3 Situations Where Fill Flash Improves Your Pictures


Smartphones have a lot to do with the decline of fill flash. Their wimpy LED lights are no match for intense outdoor lighting. Additionally, many mirrorless cameras don't have a built-in flash. So even if you wanted to use a strobe, you probably don't have one handy.

The problem is, there are many lighting situations where fill flash will improve your pictures. And with so many affordable external units on the market, such as the retro Godox Lux Senior, it's not a deal breaker to have a compact unit available when needed.

Plus, some cameras do have built-in flashes, such as the popular Fujifilm X100V.

So let's take a look at those situations where fill flash can improve your pictures.

Strong Backlighting

ZF1_1118-Lux-Senior-Flash-1024.jpg Nikon Zf mirrorless camera, Nikkor Z 24mm-50mm zoom, Godox Lux Senior Flash, Aperture Priority set to f/6.3, 1/60th, ISO 160.

Intense backlighting can fool the best of camera meters, resulting in an underexposed subject. And if you spot meter just on the subject's face, then the entire background gets totally blown out.

But, if you let the camera dictate the exposure, then add a fill flash, you get both background and subject, plus a nice twinkle in the eyes.

Strong Side Lighting

side-light-comparison-1024.jpg Harsh side lighting is almost impossible to control without help, as shown on the left. Adding fill flash to this scene, as shown on the right, helps tremendously.

When sunlight is pouring in from the side, it's not a good look for people shots. And sometimes you can't reposition the subjects, such as events like wedding receptions. Fortunately, adding fill flash will balance out the lighting.

DSCF3346-X100V-Built-In-Flash-1024.jpg Fujifilm X100V camera, NISI Black Mist 1/4 filter, Built-In Flash TTL Mode, Flash Exposure Compensation -0.7, Program Mode (1/200 at f/2.6), ISO 200.

This is a situation where built-in flashes, such as the one included in the X100V, can do an excellent job. I recommend using flash exposure compensation to dial back the output to -0.7. That provides a more natural look.

Brighten Up Dull Lighting

ZF1_1098-Lux-Senior-Flash-2048.jpg My sincere thanks to Victoria for her fantastic work on the other side of the camera. Fill flash with the Nikon Zf. All photos by Derrick Story.

When your subject is in shade, the lighting is even, but can be somewhat dull. You can brighten up expressions with a bit of fill flash, as shown above. Again, dial down the output a bit to render a more natural portrait.

Final Thoughts

Using a flash can help us solve difficult lighting problems. But just as important, supplemental lighting makes our subjects look good. And that's why I think it's a technique worth exploring.