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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
I'm back at the computer here, looking at the shots from our fill-flash shoot and this is where I ended up. This is kind of the end of the story here, but I wanted to show it to you first because fill-flash can be natural looking. It can be beautiful. But we didn't start here and if you watch the previous movie on the fill-flash technique, you can see that we really had to work the scene. So let's kind of work through it back here on the computer and see how we got to here. So I am going to go back to the beginning of the story.
So here we are in bright sunlight, no fill-flash, no anything. We have seen this before. We've got very hot highlights in certain areas, dark in other areas. It's just too contrasty for most people, I mean as beautiful as Edie is here, this lighting is just not flattering for her and we want to get away from it as soon as possible. So we turn on the flash and regular fill-flash without any major adjustments is an improvement already. You can tell. We've gone a long ways from here to here just by turning on the flash.
You'll still see that we have some hot areas here that are not as contrasty, but we've opened up the eyes. Overall we have made some big improvements, but we still have some fine tuning we can do. The next thing that I did was just move the model a little bit and sometimes it really comes down to that - moving the model so that the light is falling on her from the sun in a different way. Remember, the sun is still part of the equation here. We are using Fill light to help smooth out the sun, but the sun is still a player.
And the difference between a shot like this where we have some hot spots, and a shot like this is simply just changing the direction of the model a little bit. So keep that in mind. Remember, you're working all these things together. Now what I've done here is I've actually darkened the background a little bit and I've changed the flash exposure compensation and we have two controls here that can work together. You can control the ambient part of the picture with your regular exposure compensation.
So you can make it darker by dialing it down, in this case, to -0.5, or you can make it brighter by dialing it up to +0.5 or +1. In this case, I dialed it down a little bit and I've also turned down the flash exposure compensation to -1, so that the flash effect isn't quite as strong. So this is a much different picture than this shot here. Now which one you like better is up to you. What we are really learning how to do is control our camera so that we can predict the kind of effects that it's going to produce for us.
Now here, I have dialed down the regular exposure compensation even more to 1.5. and have a nice dark background here. And the flash exposure is at -1. Now one thing about this shot, as I look at it on the computer, is I think I did a good job with the flash exposure compensation and the dark background is interesting, but the angle of the model has come into play here and we are catching some kind of odd light patterns here.
And that's totally my doing in the way that I positioned her. So you want to really keep an eye on how the natural light is falling on the model because it will make a big difference as you can see here. Now if we take these three shots, let's just put them, just for a moment, side by side so you can really see the effect of exposure compensation. So here's no regular exposure compensation. Here is -0.5 and here is -1.5. So you can see that you have a lot of control over how intense the background is.
Now the model is staying relatively in the same exposure range and that's primarily because that's controlled by the flash. So as long as the flash is within eight to ten feet of the model, which is normally where you want to be, that's where the flash is effective, then that will control the lighting on her in conjunction with the sun and then regular exposure compensation controls our background. All right. Let's move on. Now this is going to be a very different look right here.
Suddenly, we are not seeing those very hot spots anymore. That's because we have moved into the shade and I will tell you, if you have the opportunity, if it works out to where you could say to the subject, "Hey. Can we just walk ten steps over here and there's a nice shady tree and I'd like to try a few shots there if you have a moment." It makes all the difference in the world because now we have a much more diffused light because we're in the shade and we used the fill-flash just to add a little pop to the eyes and a little glow to the skin. Now in Edie's case, because she has darker skin, in the shade, I did not want to use full-flash because then we get that very hot fill-flash look.
It looks unnatural. But if you look at this shot, it looks fairly natural. Now photographers would know that there is a little Fill light because we know these things, right? But it's a fairly natural looking shot. So here, we have the fill-flash set to -1.5, just adding a little supplemental light and it gives it a natural look. Now the other thing that I did was because we are under a tree and the light is a little cooler here, a little more bluish, I changed the White balance from Auto to Cloudy and Cloudy warms things up a little bit.
So I dialed back flash exposure compensation and then change the color temperature, the White balance setting, just a little bit so we get a nice warm look. And I think we really hit our stride with this particular setup because as you'll see, by looking at these shots, I think they're very attractive of Edie. We have some nice things going on in the background here and if I wanted to brighten that up, I could just by changing the exposure compensation to maybe +5 or +1, but I sort of like it the way that it is.
And here we go again, fill-flash, -1.5, White balance on Cloudy and we end up with this very nice series of shots. So as you can see, fill-flash does give you a lot of options. Sometimes when you're out in the bright sun you're just trying to save the shot. But when you use it in conditions that are less harsh you can really move the whole ball forward, the whole game forward by using the fill-flash. So, it's up to you. I would practice both, both out in the bright sun and in the shade and see what kind of results you get.
Play with the exposure compensation, both for the background and then the flash exposure compensation, for your subject. I'm sure you're going to find the right combination that makes a perfect portrait for you.
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