Using fill flash may seem like a fairly simple thing to do, but creating this video reminded me of some of its challenges. Like I pointed out in the episode, there's not much to getting your flash to fire every time you take a photo; it's getting your shot to look the way you want it to that can sometimes be trivial, other times a bit huff and puff.
Nonetheless, once you start getting the hang of how your camera and flash behave together, the benefits and rewards start pulling through. And one behavior to note is how your camera exposes. In the video, I took some photos of myself, first with the flash off and then with the flash on at low, medium and maximum power levels. Now if you're not very familiar with the way most modern digital SLR cameras expose and meter, then I suggest you watch Episode 6 of my photo series to enlighten you. This may help you understand what I'm about to get into a little better.
Generally, most cameras tend to meter and expose in favor of the light areas of an image. In the first picture where I turned off the flash, I stood in front of bright white siding on a wall, which took up most of the frame. So, with me standing with my back to the sun and my face and chest in dark shadow, when the camera metered (remember the 18% grey) the result ended up being being quite drab; both the wall and me are under-exposed somewhat. These type of shots almost always remind me of snowy scenes; without exposure compensation, the snow generally turns out grey-ish versus being bright and almost pure white.
Now I could compensate for this effect by forcing the camera to over-expose the image via the handy exposure value (EV) adjustment feature (that little button with the +/- sign), but doing so would almost make things worse. Let's say to get a proper exposure on my face we need to push the EV up a stop (+1.0). Great, I'd look good, but the siding behind me would likely be blown out (or close to it). :^(
Well this is where using fill flash can save such photos. During my shoot, my camera was in aperture priority mode, lens at f4.0 and my shutter speed for all images ended up the same at 1/800 of a sec. My flash was of course set to manual so I could play with the power settings (don't we all love to play with power!), and as you can see the white siding is about the same in each shot, but I'm no longer veiled in darkness. The image is indeed more balanced and the lighting still looks fairly natural... although I gotta tell you, in the direction I was looking (toward the camera of course), there's a fence painted white, so yes, I am terribly squinting in each shot... Why I didn't put sun glasses on? I would've looked oh so much more cooler too! :P
Anywho... please do subscribe and check me out on Facebook and Twitter. I finally added some widgets to my blog, so you can easily access my other digital worlds on the Web. And as mentioned, RAW vs. JPEG shall be the topic for the next episode, so I hope you'll join me for that! L8r!