Fill Flash For Cooler Photos

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The Epic Angler Photo by Louis Cahill

When shooting in natural light you can often create dramatic and beautiful effects with fill flash.

If you have a dedicated flash for your camera, it can be pretty easy. Here’s how to start. Most DSLR cameras have a flash output adjustment. It allows you to turn up and down the flash power in thirds of stops: -.3 being one-third stop darker than a normal exposure, – 1 being a full stop darker. There is a similar adjustment for ambient light exposure. If you’re not sure how to set these functions check you manual. For a nice natural fill flash look, set your flash in TTL mode and start with a setting of +1 for ambient exposure and -2 for flash exposure. Check the results on the view screen and adjust up for a brighter image or down for a darker image. Experiment and see how the image changes. Your first results may not be perfect but you will get the hang of it.

We are going to cover lots of this kind of thing in a hands-on photo class on our Andros South trip in January. We’d love to have you join us!

Come fish with us in the Bahamas!

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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6 thoughts on “Fill Flash For Cooler Photos

    • I use both. It depends on the look I’m going for. The slave flash is nice but it requires a little more setup and if it’s bright out the slave will sometimes not work. I use a piece of black foil to shield it from the sun when that happens.

  1. Louis:

    You know I appreciate your photography posts. Thank you!

    I love using fill flash, but once you get a fish in there, how do you keep the same effect without blowing out the fish? Since the fish will reflect the light, you lose many of the deep colors and detail. I would imagine you could lower the exposure and then fix off-camera?

    • Gary, that’s a great question fish can be tough with flash. Especially saltwater species like bonefish. It’s all about the angle you hold the fish at. If the fish is perfectly parallel to the camera it’s a nightmare. This is where your slave flash off to the side makes a big difference. An easier solution is to have your angler simply turn the fish, head toward you, a little so you don’t get a direct reflection of the flash. Turn him too much however and he goes dark. It takes a little practice to get the angle just right. The big thing is not to spend so much time fooling around with it that you hurt the fish. Keep his head underwater while you’re figuring out your exposure.

      Personally I try to avoid using the flash when photographing fish. It works well for heroes shot but if you’re just shooting the fish it’s better to get an ambient light exposure. You’ll have a much more natural looking fish.

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