POTD: In A Back Alley, Part 2 (Fill Flash)

Last August I was in a back alley taking pictures against this brick wall. I liked the location and decided to come back and shoot here again. In August the light was pretty even. This time I needed to make some fill flash decisions.

The ambient light exposure was set to the amount of slightly diffused sunlight on the brick wall. An aperture of f/8 gave me all the depth of field I needed. Thanks to the sun the contrast level was higher than I wanted, so I used flash to fill in the shadows. You can see the catch light from the flash in her eyes. The flash exposure compensation (FEC) was set to -1, my preferred setting for fill flash in sunlight. That gave me just enough fill flash.

It is well worth your while to test the FEC settings on your flash to see how what FEC settings you prefer when doing a portrait in sunlight. Try every FEC setting from +2/3 to -2 in 1/3 stops increments. I bet you will decide an FEC setting of +1/3 or 0 will give you a photo that looks “over flashed” and you will prefer something between -1/3 and -1 1/3. Different brands and models of flash will give you different results so you need to test your own flash to be sure. My Canon 580 EX II speedlite gives me different results than my Canon 550 EX speedlite.

FEC has no affect on the ambient light exposure. FEC can be set on either the flash or the camera controls in the Canon E-TTL (automatic exposure, through-the-lens) system. I prefer to set FEC on the camera body since it is much faster than working through the menu system on the flash. I always set the ambient light exposure first to make sure I am getting the look I want and do a quick check of the histogram. Then I set the FEC for the flash exposure I want.

What happens if you don’t use fill flash? The next photo will show you.


Kristina. No fill flash.

The professional model is the beautiful Kristina from Los Angeles.

Photo Data, Top Photo: Canon 5D Mark III. Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 lens at 65mm. 1/100 second, f/8, ISO 100. Flash set to -1 flash exposure compensation.

Photo Data, Bottom Photo: Canon 5D Mark III. Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 lens at 32mm. 1/60 second, f/8, ISO 100. No flash.


In A Back Alley (Part 1)

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