Fill-In Light With A Built-in Flash

by William Lulow

Every once in a while, I find that I have brought my camera with me on vacation or just out somewhere, I’m not shooting an assignment or a professional portrait, but I want the image to have some extra light to bring out details and add a bit to the overall lighting.

This was the case with the portrait below. The sun was setting and we were losing light fairly quickly. I took an “in-camera” reading of the light, set the shutter for 1/80th of a second and the aperture at f/9.0. I pushed the speed to ISO 200 and then I just popped up the built-in flash and made a series of exposures. The flash added just enough light to make the portrait really stand out:


There was even enough sunlight left to use as a bit of an accent light on the right of both women.

The light produced by a camera’s built-in flash is often too weak to do much of anything when using other lights and, it is also quite small when compared to a photographic umbrella, but in situations where there is still some ambient light and the background is still lit, it serves well as an emergency fill-in light! As the sun fades and the sky darkens, a built-in flash unit will become the main light and not just a fill-in light. Then, you will get that “hot flash” look which is not flattering for a portrait. As long as there is enough ambient light, it can serve nicely as a substitute fill-in light!