Reader James asks:
I’ve read you advocating for unmodified on camera flash outdoors (as fill), and for on camera flash diffusers (Bounce card, Gary Fong,etc), but is there a reason you don’t use the techniques together? Why not use a diffuser while using fill flash outdoors? Wouldn’t that produce better images?
Good question, and one I am grateful you asked. To avoid confusion: yes I certainly do advocate modifiers outdoors.
Like an umbrella, as in this image:
(That image, by the way, was my tribute picture to Rineke Dijkstra, famous Dutch photographer whose work is in MOMA and many other museums. I was amazed that in The Netherlands, several people, when seeing this image, immediately said “That’s a Rineke Dijkstra”! Europeans really do have a great sense, and knowledge, of art.)
So why do I often advocate direct flash outdoors?
I have several reasons.
- Main reason: modifiers take power, and with a speedlight, you are fighting the sun at top power already; taking away a few stops of light (and you take away at least that!) is fatal: in bright sunlight you would now need to move the flash very close to the subject.
- Ancillary reason: It is quicker and simpler. Often, you have to move quickly; an on camera flash is convenient in those circumstances. Imagine carrying an umbrella with you when sightseeing in a foreign city!
- Ancillary reason: outdoors you are mixing with lots of available light, so you can get away with the shadows direct flash gives you: these are filled in by the ambient light.
- Ancillary reason: sometimes you want harsh shadows. Rarely, but it does happen!
And that is why I often use direct flash. But generally, modifier, softened flash is better, absolutely.