When and when not to add light to existing light

Chelle enjoys the rainbow after all the rain the past couple days at Ocean Isle Beach, NC. [Nikon D5, Nikon 14-24mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 8000, ƒ/22, 1/100]
Sometimes in photography you just need to compose a photo because God has taken care of the light for you. Here is a great example of my daughter at the beach last week. At the end of a full day of rain we had a gorgeous rainbow pop up at sunset.

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I quickly realized that my 24mm wasn’t getting the entire rainbow, so I reached into the camera bag and pulled out the Nikon 14-24mm ƒ/2.8 lens. With a 114º view it was able to get the rainbow.

Next I ran to the beach and started to take photos of just the rainbow.

Rainbow after the rain at Ocean Isle Beach, NC

While shooting this my daughter walked into the frame. I quickly realized I just needed her to come closer to the camera and put the rainbow behind her.

Chelle starting to walk towards me.

It was sprinkling and so I have raindrops on my lens that you can see. But I was thrilled with this once in a lifetime opportunity.

Most of the time I am having to use artificial light with the existing light to make the photo work.

Here is what I am often doing with photos where I must improve on the conditions.

Leary family Family Photo at Ocean Isle Beach, NC. [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm, ISO 100, ƒ/8, 1/250 – (2) Alienbees B1600s triggered with Pocketwizard TT5 & TT1]
Our family tradition at a family reunion is getting a photo of the family. I have been doing this photo for 30+ years.

Dorie took some photos of me setting up the family photo on her phone. – photo by Dorie Griggs

Since it had been raining most of the day we still had some cloud cover. By using the flashes I was able to help get a better color since the flashes are daylight balanced and the overcast sky would have dulled the colors.

A second benefit of using the flash is to avoid those raccoon eyes where the sun coming from above can create shadows around the eyes.

Joshua’s senior photo at Ocean Isle Beach, NC. [Nikon D5, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/1.8, 1/6400 – Alienbees 1600 using the Pocketwizard TT5 & TT1]
While I had everything with me I also did some photo of my nephew for his senior photos. For these photos I used my Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G so I could shoot wide open and get the really soft background and make him pop out more.


  1. Use fill flash for outside photos
    1. At the beach you might think you don’t need it, but it can really improve the color and get rid of the raccoon eyes.
    2. Put the flash off the camera at 45º
  2. For group photos shoot at ƒ/5.6 or ƒ/8 to be sure everyone is in focus.
  3. For individuals use a telephoto lens like my 85mm ƒ/1.8. Shoot wide open to get that silky out of focus background.
  4. Use a tripod for groups
    1. Helps keeping horizon straight
    2. If one person blinks you can clone them from another frame. Sometimes you just cannot get the best expressions of everyone in one frame and having everything shot on tripod makes it easier to cut and paste.
    3. If needed you can use slower shutter speed. However, be careful that people are still if you do.
Leary family Family Photo at Ocean Isle Beach, NC

Here is one of my favorite’s from the photo shoot of our family.