Saturday, April 2, 2011

Lighting Makes The Difference: Fill In The Light

Have you ever had one of those days where nothing seems to go right?
Text & Photography By Tom Bol Published in Shooting
Lighting Makes The Difference: Fill In The Light

Reflectors come in a variety of materials, including white, gold, soft gold, silver and black. I use soft gold and white the most, and I can rely on these surfaces to fill in shadows on my subject.

To adjust the “power” of a reflector, you can move it closer or farther away from your subject. But don’t position the reflector too close or your model will start squinting and shedding tears. On a sunny day, I use my soft gold reflector 10 feet away from my model to get a nice fill. If I get closer, the reflector adds excessive light and gives my model a sunburned look.

There are many inexpensive collapsible reflectors on the market, and they all do a good job. My favorite are Lastolite TriGrips. These reflectors have a handle that makes it easy to hold them with one hand. The TriGrips also have a variety of fabrics that are interchangeable with one reflector. You can choose what material is best for the image.


For more fill-flash options, try a speedlight. Speedlights are a critical tool for photographers and offer significant advantages over a reflector. Speedlights produce light independent of the sun, so you can place them at any angle to add fill-flash. Speedlights also allow more control over the lighting ratio between the ambient light and the flash. If you want a background that’s very dark, underexpose the ambient daylight and power up your flash.

Another speedlight advantage is that models aren’t constantly hit with reflected light, causing them to squint. Try having someone reflect light on you from a gold reflector on a sunny day; you’ll have instant empathy for your models. Since a speedlight pops a quick burst of light, your model can pose easier and not be blinded by the light.

I set my Nikon SB-900 to fill-flash mode when I want to add fill light. This setting causes the flash to adjust output so the flash and ambient light are blended well together. The daylight exposure usually is a little darker, creating a pleasing shot. I like to reduce the flash power in fill-flash mode to around -11?3 stop. This setting is perfect when I’m walking through markets and want to add a little fill light under a hat brim or just a hint of catchlight in a street vendor’s eyes. I also attach a diffusion dome to the top of my flash to diffuse the light for a softer look.
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