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Ambient Lighting and Flash

Hi - I know sometime a while back, something like this was discussed, but I couldn't find it. Here's a situation which could be seen as hypothetical, but it happens to me all the time:

I will go into an event venue, usually somewhat dark, and lit by a certain type of light (tungsten, flouro, etc). The walls are seldom a nice white, and half the time all four are not even the same color.

Assume overhead/recessed tungsten lights., and walls that are not white, and not all the same color. Many people moving around, and my job is to photograph them. The lighting is bouncing off the non-white walls, and if you take someone's photo in this lighting (no flash), they are going to look like they are in a room with non-white walls and orange-ish lighting casting on their skin. But the exposure isn't enough, and I have to add bounce flash.

What I vaguely remember from the earlier forum was a bit of disagreement on whether the flash should be gelled to bring it to tungsten temperature. On side of the argument was that I am introducing another light, one that would suffer from the same effects of the colored walls, so it SHOULD be gelled. The other side was "No, it doesn't work that way", but I don't recall why.

My feeling is the flash should be gelled, so it behaves in that situation like all the other similar-temp lighting. Wouldn't it look just like ambient, bouncing off the colored walls? What I want to get is the other side of the argument - if there is one - and help me understand why it should not be gelled. (If there is that side against).

I don't have nearly the experience a lot of you have, but in my short time doing this, I can't believe how many different and seemingly unworkable lighting situations I've run into. Dark restaurants and bars, wood paneling, brick, stained glass. A good explanation or reference article dealing with "how light bounces of stuff" (or to that effect) would be great to read.

Thanks - Dave

Comments

  • Hi Dave,

    I can only account for how I shoot in situations like this. You are more than welcome to put gels on the flashes to keep everything consistent throughout the shoot. I personally don't worry that much about it, as I prefer to shoot raw and correct white balance issues within lightroom if any. If the walls are off-white or dark, the bounce usually comes back pretty close to the ambient light anyway. I also do not mind the slight variation in the light sources. I like that the background gets a tad, for a lack of a better term, orangey. I think it adds focus to the subject.  I have attached an example of what happens a lot of times to me. Multiple light sources with various temps. I like the look personally. I think it adds focus to the subjects. Just my opinion. Some may say otherwise or I should have gelled something. But it works for me:) Not sure if that helps or not!

    -Jay


  • Thanks, Jay. It would be interesting to me - if you have them available - the settings for this shot, especially the shutter.

    Oh, and what did you bounce off? The text you put on the photo reads "B&G.

    I shoot raw as well, but don't you have tougher WB adjustment if you don't pay enough attention at the time of the shot?

    Thanks - Dave
  • Not a problem Dave. I have attached the raw data for you. As you can see, I don't have heavy processing or white balance corrections to do. What I meant was bounced flash on bride & groom. I am sure it was flash bounced to the left and high. 

    -Jay
  • Thanks, Jay. That helps. From a couple of recent posts (the one about the BFT, the other about exposure and blinking hilites), I started wondering if it's possible in the situation of your photo to have the shutter at max sync, maybe under-expose the ambient, bounce the flash and have correct exposure.

    The reason why I asked for your settings: I'm attaching a photo that I put on the Tangents FB page, and I did it mostly because I was trying to show how to use the BFT (or at least the way I use it) when bouncing to the side and forward. Neil commented that there was a bit of a magenta cast on the girl to the left, and wondered what it was. I was bouncing off a brick wall to my right, gelled for tungsten, and there were a lot of recessed lights. So in a case like this, I wonder if I could have gotten away with underexposing the ambient enough to get rid of the cast, and then beefing up the boumce-flash power. I still am not sure where the magenta cast came from. It was a fancy hotel, so I can't imagine they had colored overhead lights.

    But your photo was taken at 1/100, the skin tones look great, and the ambient gives a nice background. I usually shoot at 1/100: maybe a little slower if informally posed, faster for an animated speaker.

    Dave
  • Ok Dave. I believe I know what is going on.  I will do my best to try and explain, so please bear with me. I am going to quote you first. " I was bouncing off a brick wall to my right, gelled for tungsten". The bricks are red in tone and the gel is yellow in tone. Add those two together and the color temperature is too warm for starters. (I am assuming you didn't set a custom white balance for these two subjects). Also the only correct white balance setting in camera would be a Kelvin Temp custom set. Flash, auto, and even tungsten would not render correctly. (my assumption of course from experience). Further more to add to this setting is that you reached (this is hard to explain so please excuse the lack of tech terms) what i like to call a blended scene. It is the finite line of all the lighting sources registering in camera. For example, You may have wanted the flash to be the main light, but the ceiling lights, reflection off of table cloth became a source of light, etc..all registered in the camera because of the combination of camera settings you chose. If that makes any sense to you?  For example lets say the the scene here was F4/100th second 800 Iso. You set the camera to these settings and took the shot. But the flash really played a smaller role than you think, as it was more of a slight gelled fill light, and the rest of the surrounding natural sources are registering. 

    I still believe you are doing everything right. I would advise to loose the gel. (for now). I shoot quite a bit of events, not only weddings, but corporate events etc...I haven't used a gel in years. I also use several off camera lights too (all non gelled) in various situations. 

    In closing, please keep in mind this is just my personal tastes and experiences and I am sure there are many ways to accomplish a goal. I hope others can chime in and share also. As maybe we all can gain some new knowledge. 

    -Jay

    PS........ Were you using a CTO or CTS gel and to what degree? Just curious 
  • Hi, Jay - All good stuff, thanks! I usually gel with 1/2 CTS when in primarily Tungsten lighting. I have tried going without it, but it seems like it matters.

    In the photo I posted, I used the "eye dropper" to get the WB, probably on the white top of the woman on the right.

    Also, what I have not enough guts to do is under-expose the ambient and let the flash do more work. I should maybe start doing that more. But I think it would be very difficult in a large room. Maybe in close stuff, where I have something to bounce off close by, I can try. But, like with off-camera stuff, it can be a little disconcerting when you take a shot with ambient only, and the LCD is black, you know?

    Dave
  • Jay - I am curious if you ever used direct flash, maybe with a modifier, during some of the indoor events you shoot where bouncing would not be possible.

    Dave
  • I definitely have used direct flash. If I have to use direct flash indoors, I like to bump up the ISO and open up a little as to bring in more of the ambient light. I find that helps with the "deer in headlights" look:)  So that way its not such a bright subject with a black background. I also will use a stop-fen or just tilt the flash up slightly and use the little white card thats on most flashes if possible. Either way its flat lighting, but its ok sometimes. A friend of mine uses a Vivitar 285 on a bracket shooting straight forward, for over 20 years! He shoots at F8 ISO 400 for every indoor event imaginable. He is extremely well liked and not one person has said boo to him or complained about images. 

    -Jay 
  • Thanks, Jay. I picked up a Lumiquest 80/20 off EBay (list price is ridiculous), and have played around with it a little, but haven't used it yet for an event. It would have to be in a room where I have no choice but direct flash, but the only room of the event. Switching between it and bouncing with the BFT would take a minute. Some of the corporate stuff I shoot is in-and-out of two or three different areas. I'm sure you know.

    Dave
  • Hi Dave,

    I hear you! I like to get to events early and check each location out and come up with a plan. That way I don't sweat it out and rush too much. My favorite is when they have a step and repeat and then cram 30 people for a group shot! My favorite:)

    -Jay
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