Available light vs Fill-flash
A question that popped up in my web stats was interestingly phrased: Do natural light photographers always use fill flash? The question curiously implies that you might not find natural light which is perfect. However, as photographers, that is something we’re constantly searching for: perfect light. It is out there, somewhere. So, resisting the temptation to just answer with a cheeky “no”, let’s consider an example of when you would not want or need fill-flash.
The thing with natural light, is that you have to look at it. You have to look at the direction of light. And see whether it gives you the quality of light that you need …
‘Quality’ here could mean a number of things, depending on what we need. Quality could mean how even the light is. As opposed to splotchy dappled light. Quality could mean the color balance. It really comes down to whether the natural light / ambient light is exactly what would make the photograph work.
With this photograph above, I was working with this couple under a high awning outside a train station. No light from directly above. Just light coming in from an angle to the side. Great. I then purposely posed Jessica so that the light comes in over her shoulder and lights up her face. Clean open light on her.
The approach here is a technique which can consistently be used. It is very much the same idea as described in the post on direction of light and choice of background.
I want to emphasize here that I didn’t just have the couple stand in a random spot. If they were half turned away from the light coming in from the side, then the light on her face might have been uneven, and her eyes might’ve been too shaded. The pose here is quite specific in regards to the direction of the available light. With that, we just didn’t need to augment the available light with flash. The light was perfect. But we had to control it.
Controlling the light here was much more easily done by directing how the couple was angled towards the light. Simpler than adding reflectors and softboxes and such. Or alternately, moving the sun and clouds around. You have to work within your capabilities.
Video tutorials to help you with flash photography
If you like learning by seeing best, then these video tutorials will help you with understanding flash photography techniques and concepts. While not quite hands-on, this is as close as we can get to personal instruction. Check out these and other video tutorials and online photography workshops.