Fill up Flash Photography: How to Get Gorgeous Portraits (Even in Bad Light)

Fill Adobe flash Photography: How to Get Beautiful Pictures (Even in Bad Light)

fill flash photography how to get beautiful portraits

What is fill display photography, and how can you use fill up flash for beautiful portraits ?

As an in long run user of flash, I’m familiar with all the standard struggles (in fact, when I very first purchased a Nikon speedlight, I was extremely scared). Yet over time, I became the confident user of fill up flash, and you can, too.

In this article, I am going to tell you everything you need to learn to get you started with fill adobe flash. First, I’ll explain what fill flash actually is and why it’s essential. Then I’ll go on to provide some tips that’ll create your flash look as effective as possible. Along the way, I’ll reveal a few simple tricks for getting creative results with only one flash.

Let’s get started.

fill flash photography example

What is fill flash?

Fill up flash in photography refers to the technique of filling in shadows with artificial light, such as a speedlight or a strobe.

Generally, fill flash is used in situations when your subject is either:

  1. Positioned in front side of a brighter background
  2. Covered by harsh dark areas (such as under the eye and chin in portraiture)

Fill flash acts as a supporting gentle, one that pops a bit of brightness back into those too-dark areas. It lets you get a shot that is well uncovered in the background and the particular foreground (as opposed to a foreground silhouette or a bright-white background).

Fill flash is especially helpful on sunny days, when the harsh overhead light is better than down on your subject and casts lots of unwanted dark areas. But you can also use fill up flash when the sun is low in the sky and your subject is backlit, or even when your subject is in the particular shade and the background is definitely bright, or a number of also when you have a dark subject on a bright background.

Make sense?

The basics of display exposure

As photographers, we have to a new host of technical knowledge. That involves a lot of trial and error to find which methods work for you. It is no different when it comes to digital camera settings and flash strength.

Normally, you must balance the three factors in the exposure triangle to achieve your designed look. For example , if you want a more dark background with less ambient light, you can increase your shutter speed while  keeping the aperture and ISO the same. But if you want ambient lighting in the background plus brighter shadows, you can lower your shutter speed while maintaining the aperture.

Adding the adobe flash power as a 4th factor is no different. You simply have four variables to contend with instead of three.

So when you bring fill flash into the equation, you might have the option of adjusting its capacity to brighten or darken the image. Or you can leave the adobe flash power as a constant, after that adjust the rest of the exposure factors to achieve the look you’re after.

As long as you have ample understanding of the basics of exposure, you will do just fine. Simply play around and locate what works best for you; you want an approach that will make you efficient whilst also staying consistent with your own workflow and style.

Now that you’re familiar with the basics of fill up flash photography, let’s check out some tips for actually improving your flash results:

1 . Put a diffuser on the flash

It may only be a little plastic thing that will goes on top of the flash mind, but I find that the diffuser does make a difference.  

With a diffuser, the light is less severe. I know many will argue about whether it in fact softens the light, but I notice a softness from a diffused flash compared to the bare one.

speedlights with and without diffusers
Still left: Speedlight without a diffuser. Right: Speedlight with a diffuser.

2 . Control the flash by hand

When using adobe flash, there are two common means of determining the right exposure:

Exposing manually, or even exposing with ETTL/TTL metering .

And I highly recommend you just do it manually.

Now, I know there are several big fans of ETTL/TTL mode out there. I have attempted it, too. However , I use gone back to manual direct exposure as I find that TTL metering does not give me the look I want.

So fixed your flash to Manual mode and choose the power. I usually dial in 1/32 or 1/16 and keep it there. Adjust the flash power only when absolutely necessary. For basic exposure modifications, just adjust your standard camera settings.

fill flash photography examples
This particular image was created using a bare bulb flash (no diffuser) located behind and pointing directly at the couple. I also had a second flash on-camera with a diffuser, and I aimed that flash upward.

fill flash photography examples
This image was created with a  diffused flash pointed directly in the couple (camera in front of the couple, flash on-camera) while these were dancing. The motion obnubilate was created by using a slow shutter speed and dragging the shutter after the flash terminated.

What I’m after is always a natural look which, based on where the main light is coming from, may not be achieved with no some kind of fill or shown light to illuminate too-dark areas.

But I don’t just stage my flash directly at my subject and fire wildly. Instead, I either jump or angle my adobe flash, as I explain in the next area:

3. Jump the flash

On some speedlight versions, there is a little white pull-out bounce card that is incredibly useful if your ceilings are too high for the light to bounce away from or you only want to point reflected light inside a particular direction.

When I shoot weddings where the rooms have quite dark or high ceilings, I pull out the jump card and use it to deflect the light coming from the flash. Then i swivel the flash to direct the reflected lighting wherever I want it to visit.

speedlight with bounce card
My speedlight with the white bounce card extended.

As an aside, I use this particular setup for both on-camera flash and off-camera display. When I’m putting two speedlights opposite each other to deliver directional light during messages, I point the display heads upward and take out the diffuser so that all of the reflected light is directed toward the center of the room.

4. Angle the particular flash

The top of most speedlights can rotating right and left up to 90 levels and forward and up 90 degrees in pregressive angles. It is an awesome functionality that you should take advantage of – particularly when using fill flash.

In the photos beneath, bright sunlight was originating from camera right at 45 levels on a bright day. Many I wanted was a bit of fill flash on their faces, sufficient to lift the dark areas a tad. And I didn’t want the image to look such as there was another light source besides the sun. To achieve this, I curved my speedlight upward by one increment.

angling the fill flash

5. Experiment with strength and angle

As you can see, the photos beneath have powerful sunlight arriving directly at the subjects plus toward the camera – a very strong backlight. It really is extremely difficult to overpower this kind of light without using a strong fill up flash.  

So I angled myself slightly to one side and pointed my flash directly in the subjects’ faces to try and deal with the sunlight.

In situations like these, I actually increase my flash power accordingly. The result is not because clean and sharp as if I had developed a big softbox , but it still shows the faces clearly sufficient and I got some diffused, hazy light in the history, which was also my purpose for these shots.

fill flash photography examples

Compare the two images below. The one on the left was taken in a big open space with a dense leaves background. There was enough natural light to illuminate my subjects’ faces, but I directed the flash backward to include just a tiny bit of lighting over my head. I don’t think it made a huge distinction, but it made me feel a lot better and more consistent!

The image on the right was taken in an open, shaded region surrounded by tall trees that diffused the light coming from the background. Without the trees, I would’ve had unfiltered backlight (as in the photos above). With the trees, the backlight was filtered but still existing.

Basically: More fill light had been needed! I pointed the speedlight slightly upward therefore it was aimed toward the subjects but not directly at their own faces.

fill flash couple photos

You can see the same flash angle as above on these close-up portraits:

fill flash portraits

6. Don’t overdo the fill flash (it’s okay to make things moody! )

While I was shooting the couple featured above, I wanted a look that was a little moodier. Therefore i pointed the speedlight straight upward.  

Although the fill flash guaranteed their faces remained well-lit, the couple appears surrounded by the diffused light to their rear:

moody portraits with couple in woods

seven. Don’t be afraid to underexpose the subject

Check out the top image:

couple by lake

Notice how the couple is pretty dark, while the history is well exposed? The couple wanted a shot displaying the lake and the trees in the far distance. However the distance was too great to get the couple and the background sharp and well uncovered without using a really small aperture and a lot of artificial light (flash).

So I took two shots.

The first one is of the particular couple looking toward the trees. Everything is sharp, but the couple is obviously underexposed. I pointed the particular speedlight slightly forward to provide them just a hint associated with light and shot having a small aperture.

The second image has the exact same angle of flash – but I got closer, and am changed my camera configurations to a wider aperture. The background is now blurry while the couple is in focus.

For this ring shot, we sat on a bench with all the sunlight coming from camera left. I put the ring upon my phone to get a darkish background and a nice reflection. With ring shots, I usually stop down to at least f/7. 1 with a macro lens. I also always use a speedlight pointed directly opposite the primary light. So in this case, I actually swiveled my flash go to create a bit of reflected gentle on the right side from the ring.

ring with black background

Likewise, for the photo beneath, you can clearly see in which the sunlight is coming from. I pointed my speedlight somewhat upward to camera still left, opposite the sunlight. This angle helped me achieve a progressive transition of light, as opposed to a dramatic decrease where you could see a clear cutoff through light to dark.

fill flash photography couple looking out

Your turn to try doing fill expensive photography

If you haven’t tried using flash like this, I encourage you to definitely do so. Experiment. See how it works for you! Sometimes all you need is confidence, common sense, and a determination to try.

And when you’re successful, share your own fill flash images within the comments below! We’d like to see them!

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Lily Sawyer

Lily Sawyer

is a wedding ceremony and portrait photographer based in London. Her absolute most liked past time is going on “mummy” schedules with her kids plus husband. Other than that, as a homebody, she is content curled up on the sofa, hot chocolate in hand, watching films along with her family whenever she has a free weekend. Check out her work on Follow the girl on her fave social media platform Instagram .

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