Photography Tips: To Flash or Not to Flash

Landscape with no fill flash
Do landscapes benefit from fill flash?
Landscape with Fill Flash
Do Landscapes benefit from a fill flash?

This is another set of images I took in Charleston, SC at the direction of Kevin McQuade of secretcharleston.com, whom I mentioned in my previous post. To read more about how this scavenger hunt changed my photographer click here. As we were walking around finding these places, we saw parts of Charleston that were off the beaten path and simply gorgeous. This house on Anson Street was one of those. As I took these photos I began to wonder: would this landscape benefit from a fill flash?

Not using a Fill Flash.

These images were taken around dusk when there was still plenty of light but the shadows were darker. In these photos I did an experiment. I wanted to see what difference a fill flash would make. As you can see in the first image, there was plenty of light without the fill flash. However, there was no dimension in the vegetation. One plant just blends into the others. Also, the sky is blown out in the background because of setting for the darker shadows It’s a beautiful image, but I wondered if it could be better. 

Fill flash can make a huge difference in the way a captured image comes across and is perceived. But using a fill flash in a landscape photo??? I’d never tried that before. Could this scene be improved by the use of a fill flash?

Using a Fill Flash

In the second picture, I used a fill flash and I am pleased with the results. The main difference is on the branches and leaves of the closest tree on the right side of the image. To me the added front light separates the trees and adds dimension to the photo because there is clearer demarkation of what is closer and what is farther away. The sky is also much more in balance with the rest of the picture.

Sacrifices of using a Fill Flash

As much as I like the effects of the flash, there are some sacrifices. The flash emphasized the exposed wood of the cypress trees that lined the lake, whereas in the non-flash image those trees look greener with the woodiness deemphasized. Also the leaves in the photo with the fill flash are not as crisp as the photo without the flash.

Because the photos were taken around dusk, some of the colors were flat and needed adjusting to get the vibrance and warmth that I was looking for. I used Luminar by Skylum to brighten the colors a touch and give the images a deeper contrast.

Did this landscape benefit from a fill flash? All in all, I like both images, but I tend to favor the one with the fill flash. Therefore answer the “to flash or not to flash” question? Well, I think is based on your preferences. Nine times out of ten when I experiment like this, I find that I prefer one image while the members of my family prefer the other. Why not take one of each and see what you think? 

Happy shooting!

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