Although it is not overly obvious, using flash when taking digital photographs outdoors can add a great deal to your photos, especially of people. Here’s how to use fill flash outdoors to make portraits better.
Most of us would not think of using our flash feature for outdoor photography in broad daylight, but that technique (called ‘fill flash’) can improve outdoor portraits of people, on either brightly lit or cloudy days. Subjects can often be washed out by the sun on the brightest of day, so the best way to take advantage of all that light is to use it indirectly by putting your subjects in a patch of shade and using your camera’s flash to fill in the light that is missing in the shaded area. If you have flash settings for ‘medium’ or ‘high’, you might want to take one using each setting, as well as one with no flash so that you can see the difference.
The same set of circumstances applies on cloudy days, except that here is little shade to work with. Using your camera’s flash in the lower sunlight produced by the clouds will have the same effect as the picture taken in the shady patch. The results under both conditions will be brighter colors in the objects that the flash is aimed directly at, which is of course the people. Their faces and arms will appear to be more natural hues with the flash, and the colors of their clothing will be much brighter. As a result, your subjects will appear to jump out of the photos at the viewer, capturing more attention that their surroundings.
One caution: many digital cameras do not have powerful flash features, especially as compared with the separate units often mounted on professional cameras. Therefore, the effect of the flash on especially smaller digital cameras tends to make little difference past 10 or 12 feet from the camera, in the daylight. It would pay to test your own camera(s) to see how far out their flash feature(s) will give you the flash fill effects you desire.