What is Fill Flash?
Fill flash is a technique for creating flattering outdoor light using a DSLR camera’s pop-up flash or a dedicated external flash unit. It is called fill flash because the ambient light is stronger than the flash, which is typically outdoors.
Fill flash fills in the shadows for portraits and brightens up the eyes with a catch light. It is most effective when the subject is in the shade or is back-lit. The secret to fill flash is using it sparingly so you don’t produce an overly lit, harsh look.
Fill flash is softer when it is under-exposed by one of two stops. This is known as Flash Exposure Compensation. A flash set at -2 emits two less units of light than at its default setting of 0.(full flash) This produces a weaker light than full flash but is just enough light to brighten the eyes with a catch light. Since this is not the default setting, you will want to make sure to reset the flash to its normal setting for indoor shots, so they are not under-exposed.
To set your flash exposure to -2 or -1, refer to your manual and look up “flash exposure compensation.” With some DSLR cameras, you will need to depress the flash button and the button that has a +/- at the same time and move the main dial to the -2 mark. With other DSLR cameras, you will use a menu setting.
If you forget to use fill flash in the field, it can also be done in Photoshop, although it is best to do it right in the camera. Below is the Photoshop technique for adding fill flash to an image.
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