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Photography Question 
Jennifer Salvon
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/15/2003

How to Fire as Fill Flash

I have a Canon Digital Rebel and Canon 550EX Speedlight - and I am an amateur photographer. I am frustrated with trying to learn how to get the flash to fire as fill flash (example: in the shaded woods on a cloudy day). When I am in program mode, the camera sets the shutter speed too slow for a handheld shot and the flash does not fire at all. My knowledge of lighting techniques is rather limited, and I was hoping that there would be some sort of semi-automatic way to get this flash to fire for some simple portraits in the middle of this glorious foliage. Suggestions and help is very appreciated. Thanks, Jen

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10/23/2004 2:01:17 PM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
  I think you're expecting your flash to work like the pop-up flash with the mode dial set to the green box. Check the manual about whether it has flash power compensation settings.
For non-dedicated flashes, you can get good fill settings with setting a flash on auto to an aperture that's smaller numerically than the aperture that the lens is at for the picture you're going to take.
Or by using the distance scale if on manual.
The settings concerning a speedlite working with Canon cameras is usually explained in the flash manual.

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10/23/2004 3:27:05 PM

BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/28/2002
  When a EX flash is mounted on a EOS camera (film or digital), turned on and fully charged, you should see a flash symbol when you half press the shutter release. If the sync speed is too high or other reason that the flash cannot be fired, you will see the flash symbol blinks. As long as you see the steady flash symbol, the flash should fire. If you do not see the symbol in the viewfinder when half press the shutter release, then you may have a problem. First, make sure the flash is pushed all the way in and that it is locked down tight. Also make sure the flash is fully charged (the red light on the flash is on and steady). Since you are using a 550EX for regular use, make sure the master/slave switch is in the "off" position. Another way to test is to set your camera's mode dial to "M", turn the control dial to set the shutter speed to below 1/90. Press the shutter and see if the flash fire. That's all I can think of. Hope it helps.

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10/23/2004 3:38:01 PM

Doug  Elliott
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/18/2004
You have gotten some good advice from both Gregory and Andy.
A fill flash is two to two and one-half stops less than your exposure. Here are some other ideas. I checked on the Canon Web site about your flash. They mention that you have a three-stop control over the exposure + or -. Your camera may allow you the same. As an experiment tomorrow take an 18-percent gray card, and tripod with you to take some test photos. Use your gray card to set your exposure. Make sure you have a good histogram. Now shoot one with your flash. Then dial in a negative (-) two-stop reduction of your flash. See what the histogram tells you. Do not, let me repeat that, do not use your LED monitor. If two didn't do it, then try three. Remember, you can also change the camera's exposure.
Finally, if all else fails, use a white handkerchief over the flash head. This will cut down of the amount of light your flash is sending out. You can also use vellum which you can buy at an art or drafting store.
Hope these ideas help.
Good shooting

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10/23/2004 4:14:11 PM

Tony Peckman   I've had the same frustration as you. I have a Digital Rebel and the 540 EZ flash. Since the EZ models won't work in Auto Mode with the Rebel, I set the flash to manual, the camera to manual OR shutter priority (I think the flash sync is 1/250 or slower), with an exposure for the available area.
Since the 500 series flashes have a wonderful manual adjustment from full power - 1/132 (I think), AND you have immediate viewing with digital, you can shoot, view and adjust the fill flash to your liking. As long as you keep the SAME DISTANCE and SAME EXPOSURE setting, you should have results that you like.
Good luck!!!

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10/23/2004 4:17:56 PM

Jennifer Salvon
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/15/2003
  Thank you - I can't wait for tomorrow to check out these suggestions (but first I need to watch the Red Sox). Thanks - I may be back for more advice - I appreciate the speedy responses - Jen

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10/23/2004 5:31:09 PM

Raj    Hi,

I own a Digital Rebel too and was a little disappointed that there are no flash controls ie. fill flash, auto and slow sync that we can select. I have in a web an article by NK guy - where he writes very extensively on flash photography with Canon cameras. He shares that with a full featured 550EX speedlight, you will have total manual control including the fill flash capability. Do check out. Hope it wud help.
Thanx - Raj
Amateur :)

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10/26/2004 1:02:25 AM

Orlando Negron   (sorry about my english, hope you understand) I've had the same problem, then I call Canon and then tell me that the digital rebel don't syncronize whith the EX flash, only the canon 10D or higer models. I bay 10D and work perfect.

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10/26/2004 8:25:06 AM

David Robinson   One must be very careful when adding flash onto the auto selected exposure on a digital camera. Digital receptors do not behave like film emulsions. It is very easy to push the exposure of the high-lights above what the receptor can record and as a consequence bleach out the detail when adding a squirt of infill flash. I suggest that you study the handbook. Look for something under 'slow synch flash' or some such heading. Good hunting.

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10/27/2004 4:16:11 PM

Orlando Negron   You can try bouncing the flash like 45 degres or use a cap flash (is the little white hat) and bouncing de flash.

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10/28/2004 6:22:03 AM

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