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Strong Back Light, indoor room

MatrixphotoMatrixphoto Member
edited June 2014 in home
Hi everyone
I have tough nut to crack....
Often I have to shoot receptions at golf courses. They all have big bay windows.
The problem Im having is that to expose for the windows my apature has to be f11.
Bouncing my flash mean my aperture needs to be around F4.5 resulting in a major amount of back light.
Example image below:


The closest Ive coming up with a solution is to use use shutter of 1/250 and using the flash on manual on full power and using the aperture and ISO to find a happy medium results aren't bad but, Is there a better solution to this.?




  • TrevTrev Moderator
    edited June 2014
    Hi Lou,

    Long time mate. :)

    To me those images are fine, but yes, it would be slightly better aesthetically if not so blown and since you are already using your flash 1/1 full power, the only alternative I can see would be to have a secondary flash in background bounced set to a fixed output, say half, and then use on camera flash adjusting to suit.

    Depends on the type of off camera flash, you would need to be aware of sync speed, maybe another SB900 or whatever you have for the D3s

    You could have an ISO of 400, Aperture f9, 1/250th as a starting point for camera settings, which I do if I need background. Also the background will dictate your settings, if full sun like I see on yours you would need to drop back a bit on ISO, but sometimes I will have dark green garden/lawns in back ground and I can get away with ISO 800 if not enough grunt in on camera flash only.

  • In manual, expose for the background (windows) shutter at max sync speed, ISO lowest setting and the aperture set for correct exposure. With your flash in ttl adjust your flash exposure compensation to control the interior exposure. If you’re bouncing your flash behind you and still need additional power you may have to bounce the flash forward or add addition flashes as Trev said. You can practice this at home by balancing the interior and exterior exposures on a bright day by a window.
  • High speed sync? Could you increase the shutter speed to get the background right and then bounce flash the subjects with black foamy thing? Keeping iso low and adjusting aperture and flash power as needed?
  • You can but when you go into HSS the flash is inefficient, at Max Sync speed is when the flash is most efficient.
  • MikeZMikeZ Member
    edited June 2014
    I run into this alot as well. I try to find a happy medium as you have when sufficent flash power is not available. Then shooting raw I am very confident a few swipes of an adjustment brush can easliy tone down the bright areas and bring back some contrast.
  • TrevTrev Moderator
    edited June 2014
    The thing to remember guys, Lou states he is already at full 1/1 power in manual which is the absolute most he is going to get out of that single speedlite and around f4.5 (that last example I see from the Exif data he was at f6.3, still not enough to balance daylight) so ETTL, bouncing, stopping down, HSS will be of no benefit at all.

    From his samples you can see with the outside it's harsh sunlight with higher reflective surfaces, and as I stated above and as in the video, if you have already darkish outdoor scenes, dark blue sky, green grass/trees, you can afford to drop aperture back to around f8 to help a bit, but in the end, more flash is going to be needed for his scenario.

    There are 2 options open, live with the end results, or use extra flash, either another speedlite or something else.

    Also the room he is working in is very large compared to a normal sized room with white walls and white ceiling and very close to subjects as shown in the video (which is a luxury) but those samples show a very large room and I can also see dark wood panels in Lou's samples so there's another 'light killer' he has to contend with.

  • TrevTrev Moderator

    There are 2 more alternatives, and it would not look good for guests, have someone stand just behind him with a large white diffuser and bounce flash back onto that, or straight direct flash, but that's no ideal way to shoot so pretty much you are exhausted until you get more flash power.
  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
    To get to f/11 type bounce flash, look at one of the high-powered studio flashes. The Profoto B1 would be perfect for this.
  • The sky may have been blue and the lawn green, but his ISO was set to 3200 at f5 & 6.5 the exterior is going to be blown out. If he was shooting at 200 or 100 ISO the exterior exposure would have been 4 or 5 stops darker and that may have given the flash a fighting chance to balance the interior exposure with the exterior exposure. The attached photo is an example of max Syn. Speed, Lowest ISO, Flash TTL, aperture set for correct exposure outside, settings 1/200, f 4.5, ISO 50. Please don’t critique this photos it is just an example of balancing exposures.image
  • TrevTrev Moderator
    edited June 2014

    I appreciate the sample, but if he is at 3200 ISO ( I just looked at what an Windows Explorer Folder showed me in regards to f-stop, does not show ISO) and Full Power manual flash to just get those samples supplied indicates he needs to have a hell of a lot more flash power, it will always depend on the conditions being shot under, as per your example, smallish room, very light interior to bounce off.

    So if having an ISO 3200, f4.5-f6.3 range just gets his shot to correct exposure inside, and certainly as you say with 3200 ISO the outside is blown, no amount of light from a single speedlite bounced will be enough.

    Just a matter of physics, full power, nothing else left to give under his shooting conditions.
  • Great tutorial Neil. Thanks. So, looks like you're rejecting HSS because there would then be too much loss of power from the flash and you'd have no hope of lighting your subjects in strong ambient light? I was thinking a high SS would knock down the light flooding in thru the windows. Otherwise you're going to have to kick up the f-stop. And that would stress the flash too. I'm sure the answer is in the math so I'll see if I can wrestle some of that to the ground going back over your lesson inch by inch.
  • Hey Trev .. Great to be back I'll message you in a couple days..
    Thank -you every one for the input , the big problem with these places is that the ceilings are 20-30 Feet high sometimes. So you can't use f9 or a Low Iso even at Full power the flash can't produce enough light.Im thinking a speed light just can't cut it. So, I'm weighing my option..

    Option 1
    Bring my AB Einstein's with me find a plug or invest in battery packs

    Option 2
    Get Cheetah Light or Godox flash , still got to do some research there but they look more compact and Lighter

    Option 3
    Black out paint and a roller (LOL)

    Lou Recine
  • Another quick question is there a difference between the Cheetah Light or Godox flash they seem to have the same spec's " Im confused "

    Lou Recine
  • TrevTrev Moderator
    edited June 2014

    The Cheetah is made by Godox, but, to Edward Tang's (owner of Cheetah Stand) specifications and his service is second to none. He will test products by Godox, give his assessment along with some other testers and get things altered and then rebranded for his online store.

    He is based in Dallas, TX, and a very easy guy to work with.

    Although I have no vested interest in his products apart from using them, I highly recommend them.

    However, if you already have an Einstein I would certainly work with that, and with direct power (if you can source a power point) you would have virtually covered all aspects.

    If you do go the Cheetah route, he is producing a new product the Cheetah Light 600W, I own and use an CL-180 and couple of CL-360w lights, awesome. Pretty lightweight also. They are 'bare bulb' lights as in you can take off any reflectors/diffusers that come with it.

    The new CL-600 has a pretty big battery apparently around the 6lb mark, something to consider.

  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
    I skipped the info that the images at the top were shot at 3200 ISO.

    There's something off about that. I don't think it is necessary.

    The starting point (as is usual when using flash with strong ambient light in the background)
    - maximum flash sync speed
    - lowest ISO (though we can bump this up)
    - find the aperture

    BUT ... in this case, my starting point would be:
    - maximum flash sync speed
    - full manual power on the flash
    - find the aperture / ISO combination where the 1/1 manual flash gives correct exposure.

    ... and THAT is where you work at in terms of settings.

    So keeping this in mind, I would not have shot at 3200 ISO, because it looks like this might be a room where the ceilings are relatively low, and bounce flash is possible.
  • su25su25 Member
    Something seems to be wrong. Sunny 16 rule for ambient exposure (outside the bay windows) would be f/11 ISO 100 1/250s. Your first pic exif data shows f/5 ISO 3200 1/250s, which makes it 7-1/3 rd stops of more light than sunny 16 rule - that is 7-1/3rd EV over exposure. Am I correct?
    Subjects seem to be exposed correctly - with flash. This would lead me to believe that your flash is not giving enough power. If you bring down ISO from 3200 to 200, which is 4 stops, this would affect flash power and you would have to set aperture at 1.3 - for correct exposure.
    Moreover, if your subjects are indoors (same as in shade), following Neil's shortcut (http://neilvn.com/tangents/photography-technique-taking-photos-in-harsh-sunlight/) would give you a starting point of f/4 ISO 100 1/250 (same as f/5 ISO 125 1/250s).
    If bounce flash is not giving enough power, would placing the flash off camera at an appropriate angle to avoid harsh shadows ahieve good results?
  • ZenonZenon Member
    edited June 2014
    Coming in late. After taking some lighting courses this would be my solution. Turn the flash off and set ambient for window light exposure. Turn flash on and adjust for subject exposure.

    Cheap kitchen flash shots. My first experiment. I did not have to experiment any more. Pretty simple.

    Blown out window light


    Adjust ambient to control ambient


    Turn the flash on

  • TrevTrev Moderator
    edited June 2014
    Yes Zenon, I agree, that would be the logical initial set up, but in Lou's case it's simply a matter of maths, not enough flash power to light up the subjects in this particular sized room (Lou said 20-30ft high ceilings) with dark timber paneling.

    He already had flash at 1/1 manual, Aperture f6.3 to get depth of field on subjects since in 1 shot people are on different planes, shutter at full sync 250th, and this leaves only 1 thing left to adjust to get correct subject exposure, and that of course was ISO at 3200.

    As Captain Kirk says to Scotty: "More power Scotty, more power."
    Scotty: "I'm givin' 'er all she's got Cap'n, ain't nothing else left to give, she's gonna blow." (Sorry, could not resist)

    Needs another light source to help, or a single more powerful flash.

    Good examples by the way. :)
  • ZenonZenon Member
    Good point. Thanks.
  • MatrixphotoMatrixphoto Member
    edited June 2014
    Hey Everyone
    Thanks for the input its been really helpful…
    So I decided to try and replicate the problem using a lower ISO . My family room has a double hight ceiling. So I would say 30 feet high.
    The first shot is window light only ISO 200 1/250 F4

    Second Shot was same camera settings but flash Bounced up at ceiling at full Power

    Third Shot was flash Bounced up at ceiling at full Power with relector card pulled up

    Even at full power the Sb-900 flash gives barely enough fill light.Thats why Im thinking about the Cheetah light 180.
    The third shot is better but looks a bit Harsh

    Lou Recine

  • TrevTrev Moderator
    edited June 2014

    Try the Einstein or Alien Bee.

    Also, I would not get the CL-180 if going the Cheetah route, he is putting out a new product the CL-600 (4 times the power of the CL-180 which is at least twice the power of the speedlite) or get the CL-360 that will do it, and you won't run out of 'headroom' with power and more importantly, recycle times, you want the flash to recycle as fast as possible in those situations.

    The reason the 3rd shot looks harsh is by pulling out that reflector white card, you are also directing light straight at that wall, therefore almost like direct flash anyway which is negating the reason one bounces, softer shadows.

    Both images also look 'top heavy' in terms of light, meaning you bounced off ceiling so top part is lit more compared to the bottom.

    Did you try to bounce behind you at all, say flash head up 1 click and 3-4 clicks left or right so it's pointing up slightly but coming from over your left/right shoulder. Straight up into ceiling will certainly not give you enough light to spread evenly overall.
  • Hey Trev

    Im leaning more towards the CL-360 as-well .
    Do you think its worth spending the extra money to get the Cheetah Version ?
    Ive seen such a wide range of prices for the GODOX stuff $450-$700 of the same units Im a bit confused.

  • TrevTrev Moderator

    The Cheetah's have been specifically designed to Edward's specs, he has them done to those then re-branded.

    They are essentially the same, however, slightly better specs, but the big thing is the Warranty/Service he provides and he's in the US also.

    I had a problem with a battery, emailed him, and he had sent a brand new version to me that same day, no questions, before I had even boxed up the faulty one and I had it 5 days later in Australia.

    That's the kind of service he gives. He even gave me a break on the shipping of the new one for my troubles.

    Now, the price differences depend on what's included in the bundle.

    You can get just the flash head for around the $450+ mark, but, you need a battery anyway plus Trigger/Receiver units.


    Query him on that price though, the 'normal & sale' prices are the same, it's generally less than that price but don't quote me on that.

  • I just bad new Cheetah doesn't ship to Canada or Any where else except for the US. Any one know how to get around this eh!!!

  • TrevTrev Moderator
    edited August 2014

    I have the same thing, but, email him, maybe he will 'open' up the Shipping Destination for you like he does for me.

    Sometimes I can 'see' Australia, other times not, so I email him, and when I get a reply I just go and order it then.

    Email Cheetahstand: info@cheetahstand.com

    Also sent you a private message.

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