I want to explain a bit more about how I use fill-flash, by using a specific example - and compare the results with and without fill-flash.
The image above is of clients of mine (Erik & Carla) whose engagement shoot took place in Vegas earlier this year. This part of the shoot took place outside The Venetian. I bounced the flash into that open ceiling of the Venetian, and half behind me into the walls. And anyone who has been there, knows how large a space it is … but enough light bounces back from the walls and ceiling to lift the shadows and reduce the contrast.
The image as shown above, had some post-processing done to it.
Specifically, I ran the Prettyizer and Rusty Cage actions by the Boutwells.
(Highly recommended, btw)
But here on the left is the image as it comes out of Canon’s DPP (which follows the camera settings for image quality), with only a minor WB correction done to it, and exposure pulled down -0.3 stops in raw processing.
On the rightis an image taken shortly after where I tripped the shutter before the flash had enough time to recycle. ie, no flash. Exposure at 0EV, and the same WB correction as the left-hand image.
And just to show what the flash does to the detail in the faces.
(And yes, they did give me permission to use the image here.)
For me, the difference is huge. The left hand image is flattering, there is detail, but the mood is retained. And it certainly does NOT look like flash.
And NO, I did not modify the flash. A flash modifier would’ve thrown too much light forward and made it look like flash was used. Which quite often is ugly. (If only I could convince the world that using a flash modifier is more often a bad idea than a good one.)
Re my specific settings … the shutter speed was 1/250th – maximum flash sync speed for this camera.
And this setting was chosen deliberately. There is something very sweet happening at max flash sync speed - and too many photographers aren’t aware of it. I touch on some of it in this blog posting - but if it doesn’t quite make sense why, let me elaborate:
Let’s say your background that is brightly light is at 1/60th @ f11 .. and you’re trying to push enough light from your strobe to light your subject which is in ‘shade’. Now your strobe would have a really hard time trying to push out f11 if you’re bouncing it off the ceiling or wall in a large room.
BUT .. that same exposure setting, also translates to ..
1/125th @ f8 … and now your flash has a slightly better chance.
1/250th @ f5.6 … and now we’re getting into the realm of bounceable flash.
We could extend this to 1/500th @ f4 … but we’d have to go into high-speed sync mode. And as soon as you do that, you lose more than half your flash’s range.
You can double check this by watching what your strobe’s range indicator does as soon as you go 1/3rd stop over your max sync speed. For this, you would need to take your flash out of bounce position.
(5D users have a slightly different experience here wrt when high-speed flash sync kicks in.)
btw … I am explaining this as if your camera has a max sync speed of 1/250th. Of course it differs for different cameras, but the same thought process remains.
So we’re looking at 1/250th (or whatever your max flash sync speed is), offering us the widest possible aperture, at the most range / output we can get from our strobe. Less than max sync speed, and we’re making our strobe work harder than it probably needs to because we are using a smaller f-stop. (We’re still thinking in terms of balancing flash with a very bright background, or in bright conditions.)
For me, 1/25oth therefore becomes an easy default when working outdoors.
I have max efficiency from my strobe (in case I need it), and at the slightly higher shutter speed, I have less chance of camera shake or subject movement to register.
And in the instance where in bright conditions (or against a bright background), we’re settling on max sync speed giving us the widest aperture we can use for the most range from our strobe, but this also has the implication that ..
- our batteries lasting longer, and
- our flashgun recycles faster, and this in turn
- we have more consistent exposures when shooting faster.