I read a few blog posts by Niel Van Nickerk about balancing flash with ambient light and I found them very intriguing. The posts were basically a detailed discussion of how to control fill flash, which is the act of using flash in a daylight setting to fill in the shadows in an image. But Niel was specifically talking about how to balance the output of your flash with the available light so that your subjects do not look like they are lit by flash. The end result is an image that looks very close to how the eye would see it naturally, without being able to tell that flash was used.
Generally the technique works well when your subject is darker than their background, i.e. if you were shooting toward the sun. The camera will expose for the bright background and your subject will be underexposed. This is where you’d generally use fill flash, but it can make the subject look harshly lit. The technique is to allow more of the ambient light to hit the sensor (by using a wide aperture, low shutter speed, or high ISO) to register the background details and then letting the flash fire to register the foreground details.
I was eager to try the technique out and had a chance tonight during an evening walk. Sally and her mom took the boys around the neighborhood and I brought my camera, flash, Lumiquest OmniBounce along for the ride. I walked with them, sometimes in front, sometimes behind or on the side. I felt like a wedding photographer! I set the camera to f/2.8 and the flash to -2 EV and shot away. Not all of the images came out, but I’m still pretty impressed. I need to get a bit more used to the OmniBounce and work on my exposure a bit. Regardless, its a skill that once perfected, will make my outdoor shots look fantastic!
The images below have been cropped and only exposure adjusted if the entire scene was off (i.e. I didn’t correct the flash). Take a peek and tell me what you think. Oh and another exciting note, all of these images were taken at f/2.8 with my Tamron 17-50mm lens and they are pretty sharp! I wouldn’t have been able to get that with my old lenses!