Photographing in a small room

Discussion in 'Street and Documentary' started by mlevy, Sep 25, 2017.

  1. I was photographing staff in a dentist's office. I bounced the light off the ceiling with a diffuser on the flash, and the lighting still came out really hard. My guess is that its because all their rooms were really small, maybe 5' x 10' with low ceilings, and they were oddly sized. So I was having trouble getting enough distance from the subjects. Any advice for working in a space like this?
  2. Bounce off the wall behind you.
    That avoids the light coming down on top of the subjects head.
    Sandy Vongries likes this.
  3. My guess too is that the walls were not reflecting the light nearly as much as the ceiling, so you got horrible eye sockets and cheek bones. I assume there were items up against the wall, or the light could not reach the wall sufficiently to produce a nicer, all around light. Live and learn. I probably would have done what you did and noticed on chimping. A bit of direct fill-in/balanced flash might have worked better then.
  4. Sometimes natural light or ambient light works best. Maybe a bounce of some sort to fill shadows.
  5. Angle the flash up to about 45 degrees, maybe a little more. Put a white 3x5 notecard on top of the flash head. That will soften it up quite a bit. It also helps if the walls are on the dark side in color. Also keep the subject as far away as possible from the background. Not easy in a small room but if you have 10 feet to work with and a shorter portrait lens like an 85 you ought to be able to get some good results. You could also bring an umbrella reflector on a stand and aim the flash into that.

    Rick H.
  6. All my indoor work however small the room is done with flash attached to the camera, but I bounce it off the wall to one side and behind me, i.e., in front of the subject, not off the ceiling. Incidentally, I don't use any diffuser on the flash, isn't that more useful when actually pointing at someone with it, I have no experience there?
  7. Consider shooting from the hall outside the room doorway, it can give an extra few feet. You can put a speed light on a stand and trigger either with a radio trigger or in that close quarters, even use a cable. It is more important to know the principle and then apply it than be given a formula that may not work in your location. If you want softer light, ie, slower shadow to diffused transition, you need a bigger source. When you bounce off a wall, the area lit is the size of the source. If your flash allows, set it for wide angle and get it a good distance from your wall bounce area. That takes care of soft/hard light. Another problem you may be having bouncing off the ceiling is that the light is coming from to high above the subject resulting in racoon eyes in shadow. Also, if you are pretty tall and then have the flash sticking straight up, you are creating a pretty small area of illumination on the ceiling that may only be a foot or two away , and could cause hard edged shadows. If you were shooting the dental staff, were you shooting in each of their rooms? Often those have no windows but those that do could have some great light quality and as mentioned above, a reflector fill may be all that is needed. The fun of location work is it forces you to "improvise, adapt, overcome" as Clint said in Heart Break Ridge. That addresses diffusion, direction and intensity/contrast has to be addressed by you as well. Finally color may be altered if you are bouncing off a non white wall. Put a gray card in each scene's first shot to make color correction in post a snap. Try thinking in terms of of the qualities of light and solve the problem based on them, direction, diffusion(soft/hard edged shadows), intensity/contrast ratio, and color.

Share This Page