Home · Register · Search · View Winners · Software · Hosting · Software · Join Upload & Sell

Moderated by: Fred Miranda
Username   Password

  New fredmiranda.com Mobile Site
  

FM Forums | Lighting & Studio Techniques | Join Upload & Sell

1
       2       3              5       6       end
  

Archive 2012 · Fill Flash for Outdoors. Why? It looks bad.
  
 
DubiousDrewski
Offline
• • •
Upload & Sell: Off
p.1 #1 · Fill Flash for Outdoors. Why? It looks bad.


I think on-camera fill flash doesn't look good, yet I see so many professional photos which use it. Indoors on camera flash with Gary Phong Puffers/ Lightspheres/ etc are great. Outdoors though, they do very little to make your on-camera flash any good, in my opinion. All I see is flat lighting and harsh chin-shadowing.

Why don't people ever just add +1 or +2 to their exposure compensation instead? It's less work and looks better. Examples:

Here's a simple into the sun shot using +1.5 exposure compensation. Fill flash would have made a very different picture.







Here's +0.7 compensation shooting into the sun again.






Now, I'm not against using flash outdoors. In fact I believe the best photos use a combination of natural and supplemented flash. But this mounted-on-camera fill flash thing has got to die!

Anyone agree or disagree with me?

Edited on Mar 07, 2012 at 10:47 PM · View previous versions



Mar 07, 2012 at 10:15 PM
teebat
Offline
• • •
Upload & Sell: Off
p.1 #2 · Fill Flash for Outdoors. Why? It looks bad.


Sometimes you don't want to blow out the background and although it's great if you can bring off camera lighting, but with weddings the one thing that you run out of is time. As far as portraits go I can't think of a reason not to use off camera lights since the photographer is more in control.


Mar 07, 2012 at 10:29 PM
alohadave
Offline
• • •
Upload & Sell: Off
p.1 #3 · Fill Flash for Outdoors. Why? It looks bad.


Adding +EV tends to blow out the background or overbrighten the background. I tend not to be shooting to have my backgrounds overpowering the subject.


Mar 07, 2012 at 10:32 PM
dmacmillan
Offline
• • • •
Upload & Sell: Off
p.1 #4 · Fill Flash for Outdoors. Why? It looks bad.


Poorly executed fill flash, especially on camera fill does look bad to me. I don't dismiss the technique based on bad execution, though. If you look around, you can find some examples of where it is used effectively.

I prefer choosing time of day and the use of reflectors.



Mar 07, 2012 at 10:40 PM
DubiousDrewski
Offline
• • •
Upload & Sell: Off
p.1 #5 · Fill Flash for Outdoors. Why? It looks bad.


Having a bright background definitely changes the feel to the photo. But in my opinion, having a slightly attention-grabbing background is still a lesser evil than having that ugly light on your subject. Maybe I'm the minority.

EDIT: Remember though that I'm referring strictly to on-camera flash used in portrait situations. Off-camera flash outdoors can look great, of course.



Mar 07, 2012 at 10:40 PM
sherijohnson
Offline
• • • •
Upload & Sell: Off
p.1 #6 · Fill Flash for Outdoors. Why? It looks bad.


good points to consider when it works, I like the light in your 2nd example


Mar 07, 2012 at 11:25 PM
RustyBug
Offline
• • • • • •
Upload & Sell: On
p.1 #7 · Fill Flash for Outdoors. Why? It looks bad.


I don't shoot much on camera flash anymore, but when I did ...

I usually dial down the fill flash to about -1 1/3. There is typically a 2.5 stop diff between the front/back of a direct lit subject. If you wanted to you could use a little of both, but +1 @ too many people overexpose with their flash in conjunction with outdoor/ambient.

One thing to remember to also be aware of is which color temp you are lighting with ... front side vs. back side, sky light vs. direct sun vs. flash temp. So depending on what your subject lighting orientation and goals are, you may want the flash to help balance not only exposure, but also color temp. I found that the -1 1/3 was a nice universal compromise to deal with both, while still safeguarding your BG.



Mar 07, 2012 at 11:49 PM
Mr Kris
Offline
• •
Upload & Sell: On
p.1 #8 · Fill Flash for Outdoors. Why? It looks bad.


As with most things.... I guess it depends

Here's a picture I took just about a year ago (hopefully I've grown quite a bit since then!)






There's direct fill flash in this picture. It was at the DC cherry blossom festival, and my friends and I were just strolling around. The cloud cover was patchy, so there were areas of shadow and light close together. I intentionally used flash on the shots right before this one.... I looked over at my friend's kid and he was running around the tree. He caught me looking at him and stopped and gave me this look. Took the shot, and it came out pretty decent I think. You can see the catchlight in his eyes from the flash.

These days I tend to overthink things and I feel that I miss shots overcontemplating how to light them in spontaneous situations like this. Of course, this was just a casual outing with friends. If I were hired to do something, I'd choose to have an assistant following me with a flash on a stick for event coverage. For posed stuff, reflectors/lightstands/shoot into the sun. But there's certainly use for on camera flash in situations where it's not practical to have an assistant.



Mar 08, 2012 at 12:08 AM
DubiousDrewski
Offline
• • •
Upload & Sell: Off
p.1 #9 · Fill Flash for Outdoors. Why? It looks bad.


Mr Kris, thank you. That's a great photo, and I wouldn't have thought "Fill-flash!" unless you pointed it out. I'll concede my point a little; with moderation (Like using -1 1/3 power as Rustybug suggests), on board fill flash can work. Sometimes.


Mar 08, 2012 at 12:39 AM
Mr Kris
Offline
• •
Upload & Sell: On
p.1 #10 · Fill Flash for Outdoors. Why? It looks bad.


Also, to be completely honest- I was a noob with flash when I took this. I didn't know how to do it any other way haha!


Mar 08, 2012 at 12:51 AM
 

Search in Used Dept. 



cgardner
Offline
• • • • •
Upload & Sell: Off
p.1 #11 · Fill Flash for Outdoors. Why? It looks bad.


It's not so much a matter of good and bad but natural and unnatural.

Natural light, both direct sun and indirect skylight comes from overhead and seeing things lit from above is our perceptual baseline for "looks normal" and in photos interpreting shape from 2D pattern of contrast.













The problem with built-in flash and hot shoe flash in portrait mode is the flash angle is unnaturally shallow relative to the lens axis. There's an absence of "normal" shadow clues to shape we are accustomed to seeing and the specular reflection clues on the faces wind up lower on the cheeks, chin, lips, etc. than in natural light. Combined the two and that's why when seeing a near-axis flash shot the brain thinks "that artificial light".

That's why the more natural flattering lighting patterns have one thing in common the key light is placed about 45 above the eye line so it matches the angle of natural light and creates a "mask" pattern of highlights on the faces in 2D photos that our brains associate with 3D faces seen in natural light even if blurred...







The shot on the left is an oblique view with the key light 45 above the eyes and 45 to the right of the nose (90 to camera) and the one on the right is a full face view with the light centered and 45 above the face. Not surprisingly those are very natural looking lighting patterns. Why?

Noon day light...





10 AM light





2 PM light






In backlight or open shade with the face is illuminated by just the skylight it has two components: direct from above (key) and indirect ( fill) much in the same way a Stofen in a room with low ceiling works. The brighter vector from above will model the face, the indirect creates the fill that lightens the shadow. In open shade the difference in ratio between the "key" vector and wrap-around fill isn't very high so it may seem flat, but if you look critically you'll see the modeling change as you move the face up/down and sideways. Nearly always you'll need to stand on something and get the subject looking up into the camera to get the skylight past the brow and into the eyes.

Once it's grasped what looks natural and where natural light comes from getting natural lighting with flash indoors or out isn't difficult. Keep the "key" flash that is modeling the face 45 above the eye line.

There's no difference conceptually in how the flash needs to model the face indoors or out. As indoors where you need key above and fill at chin level to control the ratio and tonal range you also need two flashes outdoors in backlight. Outdoors you simple need to first pose the face into the natural light first, then add the key light at the same angle 45 above the eye line.

When the "key" flash angle falls below 45 the shadow clues start to disappear and the highlight move down from the top of cheeks to front. If the key light is placed below the face reversing the natural angle the face will have an unnatural modeling invoking a "lit by the fires of Hell" context.

It's not a matter of rules or good or bad, just how you want the face to appear and understanding how key light angle to the face changes the reaction / interpretation of the viewer.

Flat flash looks "fake" in part because we know real faces don't look like that. So really what the lighting direction and ratio clues do in a photo is tell us more about the environment the face is in, and by implication it's mood that changing our impression of the face.

Normal? Lit like a deer in car headlights? Lit as if by the fires of Hell? Any of the three key light angles can work, depending on the emotional reaction in the mind of the viewer you want to create.

Your food for thought for the day

Chuck



Mar 08, 2012 at 01:07 AM
Mr Kris
Offline
• •
Upload & Sell: On
p.1 #12 · Fill Flash for Outdoors. Why? It looks bad.


Hey Chuck,

While that info is good, I'm not sure it's completely relevant here. The comments in the thread have been more geared toward using flash as a fill, as opposed to your mention of using it as key.

Along the same lines though, I guess my thought would be that on or near axis fill flash doesn't look unnatural as long as it's not intense enough to create its own strong shadows.



Mar 08, 2012 at 01:31 AM
DubiousDrewski
Offline
• • •
Upload & Sell: Off
p.1 #13 · Fill Flash for Outdoors. Why? It looks bad.


Mr Kris wrote:
I guess my thought would be that on or near axis fill flash doesn't look unnatural as long as it's not intense enough to create its own strong shadows.


Yeah that pretty much sums up what I got out of this. Well said.



Mar 08, 2012 at 02:19 AM
Peter Figen
Offline
• • • •
Upload & Sell: On
p.1 #14 · Fill Flash for Outdoors. Why? It looks bad.


It's not even the on axis fill that's the problem, it's the inky dinky size of the light source compared to the subject. If you had an on camera flash that was, say, 18-20 inches in diameter, like many beauty dishes, that light would be fantastic, and for many subjects, very flattering. So, yes, it's all about the quality of the light. On camera axis is just one of many valid looks, and when done right, it looks great.


Mar 08, 2012 at 03:15 AM
DubiousDrewski
Offline
• • •
Upload & Sell: Off
p.1 #15 · Fill Flash for Outdoors. Why? It looks bad.


Peter Figen wrote:
If you had an on camera flash that was, say, 18-20 inches in diameter, like many beauty dishes, that light would be fantastic


Well I do not disagree at all! I'm only commenting on the vast majority of these photos being shot without enough/any modifiers like beauty dishes. I'm talking about the kind of photo where the jawline has a clear shadow.

I say: if you've got the proper light modifiers so you can pull off a real professional look, then great! Use that gear and give your images that extra quality! But if you do not own such gear, or if you feel it's too bulky to carry around for your shooting style and choose not to use any modifiers at all, then reduce or turn off fill flash, and instead bump up the compensation a half stop or more. Go with that "Contre-Jour" (into the sun/bright background) style I use.



Mar 08, 2012 at 03:36 AM
cgardner
Offline
• • • • •
Upload & Sell: Off
p.1 #16 · Fill Flash for Outdoors. Why? It looks bad.


Mr Kris wrote:
Hey Chuck,

While that info is good, I'm not sure it's completely relevant here. The comments in the thread have been more geared toward using flash as a fill, as opposed to your mention of using it as key.

Along the same lines though, I guess my thought would be that on or near axis fill flash doesn't look unnatural as long as it's not intense enough to create its own strong shadows.


It is relevant in ways you just don't grasp yet.

Point 1: The sun is a lousy key light for portraits. Sunlit faces work great in sports / action / candid shots where things like shaded eyes and dark harsh shadows look natural. But in posed portrait where you do want light in the eye putting the sun in them results in at best squinting and at worse a blinded subject. That's one reason backlighting is used for portraits, facing the subject to the skylight not the sun.

Point 2: In open shade and backlight the skylight models the face with "key" and "fill" components. The sun changes role from "key" to "accent" in lighting parlance.

Point 3: If you add one flash near the camera axis to balance exposure on the shaded front to match the sunny back side, by the time you add enough flash (2-3 stops) match front-to-back you will have killed all the natural modeling on the front the skylight was creating: Here's an example from a HSS test I did. I used a target because I didn't have a model available.

Ambient only exposed for highlights below clipping





Single near axis full power HHS flash moved progressively closer....
















In the ambient only shot the front of the 3D towel is underexposed, but the downward "key" component of the skylight is creating modeling of shape you can see. But note how as more and more near axis flash is added that natural modeling disappears. The background will still have all the natural modeling clues in a "filled" flash shot but the foreground subject will wind up with the same flat "deer in headlights" look of a near-axis indoor flat shot.

NEAR AXIS FILL WILL KILL NATURAL MODELING

The solution? The same thing you do with flash indoors: move the flash off axis.

Below are two single flash shots, the first taken indoors the second outdoors with the same equipment 580ex flash on bracket with diffuser. Moving the flash vertically off axis makes it a "butterfly" pattern key light.












In the case of the indoor shot I was standing on a chair with the top of the diffuser on the ceiling for maximum "spill fill" off it and the walls. The direct flash bouncing forward was stronger than the bounced fill creating the "mask" pattern of highlights that define the higher parts of the faces creating the illusion of 3D..







Is the flash there key or fill? Both because I used the diffuser and bounce to spilt the one source into both those components. Both originate from overhead, just like skylight, and the white walls of my office also bounced the light sideways for "skylight" wrap-around fill effect. Had the office been painted black the highlight pattern would be the same from the downward light coming from the diffuser but there would be no fill component and the shadows wouldn't have detail it would have been all key flash, no fill flash (bounced).

Now look at the blurred version of the outdoor shot...






The same mask pattern is created by the flash coming out of the diffuser above the camera. I was also standing several feet above her on the river bank at about the same angle as on the chair in the indoor shot. The shadow here are filled not by bounce flash there's nothing to bounce it off the fill source is the skylight.

Is the flash in the second shot automatically "fill flash" because I moved outside and it's hitting the shaded side of the head? That's how photographers generically refer to flash added outdoors, but in terms of role and cause and effect it is "key" light because it is modeling the face with highlights. Fill doesn't model a face the "key" light does. The fill in the outdoor shot came from the natural ambient light.

Indoors and out raising the flash off axis vertically on the bracket in changed it from flat "fill" into a directional "key" light.

Point 4: When a single flash is moved off axis and it's functional role changes from "fill" to "key" it no longer cancels the the natural modeling of the skylight. In the case of a flash raised on a bracket the downward angle of the flash closely matches the dominant downward "key" angle of the natural skylight already modeling the object or face. The flash becomes a second smaller artificial source placed in line with a larger natural one, complementing its modeling not canceling it.

Point 5: When you move your single flash off axis and make it the "key" light it will not hit the shadows. What is left to fill the shadows outdoors? The skylight. Is the skylight bright enough to fill the shadows? That depends how dark you like them.

Lets imagine you and your subject get up before dawn and you set flash on a light stand 45 to the right of the subject's nose and take a shot. Will there be any fill in the shadows? No.

Now six hours later the sun is up, your subject's back is to the sun and you expose to keep the sun hitting their white shirt below clipping. The face is 3 stops darker. Now you turn on the flash 45 to the face and raise it's power until the highlights it creates on the front of shirt are similar to the sunny side, just about 1/3 stop darker. Will there be any more fill on the shaded side if the face than there was before you added the "key" flash? No. The shadows will be as dark as they were before you added the flash off axis.

What many will do when seeing how dark the shadows are is to change the overall exposure. But adding more ambient exposure to the shadows will blow the sunny highlights. That's why you typically see blown out hair and skin on many single flash shots where a single flash is moved off axis outdoors.

Point 6: If you move a single flash off axis and you want lighter shadows than the skylight creates you need a second fill source. It can be a reflector or a second flash. Here let's just consider flash. Where do you need to place the fill flash to lift the skylit shadows? Centered just under the lens where it will be shadowless.

Point 7: In terms of cause and effect what happens when two flashes are used in a flat fill, off-axis key light configuration outdoors in backlight is:

A) The fill flash kills all the natural modeling from the skylight
B) The key flash placed on the same angle as the natural light recreates the modeling

That's what I did below. I was just testing flash range so it's not the best example of modeling but what I did was first move the flash on the camera bracket (as near axis fill) until I saw shadow detail at 1/1 power in HSS mode, then I moved my second flash at 45 in until the front side if the white towel nearly matched the sunny rim lit back side...







The "fill" flash killed the natural modeling on the target, the "key" flash added it back from the 45V /45H angle to the right recreating with flash "faked" natural modeling.

The take away?

You never want to use a single flash for "fill" you instead want to make the sun your "hair light", the skylight your fill, and raise the flash above the head as your frontal "key" light.

Logistically the simplest way to do that with speedlights is to use a camera-flip flash bracket. If using a light on a stand the cause and effect is the came so you'd also want it centered and above the camera creating the same "butterfly" full face pattern. With a full face butterfly pattern there aren't many shadows seen on the face except under the chin so you can often get away with just one flash on a bracket for less formal candid flash assisted shots...







When you move a flash off axis to the side it will create shadows on the face. The skylight alone will usually not fill them light enough to look natural or flattering. You can alter shadow exposure with shutter or aperture but that will blow the highlights.

A "nuclear halo" effect of blown out hair and skin as become the accepted norm in outdoor shots but if you want highlight and shadow detail at the same time you need do what you'd do indoors to get it: control the lighting ratio at will by adding a second fill flash, centered about chin level so it is shadowless as possible.

When using two flashes outdoors add only enough fill to put detail in the shadow the key light creates on the darker objects, then overlap your off axis flash and adjust its power until the highlights it creates over the sky + flash fill are just below the sunny highlights. That application of flash outdoors is the same thing you'd do indoors to light a face, The only difference? The ambient light outdoors is brighter and has a natural downward direction you need to take into account when posing the subject before adding the flash. If you go outside with two flashes and do what I suggest fill for shadows, add key light just below the sunny side this cause and effect should be obvious.

If you can keep the subject in shade and don't mind an overexposed background you don't need flash. If it is an overcast day you don't need flash. But if you are faced with a clear sunny day and want a normal looking background with a normal looking face in the foreground you will need to use two flashes because the scene range exceeds the sensor's.

Will the net result of a face lit that way be as natural looking as natural light? Is an indoor flash shot ever natural looking? If you think yes, then why would you think the same tools can't be used outdoors to get the same natural results when the natural light there is doing most of the work?




Edited on Mar 08, 2012 at 04:40 AM · View previous versions



Mar 08, 2012 at 04:10 AM
Peter Figen
Offline
• • • •
Upload & Sell: On
p.1 #17 · Fill Flash for Outdoors. Why? It looks bad.


The problem here is verbosity combined with really horrible examples, which, in turn, undermine the credibility of the advisor.


Mar 08, 2012 at 04:38 AM
DubiousDrewski
Offline
• • •
Upload & Sell: Off
p.1 #18 · Fill Flash for Outdoors. Why? It looks bad.


It really does impress me how much he has written in posts even just today. Cgardner, you're prolific, if nothing else!


Mar 08, 2012 at 04:45 AM
Peter Figen
Offline
• • • •
Upload & Sell: On
p.1 #19 · Fill Flash for Outdoors. Why? It looks bad.


You'll soon see that most of what he posts are simple cut and paste jobs, often having little resemblance to the original question, but just enough to seem authoritative and basically repeating the same stuff over and over - and over again.


Mar 08, 2012 at 05:26 AM
cgardner
Offline
• • • • •
Upload & Sell: Off
p.1 #20 · Fill Flash for Outdoors. Why? It looks bad.


Peter Figen wrote:
The problem here is verbosity combined with really horrible examples, which, in turn, undermine the credibility of the advisor.


I'm not a working pro Peter so I don't have a wide variety of great looking models in shots to use as examples. The issues here are the technical physics of light and matching scene to sensor range, not the more creative aspects of how to apply the tools and technique.

The best way I know validate any advice offered and its source is try it and see if it works for you. If you know better ways to fit scene to sensor in sunlight Peter please enlighten us and point out the factual flaws in my advice rather than writing an editorial about how I choose to share it. As for the verbosity? No one is obligated to read it and its not your job to moderate my posting habits. Fred has never complained to me.

For others, if you've never tried a bracket to raise the flash off axis, or tow flashes in a flat centered fill / off-axis key light configuration you might want to try it and see if it works to judge if the advice is accurate or improves on the results you've been getting without flash in sunlight or with a single flash in the hot shoe.







Mar 08, 2012 at 05:32 AM
1
       2       3              5       6       end




FM Forums | Lighting & Studio Techniques | Join Upload & Sell

1
       2       3              5       6       end
    
 

You are not logged in. Login or Register

Username   Password    Retrive password