Add Drama to Photos with Negative Fill

Getting a correct exposure doesn’t guarantee a good image. A good image has some drama going on in it. Photographer David Bergman from Adorama demonstrates how using negative fill can help you add drama to your images:

When starting out with flash photography, the first thing you learn is to place the flash at an angle to the subject. This makes sure that the subject is not lit with flat light; the angle produces some shadows on the side of the subject’s face that is opposite the flash.

portrait with negative fill

But when shooting in a room with white walls, the shadows don’t come out as deep, since a lot of light gets bounced back. This softens the shadows and can reduce the depth in the image.

To get around this problem, Bergman places a black V-Flat on the opposite side of the flash. This acts as a negative fill and prevents the light from bouncing around. You can achieve the same effect with a black card or cloth. The shadows become more prominent and add more contrast. The image appears much punchier and more dramatic. You can control the darkness of the shadows by experimenting with the distance between the negative fill and the subject.

“The closer I put the black card to her, the darker the shadows are going to be.”

portraits with and without negative fill

Next time you take portraits, be sure to pay attention to the shadows. Then take control over them with negative fills.

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