Monday, May 19, 2008

Instructor's Tip: Fill Flash on Animals

Enjoy this week's Instuctor's Tip: "Fill Flash on Animals," by Russ Burden Burden's "Mandarin Duck" featured above one first place in the Art in Nature category of the prestigious Nature's Best Photography Windland Smith Rice International Awards 2007.

Working in direct sunlight creates contrast problems of deep shadows
and bright highlights. In that both film and digital capture can’t
reproduce detail at the extremes of these conditions, augmenting the
light is essential to produce a good image. Reflectors can be used to
bounce light back onto the subject but they are awkward in the wind.
Diffusers soften the light but if you’re photographing animals other
than insects, their size makes them impractical. Of all the light
controlling tools out on the market, the product I most rely on is

Flash is a great tool as it’s light, portable, easy to use, and the
larger shoe mounted units can throw light a good distance. These are
assets when working with animals as they can be very stubborn as to
where they decide to let you photograph them and often position
themselves in a location where artificial light is needed to fill in
deep shadows. The use of flash can tame a contrasty lighting
situation. This is true whether you’re photographing animals in your
backyard, the zoo, or out in the wild.

The goal of fill flash is to make the end result look natural. Too
much added illumination gives the image an artificial look while too
little gives the impression nothing was augmented. Ideally, the look
should go undetected. The contrast between the light and dark areas
should be lessened, yet not appear evident.

All photos in this post were taken by award winning photographer Russ Burden. To learn more about how Russ took the following photo in this post, join him on one of his photo tours. Visit Russ Burden Photography to get more information.

To take a class with Russ or a fellow Digital Photo Academy instructor in your area, check out the Digital Photo Academy. I took Russ' intermediate and advanced courses last year, and he continues to be a strong source of knowledge and encouragement as I progress in my photography.

Don't forget to check Take Great Pictures for Russ' most recent tips. On the home page, click on the "Photo Tips And Techniques" button in the left hand column. Additionally, check out his "Digital Tip of the Month" found by clicking on the Digital Photography button.

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