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Hopefully a bit of help re: lighting a dancefloor.


I've been using a bounce flash method for some time now because i've never had a reason not to, theres always been something there to light up the room. However, my next assignment I am going to have to use off camera flash. 


the above shows the venue, and a photographer that seems to have just gone for the natural light approach, a smart move haha. I would rather light this place with flash but as shown in the picture, the walls and ceiling are all brick, theres nothing white or anything greatly reflective so a lot of bounce flash would just get absorbed. 

I want to mix multiple off camera flashes with ambient to get the DJ lights and atmosphere into the shot as I do when I bounce, but this is where I start to struggle. I usually just use one bounced flash in TTL and ride the FEC accordingly.

For this project I have 3x canon 600ex RT speedlites at my disposal and was thinking of having a light in an umbrella in one corner of the dancefloor on a lightstand to bring the light levels up, a kicker light in the opposing rear corner for a hair light, both triggered by the 3rd speedlite on camera which would either be turned off if the main light is bright enough and i'm positioned where it can effectivly light my subject, or set to TTL as a fill light with FEC dialled down. My main flash exposure would come from the umbrella light.

My question is, if I was to do this, how would I get my exposure? 

I was thinking I would shoot in Manual, meter for the ambient light only to start with for a shutter speed somewhere around 1/60 - 1/100th?, which i'm guessing would give me a high ISO, then dial back the ambient exposure 2 or 3 stops to lower the ISO again and from there add my main and kicker lights which would be set to manual to bring up the exposure to my chosen level.

I would then position myself so the main light was to my side pointing in towards the dancefloor. If I then began to move around I would then knock the TTL flash to on and get my subjects exposed that way. 

Is this the correct way to expose when using multiple of camera flashes, or can anyone add to this, or indeed tell me if I'm approaching this all wrong. 



  • dbrunodbruno Member
    edited September 2015
    I'm not sure I can give you advice, but I can add some thoughts which I hope, along with your questions, would be evaluated by the heavy hitters on this forum.

    I don't care for the DJ's booth light being blown out, and I'm not sure what that big, smoky-seeming mess of white is in front of him on the floor.
    The bride's dress, if it's white, has to be as far to the right on the histogram without blowing out.

    So, do you expose for the DJ's light so it doesn't blow out? If you do that, the couple will be pretty dark ala ambient, so your flash/flashes are doing all the work.

    But, as you ask, and I will too, in this situation, how do you get the proper exposure which will require the correct power coming out of the Speedlites?

    By the way, I've bounced off things darker than red brick, and have been fine with the results. I don't think it always has to be white or a light color.

    I'm interested - Dave
  • I'm no expert, but, rather than having the DJ in the background could you not switch it round and have the guests in the background, that would make for a better image? As for how to shoot this, I would have 2 speedlites behind the guests on stands in the corners set on manual maybe 1/64 power, this will give a couple of nice star bursts and also give some light to the guests.

    I would then put the 3rd speed light on camera (ettl) and bounce it behind you, changing the FEC to suit the fill you would like to see. My choice for camera settings would be manual, 1/30th shutter or slower, ISO maybe 800, as for aperture, up to you really, do some test shots and adjust as required, I would start around f5.6 and adjust as required, all of the above really depends on how much ambient light there is and how much of this you would like to capture.

    I think the thing to remember is not to kill the ambient light and the atmosphere of the first dance, don't be frightened to lower your shutter speed right down and play with the aperture.
    Hope this helps a little,
  • edited September 2015
    Yeah, i get what you are saying about the dj booth, and to be honest I would probably point the other way too.

    As for using the flashes as starbursts, Im not really a fan of that look if i'm honest and prefer to have my flashes out of view of the image. I did hear one comment from a groom I knew once where the photographer did that and he wasn't happy that he had two great flashes of light in hist first dance images. I suppose I could employ this method in the same way but have the flashes further into the corner of the room so they were out of view but still providing a backlight. 

    I have read neils article on bouncing flash into brick walls etc but would it not just eat a lot of power/batteries when the same look could be achieved with an off camera flash behind the camera mounted on a stand...or even using a flash diffuser such as a rogue flashbender (I do have one but I try to avoid using it where I can)

    When you say bounce a ttl flash behind me from the camera, do you mean just into the empty space of the room? Does that work?

    Theres no much ambient light here its quiet a dark room, I would say it definately needs a lift, on camera or off.
  • Up to you how you do it, the only thing I would say is, the more direct light you throw at the B&G the more it will look like a portrait session and personally I don't think that's what the first dance is all about. Neil has some really good stuff on here, also I found this quite interesting, make sure you view all of the parts to the blog, she does tend to use a polyplasticythingy diffuser but the same effect can be achieved by bouncing the on camera flash.

  • I've had some pretty good luck with off camera flash by setting 3 speed lights up over 9 feet and shooting through an umbrella. I pointed the light toward the center and I put all 3 on different channels so I can switch them on and off depending on what I'm going for. I also have a flash on camera which I point up with a bounce card so I'm splashing a little light on faces. But I'm with you on bouncing off dark red brick, I've never been able to pull that off, especially with 14' ceilings. I'm also curious about pointing the flash behind you if there's nothing to bounce off of but maybe I'll try that and see what happens.
  • Hi - I could be mistaken, but I don't think Barry meant to bounce the TTL flash behind you into nothing. To me it would just be wasting your battery. You have to bounce it off something, you know? My two cents.
  • That definitely makes more sense :) I loved the link to Mellisa Jill! I'm not a gear head either so her descriptions were really helpful for me.
  • that photo is great, and the kind of look I am going for. I don't have a 4th speedlite to setup 3 off camera plus an on camera fill, but because of the size of the room for this event i'm pretty sure I could do it with 2 off camera and 1 on. 

    Yeah i get that, I was suggesting that if you bounce into the empty room the flash will eventually hit something and bounce back, whether it be wall,ceiling etc... although it would be pretty wasteful if you aren't near a wall or ceiling as the flash has a great distance to travel through the space. 

    I'll have a look through Melissa's blog, she isn't someone I have come across before, so thanks for that. 

  • TrevTrev Moderator
    edited September 2015
    northerndarkness: Yeah i get that, I was suggesting that if you bounce into the empty room
    the flash will eventually hit something and bounce back, whether it be
    wall,ceiling etc...

    Yep, precisely correct, it's not 'wasting' flash/battery and you would be surprised at what can be achieved by bouncing into 'nothing' in a room. In fact I'd go so far as to suggest you are not doing the right thing by not 'bouncing into nothing' as opposed to direct flash.

    It's 'pretty light' (as Neil so often quotes) you are after and if a lot of flash power is 'wasted' then so be it, as in my mind it's not wasted at all, it's just a very small price to get that directional pretty light. That's what external battery packs are for.

    Here is a nice hint also, only if using Nikon bodies. In manual mode on the body, you not only have control over flash by using Flash Exposure Compensation on the flash head itself, but, you can also give it up to another +3 stops of power by using the camera body's normal Exposure Compensation.

    So, you have your flash head set in iTTL, and on the flash head use the Flash Compensation dial, then, on the camera body, use its own normal Exposure Compensation which will then again give extra boost to the flash power. It will not affect the camera's ambient exposure since it's already in full manual setting.

    Caveat: Nikon only; Flash set to iTTL; Camera set to fully manual, then and only then will you get a combination of up to +6 stops of flash power extra.

    If the Flash is set to manual, nothing else will influence its exposure output, it will stay precisely the same; Once camera is set to a Priority Mode, (TV/Apertue/Program) the Exposure Compensation on the body will only affect ambient light.


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