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Fill Flash?

Discussion in 'General Technical Discussion' started by PGB, Jul 12, 2005.

  1. PGB


    Jan 25, 2005
    With all the talk about fill flash lately. How do you decide how much to use in the field or when to use it period? What power or configuration do you set your SB-800's? Do you use the diffuser? Explain some of these tricks to a complete idiot when it comes to the sb-800.

  2. ckdamascus


    May 14, 2005
    New Jersey
    Fill flash is needed when you have a serious difference in light for the background and the subject. This commonly happens in strong lighting with harsh shadows.

    Unfortunately our puny cameras cannot handle such a large range of light like the human eye, so you are going to either overexpose the background or underexpose the subject. Most people would opt to overexpose the background aka blow out the background and let it become some ball of white rather than have their subject look like some dark chunk of charcoal.

    One way to get around this, is to expose for the background, and then use 'fill-flash' to blast some light into the now-under exposed subject.

    This helps equalize it out and lets you avoid making the trade off of "over exposed background" or "under exposed subject".

    Okay, this all sounds great in theory, so how do I do it?

    One way to help do this,
    - Press the flash button to enable flash
    - Set the flash to -1.7 or so.
    - Disable matrix metering and go to spot
    - Use spot metering for something in the background.
    - Hold on to the AE-L button so your exposure is locked to the background.
    - Fire away

    You should get a "pretty well" exposed shot.

    As for the flash, here is what I know of it. Hopefully someone will correct me if I am wrong.

    With the SB-800 you should leave it on. You could either choose balanced fill or manual. Thom Hogan suggests avoiding balanced fill since it will not give you consistent results.

    You should always use a diffuser and if you can, try to bounce it on something to diffuse the light even more. Umbrellas would be nice, but I think we are starting to push the thresholds of convenience here. :) 

    If you can, take the SB-800 off-camera to do wireless flash firing. This is the best way to reduce red-eye.

    The D70 has a unique capability of triggering a SB-600/800 with it's internal flash (aka commander mode). The only way the other cameras can do it is with an SB-800 in commander mode.
  3. heiko


    May 15, 2005
  4. Steve S

    Steve S

    Feb 1, 2005
    SE Florida
    ok, Carroll, I've got another question for you

    When I used my SB800 last night set to my usual daylight settings of -1 2/3, with only the ambient light being that of a swimming pool, I got underexposed images by about 1/2 stop. (This is the amt I corrected in NC). I didn't use any +EV Comp on-camera. Cam set to Matrix metering. What went wrong?
  5. ckdamascus


    May 14, 2005
    New Jersey
    Re: ok, Carroll, I've got another question for you

    Were you using a diffuser or aiming it upwards without something to bounce from?
  6. eng45ine


    May 11, 2005
    Chicago, IL

    I appreciate the insight on how you use your flash. I bought an SB800 and I haven't used it much at all and have absolutely no clue on how to get the most out of it. I plan to copy your tutorial and give it a try soon. Thanks for sharing your ideas.
  7. Here's how I use my SB800:

    Indoor: I almost always bounce it of the ceiling (TTL does great in this)(I have white ceiling :wink: ), for portraits I mostly use the reflection card to set some highlights in the eyes. When bouncing, I try different angels, right-up, left-up, sometimes set 45° behind me when there is a white wall. When shooting longer lenses, straight up won't do it, then I use a 45°-90° angle.

    This gives great light for portraits.

    the diffuser (the lumiquest type) gives me to much direct light most times. I use it when shooting really wide (12-24) bounced.

    I always use it in direct sunlight (directly pointed without diffuser set to TTL), to light up the harsh shadows (watch the f stop to get under 1/500 flash-sync to prevent overexposed shoots).

    BTW: I always shoot in A, Flash most times set to TTL (Thom is right about TTL BL, sometimes works but very unpredictable).
    To adjust back to front lighting, I use the comp on the flash (don't mix flash-comp on Camera and flash!)

    Beware this might not be the best way to do things, but so far, it works well for me! Hints to improve are always welcome!
  8. Steve S

    Steve S

    Feb 1, 2005
    SE Florida
    Re: ok, Carroll, I've got another question for you

  9. ckdamascus


    May 14, 2005
    New Jersey
    Re: ok, Carroll, I've got another question for you

  10. JeffKohn


    Apr 21, 2005
    Houston, TX
    I use fill flash quite a bit. For people photography it can reduce or eliminate shadows in the eye sockets and other places. For wildlife (assuming within range) it will add catchlights and help fill in shadows in high-contrast situations. For macro photography it can allow you to stop down more while still keeping the shutter speed up. The trick to effective fill-flash is that it shouldn't be noticeable; it ruins the effect if the image ends up with that "obvious flash" look IMHO.

    The configuration that I've found to work well with the SB-800 is to use TTL-BL. At 0 Flash EV the fill effect is almost always too strong, so I dial in anywhere from -2/3 to -1 2/3 Flash EV depending on the tonality of the subject and the strength of the ambient light. (It's best to just take a test shot and look at the histogram and highlight warning to determine exactly how much). For fill flash I'm usually in Aperture-priority mode with matrix metering (spot-metering disables the balanced fillflash functionality). You have to keep an eye on your shutter speed, it needs to be below the flash-sync speed of course (unless you have FP mode available to you), but you also don't want to see a shutter speed of 1/60 because that means the flash is no longer the fill but is actually the main light due to insufficient ambient light for the chosen aperture. In that case I switch over to manual exposure and put the flash in regular TTL mode just like I would for indoor shooting.

    As for diffusors or other modifiers, I actaully prefer my Lumiquest ProMax system to the stofen-type bare-bulb diffusors. I always use it with the front diffusor panel, and can use it either with or without ceiling bounce depending on the location/situation.
  11. PGB


    Jan 25, 2005
    Excellent information. Thanks everyone. I look forward to trying this out this weekend at the NikonCafe.com picnic at the Botanical Gardens in Huntsville.
  12. bpetterson

    bpetterson Guest

    I gave my daughter my D100 before their trip to Sweden
    to get their new Volvo SC90.

    Told her to use flash all the time [ INDOORS AND OUTDOORS] with camera set to f8, iso 400, and shoot in aperture priority.
    Try to keep subject at not more than 15 feet.
    As to Ev correction 0, +.30, +.70. on camera.

    Yes the D2X has many settings I know.
    Just wanted to get you started- so you can post some photos.

    See those people wearing those Nikon Hats shade the face.
    I want to see the eyebrows.

  13. PGB


    Jan 25, 2005
    Thanks Birger, I'll give it a go!
  14. cwilt


    Apr 24, 2005
    Denver, CO
    I have not played with fill flash on the D2x much but I did use it often with the D70. My typical routine was to use M mode on D70. Set Apeture for DOF or effect, spot meter a midtone and adjust shutter for background exposure. Over or under depending on the effect I wanted. Then spot meter subject and use FV lock. This was without using iTTL-BL.

    If you really want to get picky bust out the light meter. :) 
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