When amateur photographers ask for my best photography tip, I often say, "Think flashy outdoor pictures." In other words, use your flash outdoors.
The response to my tip is usually surprise. But here are a few reasons why using a flash outdoors is so useful:
l A flash can fill in shadows on a subject's face.
l When you photograph people against a sunset or sunrise, they often come out as silhouettes against the bright sun. A flash can light the subject so you can recognize who is in the picture.
l A flash can bring out a subject's true color. For example, if you photograph a girl with blond hair under a tree on a sunny day, the light filtering through the tree's leaves might give her hair a green tint. A flash can alleviate that problem.
l A flash can make pictures taken on overcast days look sharper because it delivers harsh lighting.
Remember that these are not strict rules. Although many camera manufacturers promote an "automatic fill-in flash," some adjustments are often necessary for picture-perfect results.
Usually, if you fill the frame with a subject, your fill-in flash will work perfectly. If you don't fill the frame, the flash will try to light up the background, which may cause an overexposed subject in the foreground.
If you use print film, you have a better chance of getting good daylight fill-in flash pictures. That's because print film is much more forgiving than slide film. With print film, your exposure can be off and you'll still get a good picture.
Top-of-the-line flash units offer a variable flash-output control, which lets you fine-tune your flash to match the daylight. Using the flash-output control takes some practice, but you get great results.
Low-end cameras, including one-time-use cameras, don't offer fill-in flash, but you can simulate the feature quite easily. All you have to do is take a flash picture and then, before the flash is fully recharged (indicated by a ready light), take your next picture. Because the flash has not fully recharged, only a bit of light will be delivered.