Easy-to-follow video tutorials help you learn software, creative, and business skills.Become a member

Using flash to supplement ambient light

From: Foundations of Photography: Flash

Video: Using flash to supplement ambient light

Alright, we've dragged Stephen out here to the edge big thing stuck to the front of his head. And this is what I got. It looks pretty good. That's looking better.

Using flash to supplement ambient light

Alright, we've dragged Stephen out here to the edge of this cliff to take a picture of him. It's a great shot, a, a great spot to take a nice portrait of someone doing something. I've got this incredible background. I've got the Pacific ocean back there and these beautiful cliffs so, I'm just going to do a little bit of shooting here. I'm in program mode, there's no reason to get fancy here. The camera should be able to handle this. I'm shooting fairly wide-angled because he's got this, big thing stuck to the front of his head. And this is what I got. It looks pretty good. The exposure's very even. The camera has done a good job of metering the background.

The oceans is well-exposed. He's well-exposed. There's really nothing wrong technically with this picture, it's just not quite right. He's a little bit lost in that background. I need more attention focused on him. So I'm going to do a variation, actually I'm going to do the same thing but for a different reason, of what we did a couple of movies ago. I'm going to use my flash to lower the ambient light. Though it's well-exposed, I would like to underexpose that background, light him up with flash, and hopefully bring more attention to him. I am in a fill-flash situation here. The sun is my key light and so I'm going to use my flash as a fill light.

I've gone to an external flash because he is kind of far away and it's bright out here. I think I need some more power. I am going to start like I did before by setting my ambient exposure. I am going to shutter priority mode. Dialing in I'll do another two stops of underexposure and see what I get. I think I'm going to go even farther. I want that background really dark. I'm going down to three stops under. That's looking better. Now I need to light him back up so I'm going to turn my flash on. And I'm going to let ETTL do its thing. I'm going to see what it comes up with in terms of fill flash.

That's pretty good but it's still a little bit dark. I think I need more. Now notice when I did this I tilted my camera this way. I don't normally shoot like this because I don't like this elbow up in the air, it's unstable. But because the sun is lighting up this side of his face I want the flash more over here. So, I'm going to dial in some positive exposure compensation. That's something you haven't seen me do. I'm going to turn the flash power up. I'm going to boost it by two stops and see what happens. I did not choose two stops for any reason other than a guess. And that's looking better. That's brighter.

So, I think that's working pretty well. It's, still, though, it's not a big a change as I thought. Looking at my flash, I see that it's zoomed at 28 millimeters. That's really wide. I don't need this whole area covered. I just want him covered, so I'm going to manually zoom. I'm going to zoom in pretty tight, I'm going to set my flash to a zoom of 70 millimeters, and take my shot again. I'm going to get he and the didge in the shot together. There we go, that's throwing some more light on. Now I'm just going to bracket this stuff. I'm going to play. Since I've got this great subject who's doing all of this stuff.

I'm going to play with different levels of ambient exposure. And I am going to play with just a little bit more flash. I'm going to go up to three stops over. So I've got a range of shots here. Here's what I finally came up with that I think I like. By darkening the background I'm bringing a lot more attention to him. My flash is taking care of lighting him up, my ambient exposure's taking care of the background. This is a case where I've made purely an aesthetic decision. There wasn't that much wrong with that original exposure.

It's just he was getting lost. Your job as a photographer is to make sure the viewer's eye goes where you want it to. And I want it staying on him. I've got lots of different tools to do that. And one of the best ones is controlling the light in the scene. With my flash, I can put a lot of light on him, change the exposure to dim the background and bring a lot of focus and attention to him. Something that you wouldn't think he needs, given what he's doing right now but in a still shot, you've got to use all of these things at your disposal to try and get the viewer to look where you want them to.

Show transcript

This video is part of

Image for Foundations of Photography: Flash
Foundations of Photography: Flash

40 video lessons · 17240 viewers

Ben Long

Expand all | Collapse all
  1. 1m 35s
    1. Welcome
      1m 35s
  2. 33m 1s
    1. Exposure revisited
      2m 22s
    2. How flash works
      2m 12s
    3. Balancing ambient light and flash
      3m 54s
    4. Shutter speed, aperture, and flash
      4m 11s
    5. Fill and key light with flash
      4m 13s
    6. Understanding flash range
      2m 47s
    7. Understanding flash modes
      5m 16s
    8. Flash sync options
      3m 2s
    9. Some notes about your camera's built-in flash
      5m 4s
  3. 32m 50s
    1. When to use fill flash
      1m 39s
    2. Using fill flash in auto and program modes
      2m 44s
    3. Fill flash in priority or manual modes
      2m 38s
    4. Using flash exposure compensation
      9m 14s
    5. Using fill flash to eliminate unwanted shadows
      5m 46s
    6. Using fill flash to darken a background
      5m 1s
    7. Using flash to supplement ambient light
      3m 48s
    8. Filling in for a bright sunset
      2m 0s
  4. 33m 53s
    1. Shooting a portrait with flash as the key light
      4m 27s
    2. Why use an external flash?
      3m 34s
    3. Flash power and recharging times
      4m 21s
    4. Flash zoom
      1m 45s
    5. Taking the flash off camera
      5m 35s
    6. Using a softbox
      5m 3s
    7. Balancing flash and window light
      4m 22s
    8. Paying attention to the light in the room
      3m 39s
    9. Flash and white balance
      1m 7s
  5. 54m 20s
    1. Bouncing flash to improve lighting
      13m 8s
    2. Alternative options for bouncing flash
      5m 12s
    3. Using slow sync with flash
      8m 50s
    4. Rear-curtain sync
      11m 54s
    5. Using radio controls to fire a flash
      4m 32s
    6. Working with manual flash
      10m 44s
  6. 25m 16s
    1. Building up to multiple flash units
      13m 3s
    2. Adding the second flash for fill
      5m 19s
    3. The third flash as a backlight
      6m 54s
  7. 7m 50s
    1. Which brand of flash should you buy?
      1m 27s
    2. Guide number considerations
      3m 13s
    3. Shopping recommendations
      3m 10s
  8. 42s
    1. Next steps

Start learning today

Get unlimited access to all courses for just $25/month.

Become a member
Sometimes @lynda teaches me how to use a program and sometimes Lynda.com changes my life forever. @JosefShutter
@lynda lynda.com is an absolute life saver when it comes to learning todays software. Definitely recommend it! #higherlearning @Michael_Caraway
@lynda The best thing online! Your database of courses is great! To the mark and very helpful. Thanks! @ru22more
Got to create something yesterday I never thought I could do. #thanks @lynda @Ngventurella
I really do love @lynda as a learning platform. Never stop learning and developing, it’s probably our greatest gift as a species! @soundslikedavid
@lynda just subscribed to lynda.com all I can say its brilliant join now trust me @ButchSamurai
@lynda is an awesome resource. The membership is priceless if you take advantage of it. @diabetic_techie
One of the best decision I made this year. Buy a 1yr subscription to @lynda @cybercaptive
guys lynda.com (@lynda) is the best. So far I’ve learned Java, principles of OO programming, and now learning about MS project @lucasmitchell
Signed back up to @lynda dot com. I’ve missed it!! Proper geeking out right now! #timetolearn #geek @JayGodbold
Share a link to this course

What are exercise files?

Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course. Save time by downloading the author's files instead of setting up your own files, and learn by following along with the instructor.

Can I take this course without the exercise files?

Yes! If you decide you would like the exercise files later, you can upgrade to a premium account any time.

Become a member Download sample files See plans and pricing

Please wait... please wait ...
Upgrade to get access to exercise files.

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

Learn by watching, listening, and doing, Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course, so you can download them and follow along Premium memberships include access to all exercise files in the library.

Exercise files

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

For additional information on downloading and using exercise files, watch our instructional video or read the instructions in the FAQ.

This course includes free exercise files, so you can practice while you watch the course. To access all the exercise files in our library, become a Premium Member.

Are you sure you want to mark all the videos in this course as unwatched?

This will not affect your course history, your reports, or your certificates of completion for this course.

Mark all as unwatched Cancel


You have completed Foundations of Photography: Flash.

Return to your organization's learning portal to continue training, or close this page.

Become a member to add this course to a playlist

Join today and get unlimited access to the entire library of video courses—and create as many playlists as you like.

Get started

Already a member?

Become a member to like this course.

Join today and get unlimited access to the entire library of video courses.

Get started

Already a member?

Exercise files

Learn by watching, listening, and doing! Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course, so you can download them and follow along. Exercise files are available with all Premium memberships. Learn more

Get started

Already a Premium member?

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

Ask a question

Thanks for contacting us.
You’ll hear from our Customer Service team within 24 hours.

Please enter the text shown below:

The classic layout automatically defaults to the latest Flash Player.

To choose a different player, hold the cursor over your name at the top right of any lynda.com page and choose Site preferencesfrom the dropdown menu.

Continue to classic layout Stay on new layout
Exercise files

Access exercise files from a button right under the course name.

Mark videos as unwatched

Remove icons showing you already watched videos if you want to start over.

Control your viewing experience

Make the video wide, narrow, full-screen, or pop the player out of the page into its own window.

Interactive transcripts

Click on text in the transcript to jump to that spot in the video. As the video plays, the relevant spot in the transcript will be highlighted.

Are you sure you want to delete this note?


Your file was successfully uploaded.

Thanks for signing up.

We’ll send you a confirmation email shortly.

Sign up and receive emails about lynda.com and our online training library:

Here’s our privacy policy with more details about how we handle your information.

Keep up with news, tips, and latest courses with emails from lynda.com.

Sign up and receive emails about lynda.com and our online training library:

Here’s our privacy policy with more details about how we handle your information.

submit Lightbox submit clicked
Terms and conditions of use

We've updated our terms and conditions (now called terms of service).Go
Review and accept our updated terms of service.