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Photo Assignment: Fill Flash Portraits
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Defining the challenge


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Photo Assignment: Fill Flash Portraits

with Derrick Story

Video: Defining the challenge

So here is the challenge for our Fill Flash Portrait Photo Assignment. How do we work outdoors in the bright sunlight when we don't have very much control over the lighting and still come away with good portraits? Now you know the setting, a wedding reception in the afternoon, the kid's birthday party. We've all been in these situations where we have to come away with good pictures, but we don't really have much control over the lighting or the setup or anything else and we have to work quickly to boot. Now what am I talking about exactly? Well, let's take a look at a portrait taken outside.

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Photo Assignment: Fill Flash Portraits
16m 39s Intermediate Oct 15, 2009

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Photo Assignment: Fill Flash Portraits is an interactive video course, where participants learn how to augment outdoor lighting with a typical flash. Derrick Story shows how to use professional techniques to take great shots in a variety of situations, including full sun, partial shade, or even with odd cross-shadows. Derrick teaches how to create clean, natural-looking portraits even when the sun is at the worst possible angle. At the end of the course, Derrick describes how to upload photos to Flickr for review and comment.

Fill Flash Portrait Photo Assignment Flickr Discussion Group

Subjects:
Photography Flash Photography Portraits Lighting
Author:
Derrick Story

Defining the challenge

So here is the challenge for our Fill Flash Portrait Photo Assignment. How do we work outdoors in the bright sunlight when we don't have very much control over the lighting and still come away with good portraits? Now you know the setting, a wedding reception in the afternoon, the kid's birthday party. We've all been in these situations where we have to come away with good pictures, but we don't really have much control over the lighting or the setup or anything else and we have to work quickly to boot. Now what am I talking about exactly? Well, let's take a look at a portrait taken outside.

This is a quick shot. No supplemental lighting was added. It's the middle of the day. This is the scenario that we all dread as photographers. So we have very strong light coming down and then it hits the face in odd ways. We've got a very hot spectral spot right here on the nose and we've got another hot spot here on the cheek, yet the eyes are pretty much shaded. And then the other problem is because the light is coming from this harsh angle, it accentuates skin texture. So we are seeing more pores and more lines than we would like to see and certainly more than the subject of the photograph would like to see.

So what can we do about that? Well, a lot of folks know that if you turn on the flash on your camera and this is a compact camera or a digital SLR, that we can fill in some of that light, and the camera does a fantastic job of balancing the ambient light with the fill light. So suddenly, we are not seeing as much skin texture here, the hot spots aren't as hot as they were before, we have light on the eyes. All around, it is an improvement over the previous shot. Let's put them up side by side so we can get a really good look.

I am just going to change gears here. I am working in aperture, by the way, which is just great for this kind of stuff. So here we are. Here is our original shot with no fill-flash and here's the fill-flash shot, and you can see that there's less texture here, the lines are softened, the eyes are brighter, just all the way around, it's an improvement. The problem, of course, is that this looks like a fill-flash shot and it looks a little artificial. It doesn't look natural. So then part of the challenge is is there a way that we can create natural looking portraits in terrible light, using this fill-flash technique? And I think we can.

So let me grab my camera. Let's go out in the field and let's take some pictures.

Find answers to the most frequently asked questions about Photo Assignment: Fill Flash Portraits.


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Q: What is the make and model of the adjustable flash bracket the author is using in the Photo Assignment: Fill Flash Portraits chapter “The shoot”? Where can I purchase the same bracket?
A: Author Derrick Story is using the Stroboframe Quick Flip 350 Flash Bracket for 35mm cameras.
It is available at Amazon or B&H.
 
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