What Is a Fill Flash and How to Set It Up

Flash is an integral part of photography. It is a device used to illuminate a dark scene by providing a blast of artificial light. This light becomes only active the moment the shutter button is pressed. The device is handy when it comes to shooting photographs in conditions and situations where the lighting level is not sufficient or light is not present at all. As the light from a flash device is naturally harsh, knowing how to control it will help photographers take better shots.

Comparing Fill Flash with Other Techniques

There are several techniques when it comes to using flash to provide additional illumination. One is referred to as fill in flash. It is used to illuminate the shaded parts of the image to look as bright as the rest of the image. Bounce flash is a similar technique to fill flash. However, instead of positioning the flash directly towards the subject, the light is redirected to a reflective material such as a bounce card. This creates a softer effect, but requires a higher level of flash power in comparison with direct use of light.

A slave flash is a secondary flash which is activated by the master flash. Last are strobe flashes. These can be programmed to flash a number of times at a certain level, allowing the photographer to capture multiple shots under a single exposure.  

How to Use Fill Flash

Fill flash is used to brighten areas with deep shadows or where the subject appears much darker than the background. This includes photographs taken when the sun is high up or if taking photographs of a subject that is standing against the light. The trick is choosing the right mix of shutter speed and aperture to make the shaded part appear as bright as the surrounding background, without making it appear overexposed.

It also depends on the distance of the subject in relation to the flash as well as the material. The flash is only effective up to a certain distance and under a number of situations. Creating a fill using a point and shoot camera can be more difficult. Most point and shoot cameras operate automatically, with little control from the user in terms of lens focus, exposure and flash.

Controlling the Amount of Light

Adjusting the flash is essential in order to create the fill effect, most especially if the distance between the subject and the flash can no longer be adjusted. With DSLR cameras and a small number of point and shoot models, it is possible to manually adjust the strength of the flash. In such cameras, it is possible to adjust the power of the flash to 1/2, 1/3 to even 1/8 of its full power. Adjust the settings manually to ensure that the exposure of both the foreground and the background are of the same level.

Considering the Distance

The flash on a camera is a portable device which provides additional light. In most cases, the flash is only effective with distances of up to nine feet indoors. This is an estimate, which can further be compromised if the picture is taken outdoors or in a bright environment.