Fill in shadows with fill flash

Filling in harsh shadows with flash and other handy tips.

 

Ah, summer. The crushed up Tums worked, the tomatoes turned green with no more rot, and now we have started eating them. What a sweet gushing taste, the taste of the sun and the earth in a perfect tomato.

The Ford Explorer that is new to us has turned out to be an incredible machine that happily takes us where we want to go.

Speaking of going places, if you plan to photograph outdoors when the sun is at its peak—creating harsh dark shadows on the subject—you will need Mr. Phil Flash, also known as Fill Flash.

Now you might be thinking, “Hmmm this guy has been in the noonday sun for too long, why would I use a flash outdoors on a bright sunny day?”.

I call it fill flash but you could also use a sheet of newsprint, a white cardboard, a white sheet, an electronic flash, or anything that will reflect or lighten facial shadows. No fill flash will give you deep sockets where the eyes should be and dark areas under the nose and chin, making the person look goulish.

If you are using the newsprint, paper or reflector type of fill, then you will be able to judge the effects as you get closer and angle the reflector.

Don’t overdo it; remember that you are filling in deep shadows. As for using a flash, try setting the flash to one stop less than the camera is set for. You do not want to overpower the existing light, just help it along.

I decided that I was going to photograph our trailer, also known as the “Travelling Bordello”, using fill flash.

(The trailer name came about because Les made all new red and gold lounge cushions and curtains to go along with our hand-crafted Wynan’s red mattress and bench cushions.)

I wanted the light to evenly fill the 6×13-foot space but it had to be soft. I put the flash on a monopod with an SP17 cord to my Nikon hotshoe and bounced the light up off of the white ceiling.

The Nikon was set manually at ISO 400, shutter speed 1/125, aperture f11. The flash was set to f11, allowing for one stop lost due to bounce. That means that the amount of fill flash falling on the subject would be f8.

Here are some more tips you might find useful during your late summer travels.

Ten inches of duct tape or in a pinch, Scotch tape, wrapped around your hand, sticky side out, is great for removing cat and dog hairs, and especially lint and dust from a photographic subject’s clothing or fabrics.

When setting up a tripod on a slippery floor, a double strip of duct tape fastened to the floor in front of the foot of the tripod leg will prevent slipping and sliding.

Cans of compressed air that are sold for photographic use are fine for blowing dust off old negatives and slides and blowing out camera bags. But they should be used only on the outside of the camera, because inside they may damage the camera sensor or stain the mirrors in reflex cameras.

Use a small hand blower or syringe to blow out the inside of the camera. Because the blower is manually operated, the amount of pressure can be controlled and the long snout will enable you to reach into those hard to get areas.

Any questions?  E-mail me at nsilverstone@telus.net.

Norman Silverstone teaches photography through North Island College and Eldercollege in Port Alberni.

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