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Lighting Challenges

Many of us have dealt with lighting challenges. I had a bit of a rough one on Sunday and thought I’d share it.

Sunday at the Orlando Meet & Greet event at The Acre turned out to be a lot of fun for the VIP session. Once that was over, the skies opened and pelted everyone below with high winds up to 86 MPH at the airport and a deluge of rain. Welcome to Florida during the rainy season.

Dealing with Lighting Challenges

There’s an interesting little bar area in a poorly light building at The Acre, but we had some beautiful window light leading into it. The skies before the storm were overcast, so the lighting was even and diffused. Made for some nice shots on the other side of the window. My own take was to use that for some backlighting with the model – Summers Hardy – sitting on the bar.

I brought my Nikon SB-900 with a 24″ Lastolite Ezybox to provide some fill light for most of the shots. Here’s how it looked for my first shot before I brought in the speed light.

Lighting Challenges

Exposing for the window light leaves me with a pretty dark interior. The exception is that little square of light coming from the left of Summers. Who puts a damn hole in the wall?  I don’t mean a window, either. You can stick you arm right through. It makes for a distracting hot spot in the photo, so I had to start working my position to exclude that from the composition.

The room has red walls and some interesting features, but they’re all obscured by darkness. You can see how half of Summers’ face and her shoulder are just lost in the darkness. The only way to fix that, without blowing out the other side, is to bring in some light.

That actually worked out OK for this kind of pose. I could balance my light with the window light rather easily.

The Request

After those shots, Summers asked me if we could do a reflection photo. Before I thought about anything, I just blurted out, “Sure!”

Then it hit me. This is a pretty rough place to do a reflection shot. Dark room. bright window light, and a hole in the wall that adds another compositional twist that really limits my options here.

Looks like I picked the wrong day to forget my flash gels.

Given the warm room, I would have preferred having some CTO gel on the flash to warm up the light. This is one of the dangers of having too many camera bags. Sometimes the stuff you want is in the bag you didn’t bring.

As I started working with my exposure, I faced a few decisions that drove me toward the final result. I could raise my ISO. The problem with that is that it made the window light exceptionally bright, to the point of becoming nuclear. Didn’t seem to help the mood.

My shutter speed controls the ambient light in the exposure, but I’m capped with a sync speed of about 1/200th or 1/250th of a second here. As I brought up my ISO, I didn’t have much room to exclude the window light. Worse, it really killed the rest of the interior light that I actually wanted to bring up. To do that, I needed a slower shutter speed.

With each of these decisions, I was narrowing my exposure options. That left me with a couple of other variables, such as my flash power and aperture. Those options ended up getting narrowed, too.

The soft box is just out of the frame leaning against a wall. The distance from my light to my subject had very little wiggle room to adjust flash to subject distance. All I could really do was play with my flash power and aperture.

Here’s where it gets fun. Closing down my aperture also affected my ambient light. Leaving it open, as I did with this shot, made for another issue. My focus is on her face in the mirror, but shooting wide open at f/2.8 leaves her body in the foreground rather defocused.

I had a few stops on my flash to go up in power, but that started causing a few issues with light spilling into places I didn’t want it to go.

Analyzing the Results

I have a little rule that I haven’t brought up before, but it’s just something I think about when people go on like I just did about their photos. If you have to explain your photo, then it failed.  Looking at an image is ultimately what lets us decide whether we like it or not. Doesn’t matter what gyrations happened behind the scenes to try and make it work.

On the other hand, people like “behind the scenes” information. Otherwise, we wouldn’t need all that space on Blu Ray disks. That’s why I wanted to share a little about this shot.  Just to give you a peek into the mind of a confused photographer.

Lighting Challenges

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About William

Author, Photographer and IT Manager. I have a fondness for chocolate. I also own Suburbia Press and Aperture vs Lightroom. Follow me on Twitter at @wbeem.

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