Here’s a common seneraio: It’s a beautiful day and you want to get a photo of your loved one outside. You don’t want them to squint in the sun so you put them under a tree or some place shaddy. The background of the photo looks great but your loved one is lost in deep shadow. You’re confused that your new camera did not capture the scene the way your eye sees it.
This is where using a bit of fill flash can make a world of difference. Understand that cameras do not see the same amount of tonal range as the human eye does. The human eye can see into deep shadow while also see detail into bright sun lit areas of the same scene however a camera in the same situation can see either details in the highlights or shadows but not both at the same time. This range of detail that the eye or camera sees is often referred to as tonal range or dynamic range.
Since we now know that a camera does not have the same amount of dynamic range as the human eye we need to compensate for this and there are a few options.
The first and most common option is to give up. It’s easy to do and if you’re in a hurry you just move along hoping that one of your photos will turn out. This option is one of frustration and is not one I recommend.
The second option is to use your exposure compensation. This often looks like the +/- button on the back of your camera. Setting your camera exposure compensation values into the “+” makes the overall photo brighter and anything in the “-” makes it look darker. While its fashionable and artistic sometimes to blow out the background its not so helpful if you’re on vacation and you want to bring home photos of you in a beautiful location to show your family. Using the exposure compensation of your camera gives you this result.
The third result is to use the flash to fill in the the shadow areas of the photo with a splash of light. This technique is called Fill Flash. If you ever seen a wedding photographer work they are often using fill flash. To use fill flash you need to turn on your flash which is often represented by the lighting bolt icon on the back of your camera (check the manual for your individual camera). With the Olympus Pen Mini that means attaching the included flash and turning it on by lifting up on it slightly. Using Fill Flash will give you this result.
As you can see you have some options to get the photos you want while outside. Practice using fill flash before you head out in the future and you’ll be able to use fill flash with ease.
This is a very basic guide to fill flash. If you would like me to get deeper into the subject in a future post let me know in the comments below.