When I first started my photography career, I (along with countless others,) thought all that was involved with taking pictures was posing people and pressing the shutter. Through my education and years of experience, I obviously have come to realize that this is far from the truth. This article is about fill flash. I was in charge of shooting a book cover recently, and during the shoot I shot some fun photos of the author's family. This shot (below) of a brother and sister looked great in person, but when I snapped the shutter, I saw that the two subjects were almost completely silhouetted.
Now, before I learned about fill light, I would have simply opened up my aperture until their faces were within the range of acceptable exposure; however, by doing that, not only do their faces become brighter, but everything in the image becomes brighter. This means that by opening up the aprture, their faces would be well exposed, but everything behind them would be completely blown out and overexposed. The solution? Fill light. And more specifically, fill flash.
This was an easy fix, but many photographers don't understand the importance of filling your subject with light. To fix this problem, I closed down the aperture about 2/3's of a stop to underexpose the background a little bit, then mounted my Nikon Speedlight SB-600 to a stand with a shoot through umbrella and triggered it remotely with a Cactus V4 Wireless Trigger System. The Speedlight was in manual mode at about 1/4 power, with a wide flash focal length. This was the final result:
Many of you may already know this, but there are many who don't. Make sure to Always fill your subject with light. You don't have to use flash for this. This exact method can be achieved by using white foamcore, gold/silver reflectors, or anything that is big and reflective! You have no excuse for awful lighting when you can receive good fill light by using a $3.00 piece of foamcore from the local convenience store. So get out there and shoot!