Best Time for Flash? Outdoors! November 2, 2015 – Posted in: Photography – Tags: ,

The auto flash setting often works just the opposite of what I want. When outside, in bright contrasty light, it doesn’t fire. The camera sees what it determines to be enough light, and doesn’t choose to supplement it. Indoors, the flash will fire every time in auto mode. Yes, the lighting is somewhat dim, and therefore more luminance is required (at least according to the camera’s simple way of thinking).

What I’m looking for is quality of light, not quantity. Let’s revisit our outdoor scene for a moment. The sun is not flattering for portraits. Its position is often too high creating harsh shadows and highlights. Adding a speedlight to the mix allows me to bring the illumination from the front, which almost always looks better than strictly from above. The portrait at the top of the page used a fill light balanced with the surrounding scenery.

Indoors, I like to work with what’s already there. Take the following snapshot for example. There was window light to the right and a torch lamp behind my back. I simply raised the ISO setting and made sure the flash was off. The result is a comfortable, natural portrait.

Photos by Derrick Story.

Photos by Derrick Story.

The point is, learn how to take control of your flash. Know how to turn it on outdoors to use as a fill light in contrasty conditions, and make sure it stays off indoors when you have more attractive lighting available.

To help you improve your flash photography, download our free eBook titled, Rocky Nook’s Free Guide to Flash Terminology. We cover all of the important things you need to know (including helpful accessories), plus tons of examples too. Keep it with you on your tablet of smartphone for reference. By doing so, you will become master of your flash.


Derrick Story is the Photography Evangelist for Rocky Nook Publishing.