Quick Tips: A Little Flash Will Do Ya’

Quick Tips: A Little Flash Will Do Ya’

Use On-Camera Fill For A Taste Of Light

by George Schaub

The small, built-in flash on your camera is not meant to be a powerhouse that will enable you to capture large groups indoors or throw light any significant distance outdoors when trying to conquer the contrast problems of backlit subjects. Most are good to about 10 ft maximum, and even shorter coverage ranges when used with the tele settings on standard zoom lenses. Some have a bit more power than others, but rarely do they go beyond a fairly short range. However, there are times when the small output can be used for adding just a taste of light to highlight a foreground subject and to bring lighting balance into a contrasty scene.

An opportunity for just that situation came up when photographing along the Rio Pueblo in Northern New Mexico last year, where the foreground sat in deep shadow (#1). I knew I wanted to retain those shadowed forms to highlight the bright foliage, but after the first shot I thought that the shadows were too dominant. Near my shooting position sat a small bush with the same yellow coloration of the background that did not record in my first shot.

Exposure 1: Spot meter reading on the bright bushes in the background, f/16 at 1/125 sec at ISO 100; 24mm (equivalent) lens.
All Photos © 2009, George Schaub, All Rights Reserved

I raised the small flash on my camera and took a shot. I liked what it did for the composition but the foreground plant looked too bright, a result of hitting it with flash from a few feet away. I then chose to use flash exposure compensation at -1.5EV, a good practice when working close like this. The resultant shot helped balance the composition and brought some visual interest into the foreground.

Exposure 2: f/16 at 1/125 sec at ISO 100, fill flash (on-camera) set at -1.5EV flash exposure compensation.

So next time you are working in strong contrast, and want to compose to maintain the shape and form of the shadows, consider using the small pop-up flash, along with flash exposure compensation, to add some extra visual “kick” to your images.