Bright sun = flash

The brighter it is, the more you need your flash.

Huh? That sounds counter-intuitive?

Not when you think about it. Bright sunlight means harsh, contrasty sunlight.  Contrast means that part of your picture will be too dark or too bright.

Here is Sedona, AZ, last week:

Not bad. But can you see how dark the foreground is?

“But you can use exposure compensation, Mike, plus one or two stops”, I hear you say.

Yes, but then the entire picture goes brighter, so the background would be all washed out – too bright.

So the only way is to turn your flash on. And now you get this:

And that is why you should always carry a flash – even on the beach, even in Mexico, and even in Arizona. The brighter it is, the more you’ll be likely to occasionally (or more than occasionally!) need it.

0 thoughts on “Bright sun = flash

  1. I know the built-in flash on Canon’s non-pro DSLRs is not good for much, but I find it is useful for this kind of fill flash. Do you use the built-in on your 7D or always carry a flash gun with you?

  2. Its also a great move when you framing a photo requires you to shoot towards the sun- in a lot of cases, the subjects end up as contre-jours. A bit of flash and presto, everything can have light!

  3. I have a Canon 580EX flash. It is confusing to me that it only gives me full information in its LCD panel when the head is aimed straight at the subject. Yet (acting on your sage advice) I hardly ever use the flash in that mode. I bounce it off walls, the ceiling etc.

    I think it is because it uses pre-flashes in conjunction with Canon’s ETTL system to calculate the distance to the subject and this the flash power to use. If the flash head isn’t pointing horizontally it cannot do that. Does bounce flash blast as much light out as it can?

    Thus if I bounce my flash is there any point in my buying an expensive Canon flash unit? Why not get something generic and cheaper?

  4. Actually, E-TTL works just fine when you bounce the flash! And that is exactly why you (like me) carry a Canon flash. The only thing that does not work when you bounce is distance indication (it cannot know, since it does not know how far ceiling/wall are) and hence, flash head zoom. Everything else TTL works the same as usual.

    You can see this by the fact that you see a flash through the viewfinder as you take a pic. That flash is of course the preflash (how could it be otherwise: when the real flash fires, the mirror is up!)

  5. I thought that the red lights that came out of the 580exII were for measuring distance to subject (so you can focus even when in complete darkness) and that as soon as you rotate the head of the flash away from the straight forward that it fires at 100% as it doesn’t know the amount to fire (like it would ETTL).

    Michael, do you know the “standard” flash zoom that is used when the flash is rotated away?

    Also its worth noting that the basic flash 1m extension cord is great for getting the flash off center when using it for fill light which helps eliminate the straight on shadows of center mount flash. But also takes a bit more messing around to get it right and is a mission to hold the camera for a long time with one hand! 🙂

  6. OK, so.

    When the head is turned away, the flash uses TTL. TTL is in the camera, not the flash. TTL means:

    1- camera tells flash to fire preflash
    2- camera measures light return from that preflash
    3- camera bases flash power on this return
    4- camera opens mirror and opens shutter
    5- camera tells flash to fire at that precalculated flash power
    6- camera closes lens and returns mirror

    So the flash orientation is unimportant. It is exactly TTL that allows you to turn the flash anyw ay you like… steps 1-3 will sort it out for you!

    Yes, some more enhancements exist but these are not critical (eg flash zoom, distance being taken into account, as measured by camera, etc.)

    Does that help?

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