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Can you fix too much fill flash in photoshop/lightroom?

Tina & Cliff T , Jul 02, 2009; 06:06 a.m.

I've been working with fill flash. The sun here is insane until 8 o'clock at night, and I always had a problem with the backgrounds being really washed out, but the people would look fine.

The last ones I did, I tried using more fill flash so the backgrounds would come out. Hoping I could get the whole picture to look properly exposed, but no. Didn't turn out.

Is there a way I can even this out through photoshop/lightroom?

AND...I noticed I had a real hard time getting the exposure to be right. The sunlight is really harsh, and I couldn't seem to find a happy medium. It was either not enough flash, leaving them to dark, or too much, and well it looks like the photo below. Any tips on how to compete with the sun?




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Tina & Cliff T , Jul 02, 2009; 06:16 a.m.

I think we just picked the worst time ever. It was hot & the sun was bright, even though it was already 5:30pm.
This is another one I wanted to try to fix the shine & the color from the flash. (I might be, being to picky, but I tend to do that).

Lex Jenkins , Jul 02, 2009; 06:51 a.m.

The photo on the left can be tweaked to bring up the couple without also brightening the background, no problem there.

The photo on the right looks fine, don't worry about it. But I'll admit to actually liking some obvious direct flash photos. I use it a lot, even when I could use subtle fill flash. I also have a weakness for the snapshot aesthetic. I like the spontaneity. So my advice may be suspect. But I wouldn't change it. Besides, if you brighten the background the shadows cast behind the couple will show more clearly. Just leave it as-is, it's fine.

Rainer T , Jul 02, 2009; 06:59 a.m.

-- "The last ones I did, I tried using more fill flash so the backgrounds would come out. Hoping I could get the whole picture to look properly exposed, but no. Didn't turn out."

That will not work ... you set the flash to give the proper amount of light at one certain distance. Behind this distance things will be darker, before that distance they will be brighter (that unavoidable). If the background is brighter than your subject, you can set the exposure for the background, fill with fillflash so that the subject is ok too. But if the background is already darker than the suibject, fillflash will not help because it will make the subject brighter as well (and since the subject is nearer, the effect in it will be stronger).

Because you tried to bring up the background, you also raised the amount of light for the foreground (which you now find as unwanted). The worst that can happen, is you blow the highlights ... that can become unrecoverable quite quick.

My personal setup in situations like that is ... shoot raw ... use -1/3 to -2/3 EC ... use -1FEC to -1-1/3 FEC ... all those images will need some tuning in the rawconversion, but usually none of them will have blown highlights.

Luis G , Jul 02, 2009; 07:54 a.m.

You need to learn how to control the light ratio between ambient and flash. This covers it well. Read parts I and specially in your case, II.


tobey bilek , Jul 02, 2009; 08:06 a.m.

I would leave #2 alone. But if you want to play, make two new layers. On the first new one make a selection of the subject and save it. Then go to layer, layer mask, reveal selection and all the subject is masked. Make your lightness correction with levels or curves.

Go the top new layer. Recall the saved selection, invert it, make the reveal mask as in above. Then clip the mask to just that layer. The last two might actually be one a single step, layer-clipping mask. This keeps the adjust with levels or curves confined to that layer. Sorry I don`t remember exactly as I seldom do it & PS is on another computer.

You will probably want to feather the edge of the selection one or two pixels AFTER you save it. And again after you invert the recalled selection. Otherwise it can look like a pasteup.

There might be a good RGB channel from which to make the mask. If not, use the magic wand or the new selection nested with it starting in CS3.

Jim Swenson , Jul 02, 2009; 09:01 a.m.

You could fix it when you take the shot by using - FE and +EV.

Frank Dzambic , Jul 02, 2009; 09:12 a.m.

Honestly in my opinion the problem with the 2nd pic isn't even that there's too much flash (which as you can see from the comments already given is a matter of personal taste) so much as that the flash is incredibly harsh. You can see that in the long dark shadows cast by the couple on the grass. I played around with the image a bit in Photoshop to balance out the brightness of the couple with the background but it still didn't look right because of the harsh shadows being cast. So the photo would actually take a fair amount of work to fix AND look natural as it's not simply a problem of the couple appearing too bright. Those shadows have to be fixed which means a lot of clone stamping or other techniques in addition to evening out the brightness and fixing the blown out whites of the guys shirt. Or another way to put it is that it will take a lot of work to make the picture look natural, where you don't have soft even light with harsh shadows and blown out highlights. To even out the brightness is relatively simple, to make the final product appear natural to your subconscious eye isn't.

To keep things simple, if you're using Photoshop and want to try fixing either image, Shadow/Highlight would probably take you a long way without resorting to masks and layers and cloning.

The way you'd fix the shadows is by shooting the flash through an umbrella, or by using an off camera flash and bouncing it off of something large and white (like foamcore) to soften up the light and therefore the shadows as well. Seeing as you've posted in the beginner forum you probably don't have umbrellas and off camera flashes, but it's an fyi anyway.

Jack Aldridge , Jul 02, 2009; 09:51 a.m.

Take a look at www.planetneil.com for some great articles about this very subject.
You can make some corrections in Adobe Camera Raw with the adjustment brush, but anything other than subtle changes will look strange...

Arie Vandervelden , Jul 02, 2009; 02:23 p.m.

My experience with Canon gear.

Suppose you have the camera set up on evaluative metering, flash turned on. You point the camera at the scene in photo #1. What happens is that the camera sees the dark shapes in the foreground as part of the scene and then sets exposure too high, causing the background to blow out.

One way around is is to point the camera at the background, put it in M, dial in exposure, then have your subjects step into the frame, then shoot. You can then control the amount of fill flash with FEC. Thus, your exposure (fstop, shutterspeed, iso) controls background exposure and your flash (FEC, or if you're a flash guru, manual flash power control) lights up the foreground.

In photo #2, evaluative metering will see the white shirt and as a result the exposure will be less. Wedding photographers who shoot people in black tuxes and white dresses know about the pitfalls and perils of evaluative metering, and will often put the camera in M mode. I believe Nikon has smarter and more forgiving metering algorithms.

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