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Fill Light

Just bought a 24 x 24 softbox and used it yesterday outdoors. I had used umbrellas before also. Off camera flash. I still find it very difficult getting fill light correct. The little LCD on back of the camera is so small and outdoors, it's so bright, to really see any subtleness as fill light being correct or not. Sure, I can do it, but most people who are posing don't have the patience to wait very long for continual test results.
I was thinking that maybe try zooming in next time on the face...take a ambient shot, then zoom in again and take one with flash. Then compare on LCD. At least the face would be highly enlarged to see what's going on. (i know you can zoom using the LCD too), but this might be a TAD faster this way. Don't know about the rest of us, but when I'm configuring and adjusting manual settings outdoors, my mind is going 100mph all the time, just to not let the posers wait for me.


  • Its an interesting problem, one we all will face outdoors. It seems to me that the real problem is about confidence .... confidence in the equipment and the settings. You can't expect to make quality assessments on the LCD screen in any sort of sunlit conditions. The method you mentioned is too fiddly and as you say, you worry about people waiting around. The histogram does not give you the specific information you want either (ie exactly how bright is the face and do you have optimum fill-lit exposure on the face, which is a small part of the total frame).

    So I think the best solution is to forget the LCD. You need to find a way to gain that confidence and just take the pictures without worrying. There are two clear ways that I would try (I'm assuming system dedicated automatic flashes here) ......

    The first is to trust your automatic equipment. Be sure to understand the specific fill flash program your camera model is using, and make sure you set that correctly (eg is it going to mix ambient light from an automatic program mode, or will flash be the primary lighting?) Once its set for a fill in, then check your flash range is good from the scale .... so long as you're fairly nicely centred then its good to go. Set up the flash off-camera at that distance and start shooting! A little bit of practice beforehand in similar conditions should give you awareness of how it responds and to make the required flash compensation. Its often said that we should be dialling down 1 or 1.5 stops for fill-in, but outdoors and with your fill program set this may not be needed.

    The second idea is to go all manual .... (which I think you said you wanted to anyway). This time I'd put the flash on the camera (again assuming system dedicated), set Manual modes on camera and flash .... set the aperture and ISO you ideally want to use, and get the shutter 'speed' set for a nice ambient background. Decide how far away from the subject your flash will be, for the effect you're looking for. Now just adjust the flash power until your distance indication scale shows that actual distance. This will give 'correct' exposure from the flash at the distance.

    Now put your flash into position off-camera at that same correct distance. The softbox will knock off that 1 stop or so of exposure anyway, so you may not have to adjust anything ..... or you may dial down the power a further '1/2 stop' equivalent for a gentler fill effect. Now just shoot away and forget that LCD! 
  • patindaytonapatindaytona Member
    edited December 2015
    Thanks for the advice McGreg. Most of what I do is on the go stuff, so it would have to be fast.

     I think the best thing to do is to get the ambient up enough to have the existing fill correct, rather than using 2 units of flash. This will soften the contrast of the OCF softbox on the face. The only possible problem with uping the ambient enough for the face is that a bright background could be blown out, but i know that's all a matter of choice anyway.

    Their is a close correlation of what you say about confidence. Reading and discussing how to do it is one thing and having the intuition WHILE do it is another.

    It's the intuition that makes a good photographer. I dont' need to understand any further the "whys" of everything. I do understand it (inverse square and so on). I don't get paid for anything I'm doing, it's just all fun. And the people I do the photos of wouldn't even know if I didn't do this right or not. But I'm still going to do it right for myself.

     I think alot of people put the softbox to far off the camera axis (Rembrant) when just starting out. I'm making that mistake also. I need to put it more on the 30 degree mark which is a general good place for it to provide the transition, especially using just the one OFC.
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