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Need Some Advice for Upcoming Event

Hi - I've got a booking on 4/26, a donor event for a college. It is taking place in a function room with fantastic views of Boston Harbor (here's a link to some photos):


This will be 7-9 PM, so dusk/early evening. Pretty obvious I've been asked to incorporate the views into informally-posed photos from the evening. So I need some advice on how to do this. I will be alone with on-camera flash. My concerns are:

- I think I know what to do to preserve a background: expose for it correctly, maybe underexpose by a stop, and then light the subject. I have no issue using modified on-camera direct flash outdoors, so what's my problem doing it indoors if bouncing (which I do 99.5% of the time) isn't feasible?

- How do I keep the flash from showing up in the window? Strategically place myself and/or my subject in such a way that it is somehow blocked?

Should I set up like I've seen some wedding photographers do, that is low-power speedlights in the corners, and a Fong lightsphere on camera? I have never done this before, and have always thought it to be very unusual.

Can you think of anything else I should be concerned with, and can you offer some tips and advice please?

Thanks - Dave


  • Dave,

    I am basically just confirming what you already know. Bounce flash is probably the only option if you don't want hot spots in the glass windows. If you have to use direct flash or modifier, then you do indeed need to maneuver yourself around to avoid it in the frame. I would shoot higher ISO as not to use full power flash if needed. Less flash = Less hotspots. I think bouncing should not be a problem though if its in a room. 

  • Thanks, Jay. Planning to get there a bit earlier than usual to plan my night and enjoy the views before the crowd gets there!

  • Jay - As I think about this a bit more, if I were directly facing the window and bouncing behind me, wouldn't I still see the flash in the window and the photo?
  • I think that depends. I am thinking it depends on how close the wall is behind you. If the light is reflected back is soft and "wide" enough, the hot spot wont be a hot spot. Overall its a dance though and constantly paying attention. 
  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
    Let us know how it went. 
  • It's tonight, I'm looking forward to it, and I'll let you know ...
  • So, what I have in my bag is a flash bracket, and an on-camera softbox (a Lastolite "Joe McNally"). I think if all else fails, I may go with what I do outdoors - expose correctly for the background, and touch the subject with direct, modified flash. I brought the bracket along because the softbox is 8"x8", and maybe with it on the bracket, it won't overwhelm anyone. I also have a smaller octagon-shaped modifier.

    What do you think?
  • dbrunodbruno Member
    Dear Diary. Last Thursday, I used direct flash with a modifier - indoors! -for the early portion of an event. I hated it.

    I will be sharing some photos later, but just wanted to describe stuff: when you see the view from this room, you would agree that NOT asking people if they would like their photo taken with the view, I would not be doing my job.

    The room was very long, and probably 30 feet wide, light-colored walls. The event was 7 PM to 9:30 PM, and was a beautifully clear day and evening. While there was sunlight, and people in front of the windows, I exposed for the background and tried to light them with on-camera bounce flash. Absolutely wasn't happening even with full-power manual. So I had to resort to using my 8-inch octagonal softbox, and ETTL. All I could say after taking photos was "Oh God so flashy!!". But, there was just no other way around it.

    When it got darker outside, and no way to have the background in the photos, things got a lot easier, because I was back to bouncing my flash.

    I had my flash bracket and larger Lastolite softbox, but I felt uneasy using it (not sure why, maybe because it looked overwhelming to people?). I'm also not sure if it would have made that much of a difference. I will get my wife to help me compare things between the two rigs.

    I also regretted trying to use bounce flash to light up the speaker at the podium in front of the now-nighttime view. All I got was a bright area in the photos. I took a couple without flash, determined the flash really wasn't doing anything, the exposure was good, and promptly went back to bounce flash. HUH?????? Really?????

    In the end, the daylight photos really didn't look to bad at all. The worst part was darker suits showing the "flashiness". So I used the blacks and shadows sliders in LR to compensate. As far as the flash in the window behind the speaker, I used the graduated filter to smooth it out by exposure and highlight sliders.

    All in all, the event was wonderful, and I wouldn't hesitate to work there again, just as long as I paid attention to what I learned.

    I am interested in what you guys use for on-camera modifiers if you were presented with a similar situation and could not use either bounce or off-camera flash.

  • dbrunodbruno Member
    Just a few shots from the other night. I tried to post what I thought were OK and not OK.

    My God, it really is tough to be a flash-bouncing hardliner in these situations!!
  • TrevTrev Moderator

    Nothing wrong with those shots at all, damn good job in my opinion.

    If those were mine, I would be more than happy with results.

  • dbrunodbruno Member
    Trev - That's really great of you to let me know what you think! Ever since realizing how nice photos come out with bounce flash, I have been so incredibly reluctant/scared to use anything else indoors (for on-camera flash that is). Your opinion on this really helps me more than you can imagine.

    be well - Dave
  • dbrunodbruno Member
    edited May 2018
    Forgot to include a shot of my "rig" for those direct-flash shots. I'm interested in what other people use in these situations. The problem as I found out is it was blocking the IR focus-assist beam from the flash. Another reason to use a flash bracket.

  • TrevTrev Moderator
    edited May 2018

    You are welcome. Trust me, I would not say it was a good job if not, I don't see hot spots on glass, (brilliant), nor in glasses on faces (teeny tiny on rim on one, but that's too stupid to even worry about for the type of shot it is, a 'grab' shot at an event).

    So yeah, the background/foreground, great job, for what you used. I've had worse unavoidably on a couple of occasions.

    Yeah, I've been down that road with a softbox on camera flash, and yep, IR Beam a no go, I just don't do it anymore, regardless if 'nothing' to bounce from. What I do if desperate is have my assistant hold a small (around 30 inch) reflector one side/behind me a little and I bounce off that.

    Hell, one outdoor wedding at night a couple of years back I had to shoot with just a screen type roof, (like a fine fish net above and it was a dark green) and still managed to bounce off that, but I had on-flash and off flashes pointing back/up and high ISO.

    Then I had to shoot a table where people had put their wishing well, cards, trinkets, etc. and it was outside, I took a shot with direct flash, it was shit, shadows behind all the items, horrible. :'(   Then I was about to get my assistant to go to car to get a reflector (forgot to get it out), then I noticed the bride and girls come over to see what I was shooting.

    Bingo, I kindly asked the bride to stand slightly left, behind me, back to table, and bounced the speedlite off the back of her dress, beee-ute-tee-full.  :)

  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
    I think you did pretty well, considering the situation. We do what we can, within the limitations of what we are given, and the limitations of what is realistically possible. 
  • dbrunodbruno Member
    Thanks, Neil, I appreciate it!

    Today I had an engagement party, and had to use direct flash during the church ceremony (Egyptian Orthodox), so I broke out the flash-bracket-Lastolite-softbox rig. Haven't looked at them yet, but had to do it. I also used it for some outdoor shots, to which one of the guests remarked "Oh my, such a fancy camera". I was just waiting for at least one comment I knew was coming haha.

  • zbaileyzbailey Member
    edited April 2019
    The last time I've encountered a photographer using Sony A9 and Sony A7RIII was the guy who was at our wedding. He said he had a lot of bookings from the wedding photography berkshire site just because of the equipment. 
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