Photography Basics

How to use fill flash

In one of my posts I had given a brief idea on fill flash and when to use it. Before reading on, I would recommend you to read

In this post, I am going to illustrate this technique. This is completely different from Full flash – which is used during night and very low light situations. In full flash photography, the main light source is flash itself. While in fill flash photography, the flash is used to fill the shadows.

How to use fill flash? — Fill Flash Photography

Sunflower against blue sky
No fill flash. A high dynamic range scene. (f14, ISO100, 1/250s)

The above picture of sunflower is a high dynamic range scene. This photo is taken by exposing for the background. As a result, the foreground subject — the sunflower — becomes dark. If one exposes for the sunflower, then the background will be over-exposed. So,  [one of] the solutions for getting a proper exposure is make a double exposure. i.e.

  1. Use flash to light up the flower/fill the shadow areas with your flash — Exposure #1
  2. Properly expose for the background — Exposure #2

So I used my external flash on low power and filled the shadows on the flower with the flash light. And here is the result:

Sunflower and blue sky using fill flash
After using fill flash (f14, ISO100, 1/250s)

As you can see, now the image is properly exposed — both for the background and for the foreground. Here, I fired my external flash from the left side of the camera to properly fill shadows. So you have to target the light to the shadows areas. You will find it very useful while taking portraits.

From this example, I hope you have got an idea about how to use a fill flash. If you have any queries, drop them as comments.

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Vidhu Soman

Hi, I am Vidhu Soman, Editor of Shutterstoppers. I have been doing photography since 2010, and I co-founded shutterstoppers community in 2012. I love photography, writing, travelling, and reading. If you wish to contact me, send a mail using our contact form.

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  1. As a rule of thumb you can say that the “shutter speed only affects the ambient light and has no contribution to flash exposure”. To get the best result using flash initially set the shutter speed for ambient light and then fiddle with the iso or aperture.

    1. The exposure triangle — ISO, aperture, shutter speed — only contributes to the second exposure I mentioned. I mean, for the best results, you need to set a proper output power for the flash.

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