HELP - Using Fill Flash in Harsh Sunlight

mwild

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Hey folks,

I haven't been on the forum for a while but I'm back, and with a question!

I'm fairly new to my speedlite and I'm really enjoying it, however I can't seem to master the fill flash in harsh/bright afternoon sunlight. I keep blowing out the images, they're way over exposed. I kept the flash at it's lowest number (1/32 I think?) and ISO was at 100. I tend to shoot in aperture priority, which is maybe the problem, but I hate fiddling with the settings when I'm in manual, I feel like it takes too much time as it's not quite 2nd nature to me yet.

Question: What would be the best setting to shoot in these conditions using fill flash?

Below is a photo I took using the fill flash, but I had to do too much post processing to bring down the exposure and fill in the light a little. I don't like relying so much on photoshop if I'm able to get it right through the camera.



NOVA 021 by ♠GollyWild, on Flickr
 

Tony S

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Your flash did nothing for this image, the light and settings on your camera were just too much for your flash to help at all.

Set your exposure for the background, then set your flash manually to fill your subjects. After you practice a bit you will get pretty good at estimating what manual power it would take to match things up. For this shot it almost looks like the flash did nothing for your exposure, the shot looks exposed for the subjects in the shadow area which is why the background is all blown out. You will not get the flash to sync up at a shutter speed of 1/2000 anyways, and the flash is not going to have enough power even in HSS to make up for that much light. Shooting at f1.8 didn't help you any either, lets in too much light and has too narrow of a DOF, which in this image looks like sharpest focus is on the tree and grass just behind the family.
 

Juga

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Your flash did nothing for this image, the light and settings on your camera were just too much for your flash to help at all.

Set your exposure for the background, then set your flash manually to fill your subjects. After you practice a bit you will get pretty good at estimating what manual power it would take to match things up. For this shot it almost looks like the flash did nothing for your exposure, the shot looks exposed for the subjects in the shadow area which is why the background is all blown out. You will not get the flash to sync up at a shutter speed of 1/2000 anyways, and the flash is not going to have enough power even in HSS to make up for that much light. Shooting at f1.8 didn't help you any either, lets in too much light and has too narrow of a DOF, which in this image looks like sharpest focus is on the tree and grass just behind the family.

Shutter speed controls the lighting for the background and your aperture for your subject to put it in the simplest terms I know. Shooting on Av is a good way to go and keep the flash in ETTL until you learn the flash better in manual
 
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mwild

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Your flash did nothing for this image, the light and settings on your camera were just too much for your flash to help at all.

Set your exposure for the background, then set your flash manually to fill your subjects. After you practice a bit you will get pretty good at estimating what manual power it would take to match things up. For this shot it almost looks like the flash did nothing for your exposure, the shot looks exposed for the subjects in the shadow area which is why the background is all blown out. You will not get the flash to sync up at a shutter speed of 1/2000 anyways, and the flash is not going to have enough power even in HSS to make up for that much light. Shooting at f1.8 didn't help you any either, lets in too much light and has too narrow of a DOF, which in this image looks like sharpest focus is on the tree and grass just behind the family.

Thanks... very good advice. I think my problem is, I feel the pressure of having to be quick because the subjects are posing and smiling and I don't want them to feel anymore awkward than they need to. I need to focus more on technicalities. I did notice later in the shoot (after chilling out a bit) that a wider aperture helped.
 
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mwild

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ETTL should pick up on my settings and shoot accordingly?
 

Juga

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ETTL should pick up on my settings and shoot accordingly?

It should compensate to a certain degree. Sometimes you need to adjust the output given different lighting situations and as stated before HSS isn't really going to be your option in some cases because the power output of the flash won't be enough in order to match the shutter speed. Shooting wide open for that type of shot isn't ideal especially during bright sun light. You should have shot with a small aperture like f/4.
 

tirediron

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Rule #1: The hot shoe on your camera is really only there a support system for an off-camera flash trigger.

Rule #2: Manual flash is MUCH better, much easier and much more reliable than TTL.

Get yourself a couple of flash triggers, a light stand and a decent speedlight softbox. Spend some time on the strobist blog and you'll see the quality of your work go up about 200% over a weekend.
 
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mwild

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ETTL should pick up on my settings and shoot accordingly?

It should compensate to a certain degree. Sometimes you need to adjust the output given different lighting situations and as stated before HSS isn't really going to be your option in some cases because the power output of the flash won't be enough in order to match the shutter speed. Shooting wide open for that type of shot isn't ideal especially during bright sun light. You should have shot with a small aperture like f/4.

Thanks! :D
 
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mwild

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Rule #1: The hot shoe on your camera is really only there a support system for an off-camera flash trigger.

Rule #2: Manual flash is MUCH better, much easier and much more reliable than TTL.

Get yourself a couple of flash triggers, a light stand and a decent speedlight softbox. Spend some time on the strobist blog and you'll see the quality of your work go up about 200% over a weekend.

Thanks, I will look into that once my budget can allow me to!
 

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Relative power levels:
Shutter speed: affects ambient light, but not flash (as long as you are slower than your flash sync speed, usually around 1/150-1/200). 1/2 the speed makes ambient twice as dark.
Aperture: affects both flash and ambient exposure. Half the size makes flash and ambient twice as dark.
ISO: affects both flash and ambient exposure. Half the ISO makes flash and ambient twice as dark.
The power level on your flash: affects only flash exposure, not ambient. half the power makes flash twice as dark.
The distance of the flash from your subject: affects flash exposure, not ambient. The flash unit being 40% further away makes flash twice as dark (and also more harsh).
Changing the "zoom" on your flash (narrows the beam): affects flash exposure, not ambient. Half the mm zoom makes flash approximately twice as dark. Don't zoom further than the lens' FL.
Bouncing the flash off of something like a wall or ceiling: affects flash but not ambient. If you trace a line from your flash, off the boucne point to the subject, and it is 40% longer than a straight line would be, then bounce flash will be about twice as dark as direct flash (and much softer too, and colored if the wall/ceiling is not white)

Softness of the light:
Bounced light is much softer than direct light
Light through or reflected off of an umbrella or other diffuser is much softer than direct light.
Closer light is softer than further light.
Reflectors are about as soft as an umbrella would be of equal size and distance

Direction:
generally, fill light should come from the direction where the darkest shadows are oriented in your subject. If your subjects are directly backlit by a sun right behind them, then the fill flash should be right where you are (on camera, bounced off a ceiling right above you, or in an umbrella, etc. right above you). If your subjects are side lit, then your fill should be to some degree on the opposing side. This could mean that it is on your camera but turned to bounce off a side wall, or on a light stand, held by an assistant, or even just held at arm's length to one side by you (possibly with an umbrella attached!)
 

hirejn

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This is too much for a forum post. It looks like you still haven't mastered exposure. Flash is something you add to a good exposure toolkit. If you don't understand exposure you'll just be wrestling with it. Flash is always two exposures: one for ambient and one for flash, controlled individually. Once you grasp this in practice, flash becomes easier.

In your shot, you have a bright background and shaded foreground, and the dynamic range of the scene is probably more than the camera can capture. Thus, to bring the background in, you bring the exposure down. That leaves the foreground too dark. To balance it, you use fill flash to fill in the foreground. This is the principle of fill flash but there are many other ways to use flash. You're simply adding light to balance the exposure. How you do that is up to you but it takes understanding exposure and flash.
 
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mwild

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Thanks for all your great advice everyone, it's much appreciated.
 

Glennmather

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Hi,
The simple solution is to switch to Tv not Av and then set your Speedlite to high speed sync.

In this situation the camera will expose pretty good for the overall background and the flash will brighten the shadow areas for you. Try this and you will see an improvement straight away.
If you stick to Av the camera will automatically limit the highest shutter speed to just 1/200th sec and therefore allow far to much light in and over-expose your shot.

Cheers, Glenn
Wedding Photographer Nottingham - SIMPLY STUNNING!!
 

curtyoungblood

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Thanks... very good advice. I think my problem is, I feel the pressure of having to be quick because the subjects are posing and smiling and I don't want them to feel anymore awkward than they need to. I need to focus more on technicalities. I did notice later in the shoot (after chilling out a bit) that a wider aperture helped.

Keep in mind, that if you're exposure isn't right, then it doesn't matter how good they are at posing because the photo isn't going to work. The pressure you're feeling is also REALLY easy to fix. Just tell your subjects, "hey, I've got to get my settings right real quick, so these don't count." It also helps to relax people, gives you a chance to chat with them, and you have time to get it right. There are, of course, limits to how long you have to fiddle with stuff though. Additionally, it isn't uncommon for a subject to be most relaxed, and one of these shots to actually be the best.
 

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