How/When to use a speedlight as fill flash?

SquarePeg

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I bought a speedlight a while ago but never really used it other than some smoke shots that I fooled around with. While the manual tells me how to change the settings, there really is nothing in it that tells me how to determine what settings to use. I have a family trip coming up next week and I'm looking for a crash course in how/why/when on using the speedlight as fill flash. Many of the photo ops for this trip will be in full daylight and I'd like to avoid the shadowed faces issue. These will all be pretty casual shots, just looking for general info to get me started. Any suggestions/links/websites? It's a Neewer 750II and I'm using a Nikon 7100.

I did pick up a copy of Light Science & Magic but after glancing through, it seems more geared toward studio lighting...

TIA for any suggestions.
 

tirediron

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Really almost any time you have the key light (Out of doors that's usually the sun) to the side or behind the subject, or when an object (hat brim) is causing an un-natural shadow. The balanced fill flash of the actual Nikon units works very well; you really can just use the speedlight for every shot, but I can't say for sure if the Neewer will be quite as accurate. As a rule of thumb, I would say, consider it when ever you, as the photographer are looking toward the sun in your composition. What will make this even better is a TTL extension cord such as the Nikon SC-29 (or Yongnuo/Neewer equiv) which will allow you to get the speedlight out of the hot shoe and bring the light in from an off-lens axis angle avoiding that 'flash in the face' look.
 
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SquarePeg

SquarePeg

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Where can I find some info/instruction on what settings to use?
 

jaomul

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If it is a ttl flash, expose for the background and your flash will do the rest as long as your shutter speed is 1/250 sec or slower. This is a very rough or simple explanation and it can be made more complicated, but you should get nice results at these settings for a start
 

tirediron

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Flash & camera manuals. There are two primary options: Flash in TTL, in which case you need do nothing other than aim the flash, or flash in manual, in which case you need to set the correct power level for the flash and/or aperture on the camera. I prefer manual flash, and determining settings is as simple as using the speedlight's guide number to determine exposure.
 

Braineack

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Really almost any time you have the key light (Out of doors that's usually the sun) to the side or behind the subject, or when an object (hat brim) is causing an un-natural shadow. The balanced fill flash of the actual Nikon units works very well; you really can just use the speedlight for every shot, but I can't say for sure if the Neewer will be quite as accurate. As a rule of thumb, I would say, consider it when ever you, as the photographer are looking toward the sun in your composition. What will make this even better is a TTL extension cord such as the Nikon SC-29 (or Yongnuo/Neewer equiv) which will allow you to get the speedlight out of the hot shoe and bring the light in from an off-lens axis angle avoiding that 'flash in the face' look.

on-axis fill light wont kill you.

these are a combo of pop-up flash fills and speedlight:


DSC_0306-6 by The Braineack, on Flickr


DSC_7777-1 by The Braineack, on Flickr


Mike and Brian
by The Braineack, on Flickr


Loralee
by The Braineack, on Flickr


The Motes by The Braineack, on Flickr
 

soufiej

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Tirediron has the answers you need.

As to when to use your flash, that should be fairly obvious just by looking at the scene. Just think what the term "fill flash" implies. If you need to fill in dark shadows on a face or object, you need flash power. Understanding that light falls off in intensity with distance is one consideration you must learn.

You can look at the histogram before taking the shot. If you have everything bunched up to the left side of the graph and very little on the right, you will have a lot of dark shadow content to work with in processing. That would suggest some supplemental light wouldn't be a bad idea.

What processing software do you use? Most of the higher grade processors allow a good deal of exposure adjustment after the fact. Ideally, you can do this work either globally or discretely to only specific areas of the image. That relieves a lot of the anxiety of getting the shot "right" on location.

And, while it's best to get the shot as "right" as possible in the camera, there is no one single correct exposure for any shot. Nothing is set in stone with a digital image until you say it is. If the flash setting totally confuses you, learn how to adjust for the lowest amount of supplemental light possible and do the rest in post production.

Most likely though your concerns can be eased by a few practice shots before you leave home. Experiment, with a digital camera nothing you do will cost you a cent to delete. Even if you're simply snapping practice shots of a ball on a post, you can get the idea of how to work your flash in no time.
 

Braineack

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all fill is good -- but some fill is gooder than others.
 

Derrel

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I don't subscribe to the idea that fill light should come in from off-axis at all. In fact, the exact opposite is my belief: that fill light should be as close to the lens axis as is possible, so it evenly fills in the shadows, and also so it has the greatest chance of striking both eyeballs on a human or animal subject, to create "eye sparkle". Moving the flash off the camera lens axis makes it not fill light, as much as a secondary lighting source.

Fill-flash in bright daylight needs to be below the ambient light exposure level, which means the flash needs to be two to 2.7 EV less than the "daylight" part of the exposure. Nikon offers TTL-BL for balanced lighting, which strives to keep the flash portion of the exposure "less than" it might otherwise be; this is especially useful in lower light levels, such as when using flash as fill light against the setting or rising sun, something OFTEN encountered on fishing or tour boats early and late in the day, on sunrise or sunset beach settings, and so on. Not sure what Neewer offers.

Keep in mind there is camera body exposure compensation, and also flash-unit exposure compensation; these two are different controls, and you always want to make sure which one you wish to use to get the right effect for each situation. But as a general rule, fill flash ought to be less than the ambient light's brightness! You can shoot flash at the top normal flash synch speed of 1/200 or 1/250---or--- you can use FP Sync (Canon calls that High-Speed Sync or HSS) at faster speeds like 1/500 to 1/8000, as long as your camera and flash can actually do FP Sync; use the flash exposure compensation control to regulate how "flashy" you want the fill light to appear.

Do some tests with your own gear, see how things work out. Think Minus 1.3 EV to Minus 2.7 EV as a reasonable range for the flash compensation level.
 

tirediron

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I don't subscribe to the idea that fill light should come in from off-axis at all. In fact, the exact opposite is my belief: that fill light should be as close to the lens axis as is possible, so it evenly fills in the shadows, and also so it has the greatest chance of striking both eyeballs on a human or animal subject, to create "eye sparkle". Moving the flash off the camera lens axis makes it not fill light, as much as a secondary lighting source.
Agreed! My experience is that a TTL cord and the human arm move it just enough to generally avoid a 'flashed' look, but not so much as to produce odd looking shadows or eliminate the catchlight. Not so much off-axis as just off-camera (and then only by a little).
 

TCampbell

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One comment I haven't seen in the response (unless I missed it) is the flash exposure compensation (FEC).

When I shoot with flash in the daytime (and if it's mid-day sun and I'm taking portraits outside... then I AM using the flash) is that I do still want to see shadows... I just don't want them to be dark shadows. That means I dial back the power on the flash.

If you adjust the flash to use an FEC of -1 then that means you want the flash to fire at 1/2 of the power (each "stop" of FEC either halves or doubles the power depending on which direction you go). Since the "Sun" is at full power but the "flash" is at half power, it means the Sun is twice as powerful as your flash (or a ratio of 1:2 or roughly 33% flash and 66% sun.) This means the Sun will still provide shadows... just not strong dark shadows.

This is also important if you shoot subjects in the shade (say ... under the shade of a tree) but the background shows areas which are not in shadow. You need to bring up the exposure on your subjects otherwise the background will seem really bright and over-exposed and if you dial back the exposure to deal with the background then the foreground subjects will be much too dark.)

Setting the FEC to -1 is only my starting point... I might go to -1.3... maybe I'm just at -2/3rds, etc... but usually somewhere around there.
 
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SquarePeg

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Thanks All for the info and advice. Going to try to get in some test shots later today!
 

Vtec44

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I use fill flash whenever I want to balance the brightness of my subject(s) and the brightness of the ambient light. :D
 

astroNikon

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FYI, of the few outside stuff I've done I'm moving to using a StroboFlip to get the flash off the camera, and allows portrait/landscape flipping. It's really inexpensive too, though I have yet to use it ==> 310900
 

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