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Multi-Colored Ambient Lighting, No Place to Bounce. What Do You Do?

I kind of commented on an earlier post about determining color temperature, but figured I'd start a new discussion.

I work a venue from time to time that's a great place to attend an event, but horrible (to me) for taking quality photos. It is about 100-125 feet long, 60-feet wide, 40-50 feet to the ceiling. One long wall is steel gray. the other long wall has a curve to it with wood paneling that has an orange-ish finish (has a theater entrance, so it's stylish with the curve). One end wall is floor to ceiling glass. (The opposite end leads into another area about the same size with totally different lighting). The lighting in this room is from multi-colored hanging fixtures. The theater-entrance wall has multi-colored recessed lights coming from a ceiling-like bump out.

In the past, I have tried my best to position people where I could bounce my flash, and I've had to be in manual flash mode sometimes to get enough umphf. As I get more and more experience, I have realized the shots I deem "successful" still have an ambient cast to them. I realize not that basically what I was doing was correctly exposing for people, and adding flash. But, exposing that way caused a cast from the ambient. There is no way I could stamp down the ambient and have enough flash power from the on-camera Speedlite.

I was there Monday, and tried a couple of things. I have used a Lumiquest 80/20 with the white bounce panel in it from time to time, and figured I'd try it in this place.

(1) One way I tried mostly was under-exposing the ambient by 2 stops, and used "indirect" flash from the Lumiquest. It was tricky to not make the photos look "flashy". This Lumiquest is better than direct flash, but not wonderful (I think I like the concept better than the results).

(2) I tried shooting at F2.8, shutter at 1/100 (no lower, these are candids), my ISO would be up at 4000. BUT, everyone had this multi-colored cast to them. If the only people who saw the photos were the attendees, they would remember this is how everyone looked!

Pretty much everyone on this forum is a "bouncer", and it's pretty much devil worship to use any sort of direct flash (caveat except outside). If you can't bounce, and the ambient is horrid, what would you do?

If people start to weigh in, I will look for the best and worst results I've had when I get home tonight and post them.



  • MatrixphotoMatrixphoto Member
    edited October 2016
    Hi Dave 
    This what I would do , is gel Flash to match  main  source of  Ambient light source Tungsten or Day light etc then   put the camera in AWB  and shoot RAW.Yes I can know I can hear everyone now. Yes   No way the camera will get proper WB but it will get you  close  enough so  you can correct the rest of the way in Camera  RAW and even out  skin have the correct colour.Its when you mix light source you have problems Eg: Daylight Flash WB in a Tungsten Room. 

    Lou Recine
    Owner Matrix Photography
  • Hi, Lou - I usually/always gel to match the ambient. But, gel or no gel, how are you using the flash? Direct with no modifier, direct with a modifier? How would you treat the crazy ambient?

  • I always  bounce flash and CC in Raw , the other thing you can do is have assistant stand in back of you with reflector and bounce flash into that.

    Lou Recine
    Owner Matrix Photography
  • TrevTrev Moderator
    edited October 2016
    What Lou said re reflector.

    Check this shot, taken outside an outdoor marquee, nothing to bounce the light off of, tried direct flash extremely harsh so I said something like "I need a white surface to bounce off", bride turned her back to me and to one side and said 'will this do', yep, bounced light off her white dress while I took the 'trinket' shots on table. Perfect.



  • Trev - Nice story, but in my case and with regard to my question/post, doesn't really help me.

    Lou - I always bounce my flash, except when I can't. I don't mean to sound like a wise guy. Also, at events like the ones I shoot, it's pretty impossible to have anyone holding anything up, because it's crowded.

    The whole point of my post was what do you do, indoors, when you cannot bounce your flash, and the ambient is so screwy you have to try and stamp it down. There have been times in this particular venue where people are standing in one spot, and they have a yellow cast to them. Simply by moving 10 feet either way, they are now orange. Or purple. Or pink. This is the point of my post: what do you do, especially if everyone who is on this forum considers direct flash a definite no-no.

    Unable to bounce my flash really means there is simply not enough power from my on-camera Speedlight so I can under-expose the ambient - getting the colored casts out - and still have a good photo by using my flash.

    Also, the other thing about this problem may be more: for the folks attending the event, when they looked at each other, they saw different ambient casts on the person next to them. If you remove this, are you now not providing realistic photos as they pertain to the venue?

    I distinguish between indoors and outdoors, because my usual method outdoors in bright sunlight is to face the people away from the sun. If the background is nice, I expose for it and add direct fill-flash. I remove the spots in any sunglasses in LR. If the background is lousy, I let it blow out and expose for the faces.

    I need a lesson. Better yet, I need to drag an experienced photographer (or two) into this room during an event, and see what they do!


    !st photo is from the other night
    2nd photo is from a few months ago, believe me heavily processed to an effect I like.
    3rd photo is from last year, trying to bounce off the steel-gray wall. The wall behind the people is actually the wood-paneled wall outside the theater (does it look like wood?)
    4th is one of my favorites, which I considered a success.

  • This is a long story, but I feel like I should tell you guys how I got stuck on this stuff, and what led to this initial post: A couple of years ago I got frustrated  by not knowing how to use my new (first) DSLR and on-camera flash. Found Neil's stuff. Read all the books. Read them again. Started following Tangents and this forum. Became a bouncer through and through. I've had probably 35 events, paying and volunteer, over the past 18-or-so months. Getting hired for pay 2-4 times per month now. Thought I was doing pretty OK, people are hiring me. But still have tons to learn.

    Neil starts a Facebook group "Tangents". A few months back, there was some discussion about the BFT, which I use all the time. The discussion went to where I was posting about how I am constantly adjusting the BFT on my flash, so as to not allow direct rays of flash to hit the subject. I had a great example photo of how I bounced my flash forward into a brick divider, and I had adjusted my BFT accordingly. Since I was puffing out my chest, I thought I would add in a few lines about how I interact with people during the events I shoot, and how the attached photo came about.

    (I have posted the photo, so you can see what I'm now writing about): One of the few comments is from Neil: "The woman on the left has a color cast to her skin tone. Do you know why?". Uhhh, Uhhhh, "maybe the brick wall?" I respond. Is this the teacher quizzing the student, because he knows the answer? With this photo, I used the "eye dropper" and got a good, solid white on the shirt of the woman on the right. Her skin looks good (to me), but yes, Neil was correct - the woman on the left has a cast to her skin.

    This room had pretty even lighting, but there were some colored fixtures here and there.

    As I slumped back in my chair, I had no reason other than the brick wall I was bouncing off (my flash was also gelled with my usual 1/2 CTS, this was Tungsten lighting). But why did the woman on the right look pretty good, and the one on the left did not? After this, I read a couple of forum posts, and these people were shooting events similar to mine, but they were at or just below max sync speed. WHAT??? How the heck is this possible? I'm at 1/100, no slower, because people are talking and waving their hands, etc. Any faster and the exposure goes down (duh).

    I started to realize what these guys were doing was under-exposing the uneven/crappy ambient, and relying more heavily on their bounce flash. I believe the color-cast problem is because too much ambient light is getting into the exposure. It needs to be stopped down, and the bounce flash need to do more heavy lifting.

    If anyone out there knows I have misinterpreted things, am headed in the wrong direction, or have the wrong idea or approach, please Let. Me. Know.

    I had an event two weeks ago. Huge, high-ceiling room. Only one or two walls to bounce off. People are milling in the middle of the room. But what it had were these 3-foot diameter columns holding up the second floor. Granted, the room was pretty evenly lit, but I under-exposed the ambient by a couple of stops, used 1/160 mostly for shutter speed, and bounced off these columns and available wall. I had one of the most successful nights of my short "career". Out of 150 delivered photos, probably 50 only needed my standard presets, a few tenths exposure bump-up, and some cropping.

    Then, I go back into the venue, the subject of this thread: horrible, uneven, multi-colored ambient, with walls too far away to depend on bounce flash to even things out after stomping on the ambient.

    What. Do. You. Do.

    Again, if my approach or any of my thinking is going off the rails in the wrong direction, I need to know.

    Thanks for reading - Dave
  • MatrixphotoMatrixphoto Member
    edited October 2016
    Hi Dave Im not quite sure why you think you have a insurmountable problem , I just made a couple of minor tweaks to the jpeg and it looks fine.
    I just had to take a little magenta and out  add some  brightness and reduce saturation to fast.
    I think the file looks good correcting in above raw would have been better and looked more decen
    There is nothing wrong with your file

    The only problem I seeing is that your mixing Tungsten WB and Flash WB Easy fix IMHO or course.

    Lou Recine
  • Thanks Lou. I always gel my flash to match the ambient. In this case, 1/2 CTS.
  • MatrixphotoMatrixphoto Member
    edited October 2016
    What WB is your camera at , because I can tell that skin tomes are way to blue. Also do you soot RAW?

    Lou Recine
  • TrevTrev Moderator
    Actually Dave, the girl on the right was not really correct WB anyway, I can see blue in her skin, teeth and her T-shirt has a blue cast, the entire image only needed warming up, and as loathe as I am to use the eye dropper, that's all I did on the image (I opened it in ACR first), then opened into PS and ran a quick 'structure' action, more life in girl's black hair and the blonde girl is correct also, even though you may think her skin tone is a bit warm, it's really not as her T-shirt is correct and I just know she had warmer skin tones to start with.

  • WB was set to Tungsten, I shoot RAW always, and only have LR, not Photoshop.

    Thanks, Guys, this is great. Although this is the photo that got me started about under-exposing lousy ambient. it still doesn't give me any ideas about the original post.

    It's wonderful that we have all these digital tools at out disposal. But, the event with the two women above had 350 attendees; there was a large banquet hall for the presentations; the foyer outside that room (where this shot was taken; and another networking area in a different part of the hotel. All three had different lighting.

    Naturally, if you take 25 photos at an event, you can spend 10-15 minutes on each one getting them perfect. But at something like this - 4 hours, 3 rooms, 350 attendees - I don't think so.
  • Trev - if you hate the eye dropper tool, how do you set your WB (without Photoshop). I hate to repeat myself, but again for here - What. Do. You. Do.

  • TrevTrev Moderator
    edited October 2016

    I usually have shot it within the ball park, and just have to up/down the Temp by 200K +/- or a bit more, sometimes I have to adjust Tint, but very rarely I will find no matter what I do, it just does not 'look right', so I will use the Eye Dropper, to try to get it within range and tweak from there.

    Often I am so surprised at how much the eye dropper will change things, with Temp/Tint adjustments, something I would not have tried, so I confess, the 1-3 times I have to use it per wedding, it's a life saver, but I don't have to do any of that at all with outside shots, only with the 'reception/night/room' photos, anything else, well it's a no-brainer to set WB manually and nail it straight up outdoors with lots of experience.

    But I do that in LR or ACR if just a couple of images, then they are exported out as PSD's and all editing done in Photoshop, so I do not use any Raw Converters for all editing whatsoever, in fact I would be lost now without Photoshop's Channel/Masks/Calculations/Apply Image, etc. etc.

    For eg: that image above, I presume the black haired lady was wearing a black jacket, so I tried that using the eye dropper on that, but it really whacked out the colours of skin/white materials, so I tried the white t-shirt, again I had to try a few times (that's why I hate it, never consistent) and when I hit the spot it looked perfect to me, from memory the Temp went up to +34 and +14 for Tint (this was jpeg, so not in the 1000's like a raw file).


    PS: Dave, did you actually click on that image I edited above, so it went to a full screen size to view it better instead of being compressed in the thread column?

  • Hi, Trev - yes, I looked at the image full screen. It looks good. But what I think I'm hearing is you are using mostly your talented eye for this. Which is great, but my eye isn't as talented

    I agree that outside shots - for me, anyway - are much easier to color balance.

  • Dave I don't think you're doing anything particularly wrong at all, you have to remember that light picks up the colour  of everything it bounces off.

    You have a big blue table cloth in front of both women which is reflecting a blue cast on to them, the women on the left has paler skin and hence reflects more of the blue light back towards the camera. Whereas the women on the right has slightly darker skin which will absorb more light and not reflect as much blue light back. Just my thoughts on this particular scenario, I  could well be out with the theory on this though.

    You've made a good move to goto sync speed as a default (something Neil encourages) as this would certainly help reduce ambient colour smear. Indoors you may not be able to stay at sync speed and need to eventually drag the shutter as the ambient fades to nothing.

    I think you're searching for answers that aren't there for the scenario you're presenting. With event shooting and bouncing flash you are at the mercy of your surroundings in terms of colour, when you have multi-coloured lights which I'd class as less ambient and more as directional nasty light sources to deal with and hence box them as a different problem to ambient or flash colour casts created by surfaces/objects in the scene. That said they amount to the same thing, I suppose it depends if the coloured lights are focussed or spread.

    The last thing any of us wants to do is loads of local/global colour correction in PP  but if there is no option to correct/minimise (with modifiers/bounce reflectors etc) at the point of  capture, then there's no alternative.

    If global colour changes are needed things are much easier to deal with re applying across multiple images. Local adjustments maybe more labour intensive, raw editors are getting pretty good with this kind of thing.

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