Flash and Wildlife

In Tips and Tricks, Wildlife by Patrick

Given the current state of the times, with everyone staying home, more folks have been experimenting with backyard photography and I could not be more excited about that. With more people taking photographs of the species coming to their backyards, more questions are coming in. One in particular is about the use of flash. I have done many posts on this topic:

so to emphasize this point, I thought a visual might be the best way to go about answering these questions. Before we even get to the wildlife, lets start with the basics, the perch.

This is a shot of the perch without flash fill. Not bad, but note the shadows under the perch and how the perch is somewhat dark and some of the detail of the perch is lost. Lets compare the above picture to the one below.

This is with fill flash added (-2.0) dialed in. Note how the shadows on the bottom of the perch are filled in and the details are more evident. This is a subtle change, but I like it. Now, like I always mention, this is YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY. If you prefer the first picture, there is nothing wrong with that as it is a matter of preference. Lets apply this to actual wildlife.

Here is a common English Sparrow. The light is coming from camera left, so basically side lighting. His breast is in shadow and much of the detail in the feathers is obscure from the shadow. Could you leave the picture like this and call it a day? Sure, but I submit we can do better and that is where flash comes in.

Here is the same bird with flash fill. His breast now illuminated and all the detail in the feathers is present. Which do you prefer? I know which one I like better. The key is knowing when to apply the flash and when not to. There are times when the light is so good naturally, applying flash would probably diminish the shot. How do you know when to apply flash or not? Good question and that answer is simply practice. Light is the basis for all photography. No light = No picture. Practicing this skill in your own backyard is the best place to do it so when you are out in the field, at a zoo, or wherever, you can bring back the best possible pictures you can.

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