If you have come across the term ‘fill flash’ and wondered what it was, or even if you could use it. Let me show some simple examples so you can incorporate it into your pet portraits.
DEFINITION: Fill flash is a photographic technique used to brighten deep shadow areas, typically outdoors on sunny days, though the technique is useful any time the background is significantly brighter than the subject of the photograph, particularly in backlit subjects.Wikipedia
Have you ever taken portraits like this?
This is Natasha and she looks terrible. She is a fuzzy dark blob against a bright sky. New Zealand light is exceptionally strong but that’s no excuse for my poor attempt at a photo.
Fill Flash to the Rescue
I have included the Wikipedia definition of fill flash because it points out one important point ‘brightening deep shadows … outdoors‘. If you are like me your first thought is – flash outdoors, but I thought it was for inside where it’s darker?
With the wikipedia definition in mind I moved my dial to ‘close-up’ or macro, which is often shown on a DSLR as a small flower. If Natasha wasn’t moving I was going to experiment a bit.
Immediately I turned the dial and half pressed my shutter, the camera detected the change in the light and the flash popped up.
Built in flash is not very strong and often looked down upon by professionals who use larger bulkier flash guns but, it is perfect for an outdoor photography shoot with a single pet who is not too far away.
I took advantage of Natasha remaining on the high fence and took photos while the small built in flash fired. (She is used to the noise of the camera, and was not bothered by the small flash at all). As a cat, Natasha was more interested in listening to a neighbour’s dog barking in a nearby garden.
Where is Your Fill Flash?
If you look at this sample DLSR camera you will see a raised area above the lens, the flash will pop up here. Built in flashes are usually small, approx. 2.5 cms (1 inch) wide, so perfect for that shady pet picture.
NOTE: A compact camera or a smartphone might have their fill flash in a different location. Please check your manual.
You can see how helpful the small built-in flash can be in these circumstances. If your pet is about a metre away (3 ft. approx.) But you are struggling with a few shadows a small flash can make a difference and transform your shot.
Should I Use Fill Flash?
Yes. It’s not hard. Take your pet into the garden, or a catio, and find an area of contrasting light and shadows. Then practise using your own fill flash. Let your pet become accustomed toyour camera sounds and lights.
Prepare to be surprised and amazed as your photos transform from ‘dark blobs’ to real pets enjoying dappled shade.
A Disadvantage of Fill Flash
Used inside or outside you can get the infamous ‘red eye’ or white reflections that give your pet a glazed appearance. Unless of course, the pair of you intend to go out zombie hunting!
Are you going zombie hunting or trying a touch of gentle fill flash in your spring photos?