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Flash in a dark room

slravenphotoslravenphoto Member
edited April 2013 in wedding photography
Hi Neil / guys / anyone who can help

OK, so take a look at this image. Forgetting the bad WB (the flash was not gelled to the ambient light); it was taken in a fairly dark room, although it was more dark towards the back of the scene.


The settings:

Canon 5D II / Canon 50mm 1.8 / Canon EX 580 II
1/200 @ f/3.5 @ ISO 100
Evaluative in manual

The image is straight out of camera.

With the flash off, I zeroed the dial then dialed down exposure about 2 stops as I wanted some ambient to record. Flash was then turned on and set to +1 FEC.

You can probably tell that the flash was bounced to camera right as I wanted directional light.

Two things I am not happy with:

Firstly, the back of the scene is underexposed. I was hoping that the flash would light it all uniformly. Actually, thinking about it while I write, I suspect if I had cranked up the ISO, more of the flash would have registered making the whole scene evenly exposed? Am I right?

Secondly, I am not happy about the contrast on the face of my son, which I would have preferred to be a little more subtle. I'm thinking this is to do with the inverse square rule; again, am I right? Given the 50mm, he was pretty close to me, and the fact that the wall off which I bounced the flash was also very close to me, I'm reckoning that the inverse square law has created the contrasty light fall-off...?

Comments appreciated!



  • Apologies it is in in 'weddings section' - I added it here because it is a prime example of the problem I have at weddings.
  • TrevTrev Moderator
    edited April 2013
    Hi slravenphoto,

    2 things I see can be worked on.

    1] If you wanted more ambient in the background, which to me appears to be at least 3-4 meters back, you underexposed too much, so yes, the light falloff plays a major part here.

    2] Direction of light. Personally you have the light coming from the wrong direction, the face is more broad lit, but the back of his shoulder is more exposed which is a little distracting, and the main part, his face and chest, in my opinion would be the more appropriate area.

    In this case I would have bounced from my camera left.

    You would get a much more balanced shot of him with just a slight tweak.

  • edited April 2013

    I like the shot as is, unless you indeed wanted more of the back ground in focus. I like the separation. As for the shadow left, doesn't it depend on what your going for, or your style of photography... ? I'm a rank amateur, what do I know? Personally I like the contrast, gives it a little more dimension. But we all look at photos differently. slravenphoto, I'm learning just as you are...As others have suggested to me, just go out and take pictures...I've taken that to heart, and it helps me immensely. In my humble opinion, your picture is quite good, and love the expression on his face. These fine people here will help you, myself and others, on anything we can come up with. Keep up the good work.
  • The problem here is simply that he's a child. He moved around. I went for the short lighting option but he decided to move his head at the last minute. Just got to make do with what they fling at you sometimes.
  • Okay let me break things down for you of why your photo did not come out how you wanted it to.

    First off, looking at your camera settings alone and telling me that you're bouncing flash at iso 100 in a lightly to medium lit indoor setting alone tells me that your subjects lighting profile will be that of high contrast.

    Reason being is that the backdrop/background or whatever you want to call it will definitely be underexposed at that iso and since you're bouncing flash so that you get some directional lighting going (loop lighting) the ambient that falls on his face compared to the bounced flash lighting that is falling on your subjects face will be high contrast as the ambient on his face is dark and the bounced flash lighting is going to be much brighter than the ambient light AND it's a light source that is far away (your ceiling that is) which causes high contrast lighting. (the further away your light source is away from your subject the less soft it will be)

    Remember, a ceiling is further away from your subject than a softbox would normally be placed if you wanted soft lighting so your light source while bouncing flash off of ceilings will be more harsh compared to a large softbox that is 1-4 feet away from him in the same situation.

    What I would have suggested is bringing the iso up to the point where your backdrop/ambient is 1-2 stops darker than your subject and than bouncing your flash directionally like you did but using much less power.

    This brings your subject up to the proper exposure, creates beautiful soft lighting (definitely not high contrast since your ambient will be contributing to the light on your subjects face a long with the flash), and allows your subject to pop from the backdrop with a nice loop lighting pattern going on.

    If you ever read any of Neil's posts on his Tangets blogs you will notice that he nearly always uses a high iso and uses a slight amount of bounced flash to make his subjects pop while simultaneously creating a nice lighting profile on his subject which is not high contrast due to him mixing ambient in with his flash when it comes to his subject(s) lighting profile.

    The only times that Neil uses low iso's is when using softboxes including the Lastolite EZbox as then he can bring his light source very close to his subject (closer than the distance from a ceiling to a subject which could be as high as 15 feet) creating a very large/soft source of light.

    Most of the time in his photos he also allows the ambient to play a role in his subjects lighting profile by using a high iso and/or dragging the shutter so the flash/softbox is really only acting a fill light when used as bounce or used outdoors in the most part which creates a very soft lighting that is not high contrast since the flashes light output is only 1-2 stops higher than the ambient lighting.

    So with that said, next time bring the iso up to bring the backdrop up while decreasing the power of your flash and your subjects lighting will be less contrasty.

    Hope that I could help and all of the best.
  • warrenjrphotography - Great explanation!
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