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iPhoto 5: The Missing Manual, Fourth Edition by Derrick Story, David Pogue

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Outdoor Portraits

Everybody knows what the camera’s built-in flash is for, right? It goes off automatically when there’s not enough light.

Unfortunately, everybody also knows how ornery and feeble these flashes are. If you’re too close to the subject, the flash blows out the picture, turning your best friend into a ghost face that looks like it was photographed during a nuclear test. If you’re farther than about eight feet away, the flash is too weak to do anything useful at all.

No matter what kind of camera you have, however, you’ll take your best pictures when you decide to use the flash, not when the camera decides. Believe it or not, the camera’s automatic mode is wrong about half the time.

Outdoor portraits represent a perfect example. If you leave the flash setting on automatic when you shoot outdoors, you can guess what will happen: The camera will conclude that there’s plenty of light and won’t bother to fire the flash.

The camera has correctly concluded that there’s enough light in the entire frame. But it’s not smart enough to recognize that the person you’re photographing is, in fact, in shadow (Figure 3-14).

The solution in this situation is to force the flash on—a very common trick. Provided you’re close enough to the subject, the flash will provide enough fill light to balance the subject’s exposure with that of the surrounding background. (If you’re using your on-camera flash, stand within about eight feet of the subject so you can get enough flash for a proper exposure.) ...

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