Photography 101: Outdoor Flash

As strange as it may sound, I like to turn OFF my flash indoors, and turn ON my flash outside.  The indoor part is a post for another day.  Today we’re going to talk about using your flash outdoors.

What?  That makes no sense… there is plenty of light outside.  That’s what your AUTO setting thinks too, and why you should override it whenever possible.  You see, the sun, as wonderful as it may be, produces harsh light.  (That’s the reason overcast days are perfect for portraits!)  So, to take away some of the edge of that harsh sun and remove shadows from the face, you need to use what’s called a fill flash.  Oh, and the sun’s not a bad thing!  Face your subject away from the sun to get some awesome backlighting!

This is pointless without pictures, I know.  Let’s look at some examples.

No Flash:


You see how, even though there is plenty of light in the first picture to see everything, her face just POPS in the second?  I just added a little flash, which filled in the shadows that were on her face.

Here’s another.  Notice the backlighting.

Without flash:

With flash.

One more… This next set shows a little problem with flash that we usually don’t have outdoors.  Here’s the without version:

Nice, but there are still shadows in her eye sockets.  This one (with flash) is better of her face, but do you see the problem?

The problem is the side shadow on the left.  I can’t STAND this in my pictures.  It’s usually an indoor issue, when you turn your camera vertical  it causes that little shadow.  Because the garage door was behind her, it did the same thing the flash would do indoors and caused a shadow on the wall.  I ended up choosing to turn off the flash.  I could have also shot the image horizontal, which would have eliminated the side shadow and then cropped the image vertically later when editing.   This is just something to look for when you’re using a flash.

In all these example pairs, all camera settings were the same for both images.  The only difference was whether the flash fired or not.  Do you see what a difference it makes?  So, I challenge you to go outside on a bright day and take some pictures – some with and some without flash – and see how you like the results!


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About Laura

A Christian wife, mother, daughter, former educator, photographer, amateur chef, pretend gardener, alto 🎶, book nerd, cancer-survivor and laundry-hater.

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One Response to Photography 101: Outdoor Flash

  1. Debi Kirksey October 15, 2012 at 9:27 am #

    OK–I’m definitely trying this next time!

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