by Mike McNamee Published 01/08/2012
This comparison set of images show the difference between not using any flash (top) and fill flash used to brighten the shadows on the dark side of the face (bottom). To soften the light from the flash, the light was bounced from a reflector rather than fired directly at the subject.
If you want to get simple fill-flash results but don't know where to start, here's a technique that will hardly ever fail - set the camera to Manual exposure and with shutter speed, aperture and ISO get the exposure correct as if you were not using flash - you can even take a test picture here if you're not certain. Now simply attach the flash, be it with a cable or on the hotshoe, and take the picture. You should have a perfectly balanced flash exposure. Now you can play around with the shutter speed and ISO to capture more or less ambient light and thereby change the flash-ambient balance to suit.
Shoot with Program (P) mode and the camera will try to achieve balanced fill-in flash only if the ambient light and ISO chosen is sufficient to allow the camera to employ a shutter speed in the range of 1/60s thru to the camera's flash sync speed (usually between 1/200-1/250s). The reason it won't go below 1/60s is that it assumes you are fairly new to photography and it is therefore trying to save you from yourself - by limiting the shutter speed to no slower than 1/60s you can be reasonably sure that you'll avoid camera shake. The downside is that while this might work great outside in bright daylight, move inside and suddenly your ambient light levels drop.
While the aperture will open wide to help, there are limits to how far it can go. The result is that with P mode indoors, although your flash lit subject is correctly exposed, the background is likely to be black and the result is your subject may appear over lit.
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