Using flash in large banquet room with lights coming up from the floor

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by 10960708, Nov 12, 2018.

  1. Hello people, at the risk of annoying some of you with my continuance of questions regarding the use of flash for an event I will be shooting next month, I beg of you, your indulgence as I sort this out, which leads me to yet another question regarding using flash photography in a rather large banquet room. I was just informed by the director of the facility I will be shooting at that the lights, instead of being up in the ceiling, will in fact be coming up from the floor, and, that they will not be all that bright leading me to believe the room will have a somewhat subdued dim look. So that being said, my plan was, with my Canon 5 D Mark II, flash, 600 EX-RT, lens, Tamron 24-70 f 2.8, shoot manually, shutter speed 1/40 of a second, ISO 400, and aperture 4.0, (perhaps even dropping to 3.5?). Of course if I find 400 is too low, I would then boost it higher, perhaps say to 600 or even 800 if necessary. Am I missing anything here? There also will be warming lights at the various food stations that will need to be accounted for likewise. I sincerely apologize if I sound redundant and annoying, but, am merely attempting to ensure I know what I am doing, or at best, am armed with appropriate correct settings that will allow me to successfully pull this off. Thank you for your patience with my questions.
  2. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    No one can even guess at "appropriate correct settings" without at least knowing the Ambient Light Level of the room.

    As was mentioned in your previous thread (HERE - LINK) in simple terms you need to choose whether the Flash will be the Primary Light or if the Ambient Room Lights will be the Primary Light and the Flash will be Fill.

    Then that choice dictates the technique that you will employ,

    In this regard I advise that you practice these techniques in a variety of locations with similar low level room lighting, if possible practice at THE location where the function will be held.

    All that stated, as a general matter of course, when I am shooting Event Portraiture in a Low Light level Function Room, I would tend to use DISBURSED FLASH as the KEY LIGHT (Primary Light) and set the SHUTTER SPEED to render the AMBIENT LIGHT between 1 to 2 Stops under (less than) the FLASH EXPOSURE.

    In these situations my general 'go to' Light Modifier is BOUNCE. (i.e specifically NOT Light Diffusion Heads).

    I use a a variety, mostly this one as shown below, which, incidentally was a gift from a fellow Photographer who was genius at shooting Flash-work on the hop and this Bounce Card has sentimental associations for me. You may wish to search some of Nadine's responses to exactly the question that you pose. Here is her Bio Page (LINK)

    In the shooting scenario described,I would use the Flash OFF CAMERA, in my Left Hand, that provides me a range (although limited range) of Flash Direction, relative to the Camera's Line of Sight. I would use the camera in Manual Mode. (I use Canon DSLRs).

    In synopsis the details of the usual technique I employ are:

    1. Measure the Ambient Light Level

    2a. Set ISO such that Flash will always have enough power for the MAXIMUM Flash Shooting DISTANCE that is required at the SMALLEST APERTURE necessary for the SHALLOWEST Depth of Field scenario you'll encounter.
    (For example the shallowest DoF might be defined as the need to make a Two Person Half Shot, in which case you might decide that F/8 is the GUIDE-POINT for the Smallest Aperture you'll ever require.)
    b. Deciding on that Aperture as the smallest you'll even need, then, because you are using a 24 to 70 on a 5D series, IF you make that Two Person Half Shot at FL=70mm, you'll be shooting at about 18~20ft SD (Subject Distance).
    c. Now, working backwards, if you do not exceed that 18~20ft as the Maximum Flash Working Distance, let's assume that the Guide Number of your Flash is about 160ft/ISO100 when the camera tells the flash you are at FL =70mm AND your Light Modifier knocks out 1 Stop of 'Flash Power' (it probably knock off a bit more), then you can calculate that when you need to use F/8 at an SD = 18ft then your estimate of ISO400 will be just on the borderline of "safe" in so far as your Flash will have enough power to act as the Key Light.

    To do this correctly, you really need to understand the importance of knowing the Maximum Flash Working Distance you will have at any given ISO and Aperture.

    3. Back to Point 1 – let’s assume the Ambient Light Levels are at EV = 8) therefore these exposure parameters would make a ‘correct exposure’ for the Room Lights to be: F/8 @ 1/6th second @ ISO400.

    4. As a matter of taste, (as mentioned), I usually slightly underexpose the Ambient Exposure, relative to the Flash Exposure, therefore for the Ambient to be 1 Stop under the Flash, I’d set the Shutter Speed to 1/13th second, for the Ambient to be 2 Stops under the Flash, I’d set the Shutter to 1/25th second.

    5. In some situations and as a moving element to be applied as necessary throughout the Function’s Coverage, I will use FEC (Flash Exposure Compensation). FEC will increase or decrease the Flash Exposure relative to the prescribed Exposure that the Camera’s TTL Metering System dictates is “correct”. For one example, this is often necessary when a large; or very dark; or very light object is in the foreground of the scene, especially when it is not the Key Element of the scene, and that object will confuse the automated TTL / Flash measurements.

    The technique outlined in step four (4) is termed “Dragging the Shutter”.

    The main message I would send is that you need to practice – every lighting scenario is different and whilst there are general guidelines as to how to approach Shooting Portraiture inside a dimly lit Function Room, each scenario is different and the main difference will be what is the ACTUAL Ambient light level inside the room – noting well that the Ambient Room Light might change level throughout the evening or, in different sections of the room.

    It would be irresponsible of me to not warn you that if you feel inadequately equipped to produce a good product then you should consider alternative arrangements, especially as the two questions were originally posted in the "Business Forum", it is easy to assume that this is a paying gig.


    Last edited: Nov 12, 2018
    ruslan likes this.
  3. I think you better be prepared to crank the ISO up to 3200 or 6400.
    My guideline is that it is better to have noise than a blurry picture, from having the shutter speed too low.
    IMHO 1/40 sec is too slow. You should be up at 1/80 or 1/125. You are shooting people, not statues, and people move.

    Warming lights are a PiA. They can be bright enough to be the primary light source, then you will need to use your flash to fill the shadows. My experience is that you have to experiment, as each setup is different.

    And if the light is too low, be ready to switch to flash as your primary light source.
    If you are hesitant about using flash, then you NEED more practice. If you are not confident and comfortable shooting with a flash, your results will show it.
  4. If you wish to shoot the whole room using a direct flash, even with the weenie reflector shown above, will expose properly only for a narrow range of distances. If you expose for the foreground, then those further away will be dark. You can try bouncing the flash, boosting the ISO and opening the aperture. Remember, flash exposure is independent of the shutter speed, whereas ambient exposure depends on both shutter and aperture. Both depend on ISO.

    If you want to shoot tables or small groups, then I suggest using a fill-flash mode. Expose for the ambient (or those parts you wish to seem "natural") and let the flash make up the difference. To eliminate visible shadows, use a flash bracket so that the flash is directly over the lens. An auxiliary reflector won't soften the light unless its diameter is roughly equal to the distance to the subject (i.e., it's a waste of time, money and effort). If you don't have a fill mode on the flash or camera, you can use "Slow Flash," which exposes for ambient then trips the flash just before the shutter closes to make up the difference.

    You can balance the effect of flash by adjusting the flash compensation in the camera or on the flash itself. If you want ambient to dominate, set the flash compensation to -1 stops or so. If you want more flash (in the fill mode) and less ambient, set the flash compensation to 0 or more.

    If you have mixed lighting, let the background go warm and balance for the flash. if you need both ambient and flash lighting for faces, use an amber gel on the flash (greenish for fluorescents).

    Nothing works all the time, nor for every type of photography or intent. You have to experiment and check the results. You may find it necessary to use manual mode for both camera and flash for formal groiups, where some wear light colors and others dark. It's the faces that count, and consistency that makes your post processing easier. You would be wise to invest in a flash meter.
  5. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    I concur.

    Additionally, it is not quite clear to me what exactly the OP wants to Photograph.

    Ed's post highlighted that I assumed, that because the function is a Christmas Party, then generally, most of the shots would be in the style of tighter Portraiture rather than wider, room shots. The techniques that I described, using a Bounce Card, are for the former, tighter Portraiture and smaller Group Portraiture, up to about ten or twelve people which would be keyed by the Bounce Flash and the Room's Ambient (background) would be exposed by Dragging the Shutter.

  6. How so? Sorry, I am not in the catering business, but I assume they'll be of a rather warm color temperature. Will you white balance for them and gel your flash to match them, to make nearby people and grub look yummy in the same picture? - Otherwise I'd shoot the grub at flash WB with low ISO small aperture and max sync speed, to get it naturally colored.
    That 's an ethics issue! - Light hitting faces from below makes them look spooky. - I am aware that lawyers are demonized in American pop culture but would guess since the law firm hired you, they should look like nice people in your images?
    ISO 400, f4, 1/40 sounds like underexposing the ambient light about 2-3 stops. - At least thats what I am getting pointing my camera into dimmer corners of my home. - The exposure you are planning might work in a bright production or office area, if at all.
    If you are overpowering the ambient anyhow: Ponder using an aperture providing enough DOF to surely get 2 framed faces in focus.
    If you are supposed to get some shots of the entire room: Pack a tripod! - I regret not doing so during a last event I shot. (Maybe bracket for some HDR or composite image to get the grub under it's warming lights right, in the final picture.)
  7. Not for Canon EOS 5D Mk 2. Low quality may result in lawsuit.
  8. Then use a flash.
    ruslan likes this.
  9. Can you go scout the location and shoot test shots?
  10. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    This member hasn't been back since Nov of 2018 - his event was to be in December the same year.
  11. Thanks. Here's my sign: STUPID
  12. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    No problem - don't know about anyone else, have done the same thing on more than a few occasions. When you have experience and at least some of the possible solutions, someone will find the info sharing valuable. There is probably a clever way to do it starting a new thread.

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