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Outdoor TTL is frustrating me (Example Shown)

crossover37crossover37 Member
edited April 2013 in flash & lighting
Ok so when it comes to bouncing flash indoors I underexpose the ambient about 1-1.5 stops then I bounce the flash to even out the exposure and give some directional light. I get good results for the most part.

Outdoors is a bit more tricky though. It was my daughter's 1 year party on Saturday and it was cloudy. All the light although soft, was coming from above and we were surrounded by high fences and dark patches next to trees so no light was coming in the eyes. I tried exposing correctly for the skin and let the TTL take care of the rest. After multiple FEC adjustments (used a Mark II with 580ex), I just never seemed to get what I wanted and so my pictures looked well below my standards.

The tricky thing is that the cheeks and nose receive a lot of light and the background was darker so: 1) If I underexpose correctly for the subjects and use flash as fill I get dark shadows under the eyes no matter how much subtle flash I tried using (it still looks bad because there's not enough flash filling shadows). If I add too much flash then the faces get overexposed because I already exposed correctly for the brightest relevant tone. 2) If I underexpose the subjects too much to rid the uneven lighting and then add the flash as the main, it would dominate and look flat AND the background would be very dark because there wasn't much light there to begin with next to the trees (the picture attached shows what I'm describing).

I don't have good experiences using TTL outdoors. For some reason it just seems to not work as planned so after reading many of the articles which relate to Neil's topics and practicing the technique, I still am not getting the look I want. The pictures in this article by Neil are what I'm after (http://neilvn.com/tangents/direct-off-camera-flash-photography/) but what if the location is set and you can't move to different spots much to get better light? I'd like to know how to combat these tricky lighting situations with on camera flash if that is my only option (using off camera flash at my daughter's party wasn't gonna happen...I wanted to enjoy the day with her as much as I could). by Neil are what I'd like to get but what if the location is set and you can't move to different spots much? I'd like to know how to combat these tricky lighting situations with on camera flash if that is my only option (using off camera flash at my daughter's party wasn't gonna happen...I wanted to enjoy the day with her as much as I could).


  • Hi crossover,

    when shooting outdoors on where the lighting is mainly flat, a touch of on camera fill can be great to brighten the eyes a bit. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=462075663866215&set=a.411710102236105.95032.286484681425315&type=1&theater for this shoot the couple came late and i had no asssistant so i decided to forgo the softbox on a lightstand. it was cloudy out so the light was very soft and just a bit top heavy, i set my on camera flash to about -2.3 stops.

    however in a situation where the light is too top heavy and u cant move to more even lighting, an on camera flash will give the photos the obvious "flash was used" look, in that situation a large off camera light source will help such as a softbox or a wall bounce
  • Thanks for the reply Naftoli. Nice picture.

    So basically what you're saying is if I'm in top heavy lighting and can't move into nicer light, my photos will not look that great with on camera flash (if I'm trying to make the flash seem subtle)?
  • If you can't move and have top-heavy lighting, you probably will have to let the flash dominate and give up fill flash. Even wall bounce and softbox can still give the appearance that flash was used.

    Fill flash works when ambient light is sufficient and soft.

    Also, Neil's "meter the brightest relevant tone" technique is specifically meant for ambient light photos (no TTL flash). TTL fill flash happens to work here, since it's only a very small amount of light being added to the ambient light, so the camera isn't altering the subject exposure greatly.
  • You were probably doing it right with the fill flash method.
    You will still get the shadows under the eyes with top heavy light however using the fill flas will keep those shadows from being too dark.

    All you're doing is trying to lighten the shadows. Don't expect perfect.
    In that situation your just improving the light.

    Even in the article from Neil you linked to still shows some shadow under the eyes.

    Working with limited gear does give limited results however being mindful can always improve your results
  • Thank you both for replying.
  • I think you're being too critical of your work. You had a difficult lighting situation and still were able to produce a quality photo. You can always do a little dodging in post to lighten up some of the shadows under the eyes and still have it look natural. Also, that second photo the gentleman was wearing a hat with a large brim that eliminated the top lighting to his face. When you zoom in you can see the shadow of the brim on his forehead from the flash.
  • Just watched an interesting youtube seminar on fill flash and metering. Don't know if I'm allowed to link to it though on this awesome forum.
  • TrevTrev Moderator

    John, you certainly can link, the more shared, the more one learns.

  • Okay. I personally found this seminar very interesting. I gave up using my light meter until I saw this video. As well as the instructional videos, questions are answered in between the videos. Hope you find it useful.
  • Thanks sovasphotos. I am very critical of my work which is a hindrance at times. I just was not pleased with the light in those photos because the lighting looks dull and not too special. I just want to know how to take the pictures I know I can, but in any lighting situation.

    John - Thanks but I still don't see a link or video.
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