Better fishing pictures: Use a fill flash

Published Mar 24th 2006

More ways to improve your fishing photos. This time about using your flash in bright daylight - even in sunshine.


Without fill flash - This is the typical result in hard light from a sun at noon
Without fill flash
With fill flash - With the flash everything evens out. Some might consider it a more artificial picture, but photographically it\'s a lot better.
With fill flash
You might think that the flash on your camera is for taking pictures when it's dark.


Actually most on-camera flashes are lousy for use in the dark. They are too small, too close to the lens and not flexible enough. For darkness you need an off-camera flash with some muscle.

No, the small flash that most cameras have built-in is actually a lot better for daylight use.
Use the flash when it's light! And the lighter it is, the more you actually need it.
Bright sunshine should immediately make you consider turning on the flash.

Face in shadow - In the very vertical sun in the tropics, a flash can light up the face, which in most cases lie in deep shadow under the bill.
Face in shadow
The more light - Often a lot of light calls for even more light. A low tropical sunset like this one will create some hard shadows, which can be softned with a flash
The more light

The reason is that bright light creates shadows, and most cameras are unable to catch both very light areas and very dark areas equally well in the same image. Since the bright areas are often larger and often very bright, the camera will expose to get them best. The result is a face shadowed by a bill on a cap, a fish in the darkness of a body and other important parts of the image left in utter darkness.

Overcast - An overcast day will often leave a scene very dull, particularly if there are no colors to light it up. A flash can do wonders in such situations.
Light and motion - The flash both lights up this scene taken into the sun and freezes the motion of the cast.
Light and motion
Burned out fish - Watch out for very bright fish when using a flash. They can reflect the light and completely burn out in white like here.
Burned out fish

A smile on a dull day - By lighting up a face with the flash, a dull day can become almost colorful... almost.
A smile on a dull day
Another situation is the opposite, where there are no shadows. Heavily overcast days bring a flat and dull light to any scene. The images might be well exposed, and nothing is missing - except for some color, some punch in the image and some shining eyes.

What you need is a fill-flash. Light from the flash will help on both these situations. In most cases you can just force turn flash on and shoot. The camera will take care of the rest. Use this function in particular when shooting
  • with the sun in front of you as opposed to behind you
  • when the light is really dull because of clouds
  • when you are somewhere between 2 and 6 meters or 6-18' from your object

You can of course use your flash when it's dark, but the built-in flashes on small cameras are generally not able to do much about a scene in darkness. But if you use your flash, make sure that all subjects are in almost the same distance and neither too far away nor too close.

Almost dark - If you use your flash in the dark, make sure that most of the subjects are at the same distance from the camera. Notice how the light fades towards the water\'s edge.
Almost dark

I also have a small photography site called you can visit.

A series
These are all the articles in our series about better fly fishing photography. Read this series and you will learn a lot ebout getting better pictures while fishing. General outdoors pohotographers may also pick up a thing or two...
Better fly-fishing pictures

User comments
From: bill from SCOTLAND · billyyvonne·at·  Link
Submitted June 18th 2007

Very interesting,never thought about using the flash in bright light conditions before,sometimes my pictures turned out ok but maybe more by luck than anything else.I will try this new found method, too me anyway, and i bet to others as well. And will let you know how i get on.You have very informatives sites and a great help to beginners like me and others.Hope its ok to pass your GFF site on to my friends.

GFF staff comment
Comment to an image
From: Martin Joergensen · martin·at·  Link
Submitted June 28th 2006


Burn-outs are basically overexposed areas in the image, and the simple way to avoid them is to underexpose. I have for many years had my digital cameras permanently set to underexpose 3/4 of an aperture step. Details from the dark areas can often be found in a photo-editing program once you get home, while burnt-out areas are lost forever. They have no detail, but are just white.

You can also try to avoid situations, which lead to burn-out areas like having reflections in the image, sharp light against you, very hard light/shadow combinations etc.

But my prime advice would be to generally underexpose.

Actually I have a whole article on exactly that subject on the bench right now, so if you have a little patience there will be even more details about this very important subject in digital photography.


Comment to an image
From: Jeff Hanna · hanman·at·  Link
Submitted June 28th 2006

I have a question as to how to avoid this "burn out" while taking a picture.
This seems to happen to me quite a bit, especially when I use my flash as suggested in one of your articles. I use a Olympus C5050 which has a number of adjustments when it comes to using the flash.
You can probably tell I am not an expert photographer by asking such a question but still manage to get a few good pics now and then! Some have even made it on your site.
Any information as to how I can avoid this "burn out" would be greatly appreciated. I'm always looking for a way to get a better picture.

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