Fill flash recommendations

Jun 5, 2009
Parrish, FL
I am doing an engagement shoot for my daughter tomorrow evening and was looking for some help using my SB900 for fill flash. We are going to start around 7PM so the lighting should be pretty good and we will be shooting outside.

I will be using my D300 with a variety of lenses. What flash settings would you suggest if I decide to use the flash for fill? TTL BL FP or TTL FP? Does the diffuser do anything when using fill flash or leave it off? Any help would be appreciated.
Apr 3, 2006
A couple choices can work.

If using TTL mode (on flash menu), then the system tries to meter and adjust it as if the flash were the only light present. Since the sun is present and is the main light, that will be too much flash. For fill in sunshine, it is common for TTL mode to also set flash compensation of -1EV to -1.7EV. You need to practice a bit. Soon, you just know beforehand.

We did the above in the days before TTL BL was available, and it works great, and offers a lot of control with flash compensation.

Today, if using TTL BL mode (on flash menu), then BL means that the system tries to manage the ambient sunlight too, and adjust the flash level to it, at a reduced level for flash fill. How much less is always an unknown, it varies with how much sunlight is present, but result is usually reasonably decent... In bright sun, it appears to be similar to TTL with about -1EV flash compensation, which is about right, but experiment, look at results, and you may want slight flash compensation with that too (to get exactly the results that you want).

The main secret of using flash at any time in any situation is to realize that we must look at the result, and adjust flash compensation as necessary to get exactly the result we want. Knowing this is the major secret of success. Just look at result, and tweak flash compensation a bit. Not necessary on every shot, but should be examined in every new situation. Glance and tweak, only takes a second. Assuming the camera will always get it right is a beginners blunder. :smile:

Auto FP mode is to bypass the 1/250 second maximum shutter sync speed, used to obtain a wide aperture in bright sun. Sunny 16 says f/16 at 1/ISO seconds shutter speed in bright sun, which means f/16 at 1/200 at ISO 200. Equivalent exposures of f/11 1/400 or f/8 1/800 are not possible with flash because maximum shutter sync speed is 1/250. Auto FP bypasses that, you might use f/2.8 at 1/6400 second, however it will also reduce the available flash power a couple of f/stops. It probably is still adequate for fill flash in bright sun up to maybe 10 or 12 feet range, but be careful of range. Watch the ready LED for the 3 blinks. You can still do either TTL or TTL BL otherwise in the regular way.

The diffusion dome is too tiny to do much diffusion. It is designed to scatter a bit of direct forward fill when pointed up at the ceiling for bounce (indoors). All it will do outside is to reduce your flash power available. Experiment, try both, but dont be surprised when you find it is better outdoors without it. Indoors with bounce, you might try the pull out bounce card instead, it does the same thing without reducing flash power.
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