Fill Flash in Landscape Photographs

It always frustrated me when I saw people taking photos at a concert or of other distant subjects, and I saw everyone’s flash going off. Don’t people understand that flash is only effective for a short distance? Don’t they realize that using flash to photograph your favorite musician on a stage a couple hundred feet away is utterly useless? Don’t they care that using a flash at long distances just won’t work?

Well, unfortunately your automatic camera doesn’t know that it’s a waste of batteries to fire the flash – it just knows that it’s too dark to shoot without flash, so it fires the flash. Maybe this doesn’t happen anymore since newer cameras and phones are probably more intelligent than the old, instant cameras I remember. In any case, I’m not going to discuss when not to use flash, you can figure that out on your own. I’m going to talk about, at least one instance, when you should use flash.

March and April in central Texas is Bluebonnet season, so I’ve been trying to get some good Bluebonnet photos for the past couple weeks. They’re about at their peak right now. Today was a rainy, overcast day, so I thought I’d like to take advantage of the weather and do some shooting.

Since it was overcast, and pretty dark, I thought I’d use my flash to add some artificial light. Below are 2 photos – the first with flash, the second without, followed by a sampling of some of my other shots (all with flash). I think the added light from my flash helped to fill in some of the shadows, especially in the close shots, but the difference can be very subtle. It adds just enough light to brighten the images, so they look more colorful than without flash. I could have brightened the shadows in post, but I think adding light when I capture the image gives a slightly better outcome, and you can still tweak the shadows in post if needed.

I’m hoping this encourages you to try using your flash outdoors, to fill in shadows for a sharper, brighter look. After all, photography is all about lighting and without sufficient light, your results won’t look as nice.

I guess I used to think using artificial light was cheating and not natural, that it was somehow against the rules. I’m beginning to change though. I’m beginning to realize that flash is just one of the tools we have to help us create good images. If we don’t ever use flash, I think we handicap ourselves, and we limit ourselves to only capturing images when the lighting is just right. If we allow the use of flash, or other artificial light sources, we expand our flexibility as photographers. I’m beginning to not be afraid to use my flash.

How about you? Is your flash a part of your equipment that never gets used? Or do you use your flash regularly to enhance your photos?