Using Flash to Knock Down the Sun

Good morning everybody! I hope you’ve had a great week and are read to head into the weekend. I’m going to wrap up the week with some info on how to knock down the sun with your flash and get good exposure with both your subject and background.

First off, this is an impossible task without some kind of flash. If you’ve read my blog for any length of time you know that I HATE on-camera pop-up flash. In this case, if it’s all you have you have to use it. I used an SB800 on camera and I highly recommend a hot shoe flash in any case.

Here’s what has to happen: you have to get a proper background exposure and bring up our subject with flash. Seems simple, right? In the shot above, the sun was behind my subject which means that if I had shot it with no flash one of two things would have happened. Either my subject would have been properly exposed and my background would be blown out (overexposed) or my background would have been properly exposed and my subject would have been very dark and underexposed.

Because my D90’s max flash sync speed is 1/200th of a second, that’s what I set my shutter speed at in Manual mode. I set my aperture at f11, which gave me a proper background exposure with my ISO at 200.

I set my SB800 to TTL-BL mode (TTL Balanced) which lets the flash get exposure information from the camera and when the flash fires, it pops in just enough light to properly expose your subject while keeping your background exposure where it’s at. Basically it tries not to overpower the ambient light in the scene. I use this technique on the street when I’m grabbing quick shots and I don’t have time to mess with manual power settings on my flash.

So there you have it, a quick and easy way to knock down the power of the sun with flash. Remember that on bright sunny days like it was yesterday, you won’t be able to get shots like this at wide apertures like f2.8, f4, f5.6 and so on. At least not with using the method I described above. There’s another method you can use, but that’s another post for another day!

Have a great weekend!


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