the shutter speed and aperture you want then turn on the flash but reduce the flash power significantly. There are differing degrees of manual mode however. If you just set the SS and aperture yourself because your camera is on "M" mode, the flash is still being controlled by the camera's computer and you aren't really doing anything different than I described under slow shutter sync. Full manual would require taking the flash off auto (i.e. turn off TTL) and setting it's power yourself. The problem with this technique is that the only real way to get the right result is by trial and error with regard to how much to reduce the flash power?

The best way to figure out how to do it effectively with your camera is try it before you get in the field. Put something in partial light/shade and try different settings. If your house is too bright, try using a flashlight to create high contrast scenes (light and shadows) and try to use fill flash to even them out.


All of that aside, my suggestions are just a semantic discussion of fill flash. If you like your ratsnake shot as it is (it is very nice!), then you have achieved your goal!


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 Post subject: Re: Fill flash for daytime shooting
PostPosted: February 7th, 2016, 12:08 pm 
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Joined: November 6th, 2010, 9:59 am
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Location: Athens, GA (Columbia, MO)
Hey Daniel, could you provide us the settings (shutter speed, aperture, ISO (and flash setting if you remember it)) for the image? I am reading the photo differently than Chris is. It seems to me the sun is the primary light source, coming from above and to the left, casting a shadow on the right hand side of the image. It looks like the flash had brightened up the shadowed area except for the darkest spot between the two coils, where the front coil is blocking the flash (so that area is receiving neither ambient light or flash). My guess would be that if the flash was turned off, but the other settings remained the same, the image would look the same except for the shadowed area would be much darker, and lack detail (much like the darkest area between the coils). You are never going to completely get rid of the shadow in this situation, unless you overpower the sun with your flash, but the goal of fill flash it to bring detail out of those areas.


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 Post subject: Re: Fill flash for daytime shooting
PostPosted: February 7th, 2016, 4:36 pm 
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Joined: February 18th, 2015, 11:11 am
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Location: Deerfield Beach, Florida
The photo data should be visible below the photo when you view it in Flickr. It says there that the flash did not fire, but it did.....I was using an external flash positioned above and to the right of the snake (off camera). Sun is coming from above left. I don't remember the flash setting, but I feel like I had to have it pretty high power for it to do anything to the harsh shadows from the Sun. Something like 1/2 power.


Here is an almost identical shot I took with zero flash.

Image


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 Post subject: Re: Fill flash for daytime shooting
PostPosted: February 8th, 2016, 10:37 am 

Joined: June 7th, 2010, 5:46 am
Posts: 612
Location: Albuquerque, NM
I tend to agree with Chris that this is really a full flash shot, not a fill flash shot. I see from the exif that you are using Nikon. I'm also a Nikon user and one of the best features of the Nikon system is how easy their flash system is to use. Here is exactly how I would have handled the rat snake if I wanted to keep the effect of the natural light, but use flash to provide some fill. I would shoot with the camera in manual exposure mode. I would either use the camera's matrix meter or I would spot meter a sunlit part of the snake and set the exposure accordingly. (Honestly the matrix metering on Nikon's is so good I rarely use my spot meter). I'd then use flash exposure compensation, (press the button with the flash symbol located on the left side of the camera, the same button you use to pop up the built in flash), while turning the command dial. I generally set about -2 stops, but you'll want to experiment to see how much fill works for you. It's that easy! You do need to make sure you've got the camera set to synch flash at slower shutter speeds. Its in the menus on the back of the camera. The camera defaults to never using a speed slower than 1/60 with flash, but you can and should change that to 30 seconds or whatever the longest exposure you ever think you might combine with flash is. I forget what the menu item is called. It might be flash shutter speed, or flash synch. I set mine years ago and haven't returned to that menu item since.


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 Post subject: Re: Fill flash for daytime shooting
PostPosted: February 8th, 2016, 2:25 pm 
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When looking at that second shot, I see that it was good use of fill flash.....there is just a bit much for my liking. Dial the flash down a stop or two and that will help I think.


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 Post subject: Re: Fill flash for daytime shooting
PostPosted: February 8th, 2016, 2:32 pm 
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Joined: February 18th, 2015, 11:11 am
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Location: Deerfield Beach, Florida
I agree. For me, the flash on the first photo is making it look almost like it was shot in a studio in staged habitat. I don't like that. I want my shots to look like they are in the field because they are! I was able to get some other great shots of the snake (most cooperative wild snake ever) without flash, but that particular angle required it because the side of the head facing the camera was in dark shadow from the Sun.

Thanks for all of the advice, I really appreciate it! I just recently upgraded to the Nikon D7100 from my old D70. The number of features has quadrupled I think, so it's a bit of a learning curve :)


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 Post subject: Re: Fill flash for daytime shooting
PostPosted: April 8th, 2016, 6:51 pm 
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Joined: October 12th, 2011, 2:03 pm
Posts: 91
Location: Antelope Valley, CA
A great way to blend harsh light, with shadows, is to use a diffuser panel. This will lessen the effects of the harsh light, which will make it easier to take a photo with more balanced lighting. The addition of fill flash can really make the image stand out. Finding the right balance of lighting, is both a personal preference, and some artistic creativity. Some ideas for ya.



http://pronaturephotographer.com/2013/0 ... -diffuser/


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