Dedicated Camera vs iPhone - Fill Flash

When I'm out in the world as a tourist or family guy, people (who don't know me) always act a little surprised when I pull a camera out of my pocket instead of an iPhone. One of the reasons why I do this is for fill flash.

Yes, smartphones do have tiny little LED flashes that work in some situations. But when you have a really bright background, they just don't get the job done. If you've tried it, you know what I mean. More often than not, you end up with an overexposed background and underexposed subjects. With a decent fill flash, however, you can balance all of the elements.

Wine-Country-Portrait.jpg "Family Portrait with Fill Flash on a Bright Day" - Fujifilm XF10, Program mode, fill flash at +1.0 , RAW+Jpeg, processed in Photos for macOS. Picture by Derrick Story

One of my favorite "family on vacation" cameras is the Fujifilm XF10 because in part, it has a great flash. It's far more powerful than my iPhone, and it's very intelligent.

For this portrait, I captured in RAW+Jpeg with fill flash set to +1.0. It was a very contrasty afternoon, and taking the group shot in the bright natural light was out of the question. Nobody would have liked it.

So I moved the family to the open shade with a pretty background - definitely a better recipe for success. Others were trying it as well with their smartphones (some of which I took for them), and they couldn't quite tame the light. The LEDs just weren't powerful enough.

One side note to technique: even when using the Fujifilm XF10 or similar camera, give it a chance to evaluate the scene. Compose the shot, press the shutter half way until you get a confirmation light, then continue pressing to take the picture. You will get the proper balance of fill light and background exposure. If it's not quite right, you can always increase or decrease the fill light via the flash exposure compensation setting.

When I handed my camera to others to take a photo with myself included, they didn't understand when I explained that they had to press the shutter button halfway first. They are so used to shooting with smartphones that they "tap" the shutter button. The exposures were not nearly as good as a result.

Bottom line for me is that I save one of my front pockets for the XF10 when hanging out with family. I still use my iPhone for many of the pictures. But when the situation demands a bite more finesse, I'm so happy to have a dedicated camera as well.

You can share your thoughts at the TDS Facebook page, where I'll post this story for discussion.