In A Pinch (using built-in flash for fill light), Part 2 – Outside…

As I mentioned last time, I wanted to experiment with using built-in flash for fill light outside.

I got some interesting results.

On my first day of experimenting, I went out around 4pm (PT), it was bright and sunny… and a little windy.

In this first set, I distinctly remember my dog wanting to move along, the sun being too bright, and the wind causing my subject to move about.  So even though I have some photos to compare, the scientific method was a little lacking – in that, I didn’t keep the same f-stop, shutter speed, and iso during the experiment.  But that in itself can be a bit of a lesson too… changing your settings can help you get the look you want by dimming or brightening the ambient light seen by the camera.

I used my own shadow to help lessen the brightness from the bright sun, then manipulated the settings and the exposure compensation of the built-in flash…(click to enlarge)…


As noted in my previous set of experiments (built-in flash for fill light – inside), using the flash at it’s default setting (annotated as ‘exposure compensation 0’) is just too much light and blows out the details.  I tend to lean toward liking the -2 and -1 exposure compensation photos*.

This next set of experiments, is an interesting one.  In one set I prefer the no flash photo… in the other set I prefer the ec-1 photo.

What it comes down to is this… artistic preference.  You as the photographer have an idea in mind, only you will be able to decide if a bit of fill light enhances or takes away from your vision.

For me, the additional light is a bit too much on this one… (click to enlarge)…


But this one… I definitely like the additional light, especially since my eyes saw that blade of grass in the front as green, not shadowy…(click to enlarge)…


This next one… now we get to the point of it all… when you need a touch of fill light, the built-in flash can help in a pinch… I prefer the ec -1 photo, to me the default flash was just too much and blew out the details, whereas, no flash at all is drab and the details are lost in the shadows… (click to enlarge)…


The next day…

I went out around 10am (PT), it was a bright, but overcast day.

For the most part, the following sets could all be fine with no flash at all.  Thanks to the overcast day, the light was diffused and took away the major contrast of light and shadow from the day before.

As to which photo I would pick, I think that it would really depend on how you wanted to present them.  If they were to be viewed on a monitor, the no flash photos would work well.  But if you were printing them, then I might go for the ec -2 photos.  I usually add .50 stop exposure in post before printing… so by adding a touch of fill light while ‘getting it right in the camera’ I could really save myself some time in post.

Again, the default flash amount is just too much and blows out the details… (click to enlarge)…


On this set, the light change is very subtle… but the background starts to be lit just a bit by adding a touch of fill light… (click to enlarge)…


To recap…

It’s all about artistic expression. Sometimes you need a touch of fill light to help show the details or to reduce the contrast of bright light and shadows.




If your camera has a built-in flash, then you can use it in a pinch – adjusting the brightness it emits as needed.



For me, the built-in flash is just another tool I can use when I’m out and about and only brought my camera, but I need a touch of fill light.  With practice, you can manipulate your camera’s settings and exposure compensation to get the shot you want.

Until next time…

*My camera, Canon Rebel T2i, has the ability to do ±2 stops exposure compensation on the built-in flash… check your manual to see what your camera can do.

Kind thoughts and comments are always welcome...

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