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Separation of foreground and background

Hi there,

now I have a question too. I would like to elaborate a bit from the original question in the current "Outdoor wedding" topic.

I am aware that you can use flash to separate foreground and background in a controlled environement by adjusting the lighting levels of fore and back independently and/or to use flashes as rimlights or other accents. In the given scenario, however, the placement of flash heads around the dancing floor eludes me.

The background should be mostly dark if I meter for the dancers (I assume dusk of course or a somewhat dark venue) and the flashes provide mostly light from uncontrolled directions with mediocre intensity at best.

How would you use the described setting to your benefit (flashes at the corner of the Dancefloor)? What am I missing here?

Thanks for any insights



  • dbrunodbruno Member
    Hi - Many of the night-time dance-floor photos from my daughter's wedding had a firing Speedlite in them. I wouldn't know how or where you would place them to avoid this. I guess you just accept it. Some of them actually look kind of cool, but others really do not.

    Could there be an option to remove the "exploding star" using LR or PS? That's what I would attempt. But the guy that shot the wedding had 1100 photos delivered via download in just over two weeks. Do you think he was spending any time on them?

    BUT, my daughter is really happy, so to me that's all that matters.

  • Hi Dave,

    if your daughter is happy, all is well and nothing to grief about ;-). So, job well done.

    I asked more from a conceptual viewpoint to understand the rationale behind this placing of flashes - it just eludes me what this should accomplish OTFH.

    Best regards

  • dbrunodbruno Member
    Michael - I was also interested in what you are interested in. "CanonJay" replied he does use this technique, so for me it wasn't some guy with an odd approach.

    On this forum, following Neil, direct flash is a no-no. This guy had a Gary Fong Lightsphere on his on-camera flash, throwing some light forward. I guess if there were no background lights, the large number of people on the dancefloor and other areas of the yard would have melted into the darkness(?).

    Taking this step further in my imagination would be to have a string of LED lights around the entire perimeter (you know, those party lights) that were bright (brighter than usual). But you would have to have support stands all around. As I said, this is my imagination and not practical.

  • You are possibly right.

    I was under the assumption that CanonJay did this trick indoors or in tents, where you could bounce quite a bit. I overlooked the fact that he explicitly stated a little bit down the discussion to do it in outdoor events too.

    So, if I understand correctly, this arrangement will provide some directional light from all corners in order to illuminate the dance floor as a whole. It will counter somewhat the falloff of light going deeper into the dancing crowd. I guess you would set the light intensity of the flashes so that it is evenly distributed halfway to the middle  of the dancefloor (assuming 4 flashes at the corners). The light might be somewhat hard, but still better than darkness ;-)).

    If you can bounce, other arrangements might be better suited...
  • dbrunodbruno Member
    Not sure how you would bounce outdoors in a situation like this with 100 people.

    I was in a situation last December, where I was photographing a cocktail hour in a room at the top of the main tank in a large aquarium. The walls and ceiling in this round venue, which was more like a 12-foot wide walkway around the tank, were pitch black. I didn't have any off-camera equipment with me, but I took a page out of Neil's book - I had a 24-inch triangular reflector, which I held up with one hand, and bounced my on-camera flash into it while holding the camera with my other hand. But, this worked for couples and small groups. I'm sure it looked quite strange to people, but there was no way anything was bouncing off those black walls. I attached one of the better ones.

    Now that I think about it, I wonder if this "Speedlite-in-the-corners" method would have worked?
  • CanonJayCanonJay Member
    edited May 2017
    Hi Guys,

    I will try to simplify and explain this approach a little better if I can. . My thoughts are to build the lighting needed for each location. Every location is unique. For example: You can just use bounce flash and be done with it and that will be suffice for most.   I like to go that extra mile when I can.  I build my lighting like this. I make sure my bounce flash or direct flash (with diffuser or not) has proper exposure irregardless of location with the proper one or two stops under ambient light.  I then add lights as needed. If I am photographing a wedding, I will put lights around the room or sometimes just one, depending on the room. (Along with my on camera flash) I don't worry if the flash gets in my shot or not. It adds excitement. Do I get funky shadows sometimes? Absolutely. But what I do get is interesting lighting that not one of those guests can get that with their I phone:) My candids are bright and airy with all kinds of directional light.  I do keep conscience of where my camera is pointed and do try to keep those lights out of the shot if I can and my Flashpoint remote can shut down zones.  But the moment is the moment and I do like the results even if I get a ball of light in the picture. As for outdoors its all "hard" for a lack of a better term directional light. I use the inverse square law to my advantage. Put lights way out there and way up there and meter them from there. I can cover the entire area that way irregardless of the amount of guests. (Of course I am not doing concerts this way) LOL but I assume it could be done:) 

    @ Dave.....Absolutely that would have worked. The major decision with this approach is you have decide what you want to be the main lighting. Do you want your on camera flash to be the main source or do you want the lights on stands to be the main light and use the on camera as fill. Things that make you go huh. For this I would have used the on camera as main and  use the on stands lights as accent. Just pretend you are in studio and build the lighting around the subject. You can bounce those accent lights off the walls too and not make them just pointed at the subjects and use that as fill light or side light or background light (all depending on the spot you set them suckers at and what direction your shooting the subjects). I know a lot to take in, but once you get it. You get it. Trust me I was there and frustrated for years and years. 

    @MichaelR......As for the outdoor events, the farther the light the more even it gets. I try to use my battery powered monolights if I can, but speed lights are more than adequate and have used them many times. Just get them up high and a fair amount away from dance floor. 

  • Also search an article on this site called Mixing TTL flash with manual flash - wedding receptions by Neil on the Tangents area. 

  • TrevTrev Moderator
    edited May 2017

    Pretty much what I do mate. 99% of the time my speedlight on camera is the Main Light, as correct exposure on the subject/s is the important part and I can control much easier the exposure on camera.

    In fact if in a hurry and the light is too bright or not enough, instead of faffing around with my speedlight and having to push buttons and dial the wheel while taking the camera down from my face and looking at the back of the speedlight, I merely use my thumb on back of camera Aperture Wheel and just change the aperture for quick shooting.

    Placement of OCF's I do try to have them at 180 degrees, even when I want one at back of room camera left, then one back my side camera right to give a kick of light, because when I shoot Landscape, the flash is pointed back/left, and when I am in Portrait, it's still orientated back/left.

    Normally though just the one OCF suffices with the speedlight, but yes, placing the lights is fairly easy, since you shoot from the direction the people are facing in the majority direction.

    Speeches, Dancing, General, 99% same direction. The only one that seems to change is the Cake Cutting since they always manage to place that in a corner of the room and since I need the couple to be facing the guests instead of their backs, a hell of a lot of the time there are no guests in frame.

    As an aside with the cake cutting, I also do something a little different if anyone wants to try, I get close-ups of the cake/hands/knife, but get the groom to hold knife in left hand, with bride's left hand on top to get a shot of the rings.

    Lighting in this sample, Camera Flash left/up/behind me; OCF right/up/behind me so I get light on front/left of cake, and light on their hands (note the shadows).



  • Thank you all for your insights

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