Monday, September 26, 2011

When It's Really Bright Outside, Use Your Flash!

This can be categorized under the "I thought I was doing it correctly..." category. 

It is said that the best time to make photographs is during the "golden hour." But, what if you have no choice? Like, what if you are in a bus tour and you only have that one hour from 1pm to 2pm to savor the sights? Obviously, you have no choice, and taking photos at a time when the sun is beating down on the scenery is much better than not having any photos at all.

With buildings and mountains, you have no choice. But with people, you can do something to improve your photography that requires only a little effort from you and your subject - walk around.


In this post, I stated that it is better to put the light source behind your subject so that the light won't be glaring on their eyes making them squint. This would also prevent harsh light from falling into your subject's face.

However, this in itself causes trouble some of the time. Look at the picture below of the wife and our friend's son:

The wife and Leo. The thing behind them is actually a building.
But it was too overexposed to make it intelligible.
If you set your exposure for your subject, in the above case for the wife's and the kid's faces, the background can get overexposed.

So, how do you correct for this?

Well, as the title of this post says, use your flash!

First, you should expose for the background. If you are not yet sure on how to do this, put your DSLR on P-mode (for professional mode... just kidding, it's Program Mode) while you aim your camera on the environment.

Then, dial down your flash: I usually start at -1 EV (exposure value) then go from there. If it is too bright, if there are "hot spots" on my subject's face, then I dial it down more. If it is not enough, then I make the adjustment. Also, you can change your aperture setting and your shutter speed to adjust for the exposure. (However, you have to take note of the sync speed of your flash. On my speedlites, the sync speed is 1/250s so I generally don't go faster than that.)

Check out these photos of the sister-in-law and the wife, respectively as I applied what I told you about here.

The sis-in-law. The sun is on camera-right (note the rim light on her head - that caused the sis-in-law to "pop" from the New York skyline background.)

The wife. Perfect example of the sun beating down overhead.
But Lady Liberty won't wait, we had to make photographs already.

I hope this photography how-to would be of great value to you. It has been for me. :)

Shots made with a Canon 5D Mark II with a Canon 24-105 IS USM f/4L lens and a Canon 430EX-II speedlite. Want a great backpack for your DSLR? Check out my review of my favorite bag, the Lowepro Versapack 200 AW, here and here.


  1. Great tip you have here! I'll try this out!

  2. Very nice pictures! I'm thinking about getting speedlite 430ex II myself too...

  3. Thanks Zero_energy. Just click on the Canon 430 link and it'll take you directly to amazon. Cheers. :)



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