Controlling Existing Light

Before we get into a full discussion of flash shooting, let's look at some simple non-flash-related strategies you can employ to control the light in your scene.

In Chapter 7, you learned about fill flash and saw how you can use the Tli's built-in flash to fill in some of the more shadowy areas in your scene to create a more even exposure. Although the flash can work well for this situation and is definitely easy to carry, sometimes a better alternative is to use a reflector.

Consider this image:

The lighting in this image, direct sunlight, is pretty harsh and contrasty.

The direct sunlight is so bright that we're getting deep shadows under her eyes, cheekbones, chin, and hair. In general, the image has too much contrast. We could use a fill flash to even out the exposure a little bit, but then we'd run the risk of the image looking a little flat. If we have the time, gear, and personnel to pull it off, we can choose a different solution. Using a diffuser, which is a piece of sheer white fabric, we can diffuse the sunlight to create a much softer look.

The diffuser serves the same function as a cloud. It diffuses the sunlight so that it's not as harsh, and the result is an image with lighter shadows and highlights that are not as small and bright.

Here, a diffuser is placed between our light source (in this case, the sun) and our subject.

With the diffuser in place, we get a much gentler light that softens the shadows under the eyes, chin, and hair.

While this image is much better, we can still do more. The shadows under the eyes and chin are still a little prominent, so we'll use a reflector to bounce some light up into them, rather like our fill flash would.

Here we're using a diffuser to cut the intensity of the sunlight and a reflector to add some fill light back onto our subject.

Using a reflector like this is not difficult. Just try to put it at a 45° angle to the light source—in this case, the sun. You'll be able to see the difference in person as you move the reflector around. Just watch the shadows, and when you see them lighten, you know you've positioned the reflector properly. Expose and shoot normally.

If you don't have a friend to help hold the reflector, then you can use a tripod and a remote control to trigger the shutter, or you can use the self-timer. You'll need to get in place quickly, so you'll probably want to experiment with the reflector position before you take the shot.

You can use any large piece of reflective material. While a large piece of white cardboard or foamcore isn't the easiest thing in the world to carry, any photo store will carry collapsible reflectors that fold into a small circle, usually about a foot in diameter. These can pack easily into a backpack or suitcase. What's more, these reflectors come in different colors, from white to silver to gold, allowing you to get more or less reflectance, or reflected light that has a color tint to it.

As mentioned earlier, you can sometimes use your camera's flash instead of the reflector to get the fill. However, if you're standing farther away from your subject —perhaps so as to use a more flattering focal length—your flash might be out of range, especially on a very bright day. Because a reflector is close to your subject, it might actually provide more illumination than your flash can.


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Digital Cameras For Beginners

Digital Cameras For Beginners

Although we usually tend to think of the digital camera as the best thing since sliced bread, there are both pros and cons with its use. Nothing is available on the market that does not have both a good and a bad side, but the key is to weigh the good against the bad in order to come up with the best of both worlds.

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