How To Use Fill-In Flash

Safari Guide of the Year 2014 Finalist Jabulani Silinda

The diverse lighting scenarios that we recently encountered while shooting the Safari Guide of the Year 2014 competition, inspired us to share some insight into using flashes, or speedlights as they are known, especially because flash techniques are often misunderstood. Above is an example that features Jabulani Silinda from Kariega Game Reserve, one of the finalists, while he was guiding a game drive in the Kruger National Park. Using the flash correctly allows for the evocative sunrise background to remain beautifully exposed, while at the same time lighting Jabulani’s face in the foreground.

The technology that goes into today’s speedlights is phenomenal, with tremendous functionality built into a high-end, pro flash. Luckily you can go to “idiot” mode if you are unfamiliar with the settings and options, and while flashes vary greatly in their output and functionality, the theory is the same. Most often you would use a flash to light a subject when there is not enough ambient (available) light, but the way you use it will distinguish between a “point and shoot” result and a skilful shot.

Flash Power vs Ambient Light

It’s important to understand that even though you might have a “powerful” flash, its output is far less potent than the ambient light on a bright day. This is why the flash can subtly soften shadows without spoiling detail, even at full power. Fill-in flash is a very useful technique in bright light, as it can soften shadows on the subject in order to correctly expose darker areas where a lot of detail would otherwise be lost. This is because the camera “averages” the exposure to achieve a balance between highlights (bright areas) and lowlights (shadows).

A great added benefit of fill-in flash is that it creates a compelling catchlight for you to capture in the eyes of your subject – assuming that you are photographing an animal or person. Here are two more examples from the Safari Guide of the Year competition, showing the twinkle in the eye of winner Nick du Plessis from Singita, as well as Brian Serrao and Quinton Coetzee, two highly experienced judges, sharing a laugh in the game drive vehicle.

Safari Guide of the Year 2014 Nick du Plessis

Safari Guide of the Year 2014 Judges

For more sample images from the competition, view our Facebook album SGOTY 2014 – Game Drives. Sincere thanks to everyone who made the week so memorable, and we wish YOU all the best in mastering your flash photography and shooting sharp!

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