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HOW TO… Use Fill-In Flash

If you have pictures where the foreground is too dark while the background seems to be correctly exposed, then using fill-in flash may be a technique worth learning about.

Using fill-in flash, as the name implies, is to use flash to fill-in light where it is deficient. This is usually the situation when you are in the shadows and shooting through objects in the foreground that are acting as a frame.

Duck Pond at Edwards Garden: 1/180 sec., F2.8 and ISO 50, -0.7EV with fill-in flash.

In the photo above, I was standing in a shaded spot and using the foliage as a frame. Without fill-in flash to illuminate the foreground, the latter would be quite dark. Shutter speed: 1/180 sec., Aperture: F2.8, ISO 50 with fill-in flash. (Exposure compensation was -0.7EV but that was because I forgot to reset it for a previous picture.)

Instead of the leaves, imagine a person stood in the foreground. Unless you wanted to silhouette the person (this can be quite effective in producing a dramatic picture), fill-in flash would throw in just enough light to illuminate the face.

A most pleasant effect can sometimes be achieved by photographing a person against the sun (or another strong light source). The light behind his or her head creates a halo around the edge of the hair. The face would be quite underexposed but for fill-in flash. Shooting against the sun also avoids your subject squinting in the sun.

To use fill-in flash, set your digital camera so that it is forced to fire the flash. Do not confuse with Night Shot scene mode which is similar but generally used at nightime for night portraits. In this case the flash fires to illuminate the foreground, while the shutter remains open a while longer to expose the background. You need to keep the camera steady until after the flash has fired and the shutter has closed.

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