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example of outdoor fill flash, practice for outdoor wedding, please help

Deb Siebrands , Jun 12, 2008; 05:52 p.m.

I have an outdoor wedding and I am trying to practice in full sunlight with fill flash. I shot this in full sun ISO 100 1/180 f13. There is still some shadow under the eyes, but is this to be expected? How could I have done this better? Any help would be great as the wedding is soon. Thanks.



Dan Ferrel , Jun 12, 2008; 06:21 p.m.

You may be overanalyzing this shot too much. You have a closeup here of a little one and your practicing for shots that wont be close ups (mostly) and wont be of little ones. Step back a bit and see if you can get a few people to help you out and model for you. You will need to analyse those shots more than this one.

Try Shutter priority or Program modes with a TTL flash. Keep it under 1/200th. If you need to, tell your flash to overexpose just a tad.


Nadine Ohara - SF Bay Area/CA , Jun 12, 2008; 07:00 p.m.

Many people think that fill flash will eliminate shadows and it won't. It will just lighten them. So if the sun is creating shadows on a subject's face, if you don't move the subject to make the shadows less disturbing, that is how they will appear in the final image, just lighter. To improve on your shot, move the subject so that the shadows are not as disturbing. This might be hard in the middle of the day when the sun is basically overhead. That's why you have those 'raccoon eye' shadows. On adults (not babies), usually the tip of the nose is in sun and eyes are shadowed. If you can't move people and have to shoot in this situation, ask the subjects to tip their heads down a little, or turn the face so that you don't have the Rudolph the Reindeer effect--nose lit up and the rest of the face in shadow.

As for exposure, do a lot of testing to see what kind of compensation will work best. You can do some searches as well. A while ago, I ran a fill flash assignment in the Wedding Forum, which you can look up. There is also this.


Sprite Stress , Jun 12, 2008; 07:30 p.m.

A reflector, such as those made by photoflex, is another way to fill in shadows while shooting in sunlight. In the photo above a reflector placed diagonally, from camera center to camera right, just out of the frame, would have filled in the under eye shadows and decreased the shadow on the left side of your subject's face.

Another approach to making this kind of shot is to use manual flash with shutter priority to establish the exposure settings. Use your camera's spot metering to measure and establish an optimal aperture for the shot. Then take a series of shots using manual flash at 1/4, 1/2 and then full power, and then check the LCD histogram and use visual verification to see which level provided the amount of fill you like most. With some practice, you will begin to be able to estimate the right amount of manual flash to use for this kind of shot in sunlight. Manual flash provides predictable results, and results where you know what the input value was that produced the result.

Another approach that some photographers use for staged shots in sunlight, is an overhead scrim. Westcott, Photoflex, and others make 77 in. square frames and translucent fabric to stretch on them. The translucent frame can be attached to two light stands and suspended overhead in midday sun. The translucent panel diffuses the sunlight. The overhead panel is above and outside the frame, and completely invisible in the photo, but the subject's faces are evenly illuminated by the diffused light coming through the scrim.

Steve Levine , Jun 12, 2008; 07:49 p.m.

Turn their backs towards the sun, and light the faces with fill flash.

Deb Siebrands , Jun 12, 2008; 08:30 p.m.

thanks everybody I will give it another try or maybe two.

Russ Britt , Jun 12, 2008; 11:17 p.m.

Any time you want to balance flash with ambient light its very simple. Let you flash determine the f-stop. let the ambient light determine the shutter speed. You can vary these formula for different looks, by just raising or lowering shutterspeeds. Of course you need a camera that will allow flash sync. at any shutter speed. Other wise you will be fighting your equipment....Hasselblads are perfect for this, without ttl. Every thing on manual. You just need an ambient/flash meter.

Craig Supplee , Jun 12, 2008; 11:46 p.m.

All the above advise is excellent, and I keep learning as I read these posts.

One other thing to keep in mind is that the human eye reacts extremely fast to light changes, and when you are looking at a shot like this, you probably won't see the large degree of contrast. The camera however (actually film or the sensor) cannot handle these extremes and records exactly what the light values are, whether dark or blown out. I know using a digital camera has saved a lot of otherwise garbage can shots for me.

Michael Christensen , Jun 13, 2008; 03:40 a.m.

Well fill flash alone is not going to fix the shadows in the eyes. Survey you wedding location and find a shaded outdoor spot with nice backgrounds. This may mean you have to check the light outside the subject location for the time of day you are shooting. Be careful using trees for shade .. leaf shadows are not what you want. Every pro wedding photographer seems to look for even shaded light and supplement it with flash on a camera bracket or hand held about 12 or more inches about the lens-to-subject axis, or use natural light with a silver reflector (great if you have an assistant).

You will want to avoid "full-sunlight" as much as possible as it causes white gowns to reflect too much light ..(you'll lose all that nice lace patterns which make the dress interesting) .. again you want soft, even light. If you are using digital .. this warning becomes doubly important as digital does worse in such conditions (set your digital camera to reveal to you the blown-out highlights) .. use your judgement and experience to determine if you shot is a keeper or a re-do-it.

Another thing about harsh light is that it causes your wedding party to squint and otherwise become uncomfortable .. that translates into expressions that are contrary to memories of a happy event.

You want to use your flash outdoors for the majority of your exposures as you will need that light to make the photos pop against the background. Contrasty light is your biggest obstacle. Soft light is what you desire.

A simple Custom Bracket with flash flip bracket and camera flash cord makes this job easier as you can easily flip from portrait to landscape quickly and go with the movement of the wedding party. The reflector route is worthy of consideration for posed shots .. but most weddings require a lot of photographer movement to get the right angles and compositions. I would not use the built-in/on-camera or pop-up flash for a wedding or event .. too small, not enough muscle and it puts that flash highlight in the pupil of your subject (see your photo above) .. and tends to give red eye which you need to fix ..

Nathan Stiles , Jun 13, 2008; 09:09 a.m.

I've been doing a lot of this recently, and I'm quite pleased w/ my results-- I guess I should upload to photo.net soon (too lazy). I find a lot of misconceptions about how this should work.

First, I never shoot in Shutter-priority. I generally shoot in Av and adjust the power of my flash to what I want-- that's important. Don't think that full, half, whatever power setting is the right one. Each situation has a different feel. If I need to drag the shutter (my camera doesn't like slower than 60 in Av) I go to manual mode.

Second, the time of day is more important than your fill flash-- as Nadine pointed out, you were shooting in a very (bad?) difficult time of day. If you aren't shooting during the first (or last) 2 or 3 hours of day, you need to compensate w/....

Location! It's more important than fill flash (not to repeat Michael). I only shoot in open areas when the sun is at or below the tree/building lines. The shadows are too harsh otherwise. Shoot in the shade (and if possible, have a shaded area for the background to not blow it out.

Sprite also mentioned a reflector, which I also take w/ me. If I can get a good overhang, I normally don't use it. In your picture, it's almost requried. HOWEVER, you can actually generate extra heat from a gold, zebra, or silver reflector that is noticable. I'd be wary of using it on a baby. A white bounce, also may cause the subject to squint.

Some notes...

Steve, who always has good info, mentioned back lighting the subjects. It's important to note that a subject w/ fair hair may get an undesired (or desired?) halo effect from the bright sun. I also like to put the sun at about the 2 o'clock position to get some wrap around modeling when I do this. I like it better w/ a powerful flash that will help balance the strong hair light (such as a portable strobe).

Craig's reminder about the eys is good too-- I blew a shot of my friends Porsche b/ c I simply forgot this. In a car garage I parked (he parked... I've yet to drive) it too close to the "window". It blew out my highlights. Had I kept it in the shadow, the soft light that continued through the window would have gave me the modeling I wanted. Even though it looked too flat to my eyes, the camera would have noted the difference w/ more contrast.

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