warming gels, ND & diffusion with flash

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by john_rogers|8, Mar 10, 2004.

  1. I use a CT straw 1/4 gel over my flash for indoors at reception in
    conjuntion with a one stop ND gel so i can shoot at f4 and use
    power settings on my flash based on f5.6. the reason i shoot at
    f4 is so the background is not as dark. I always have a 1/2 stop
    diffusion over the flash. Im getting brighter backgrounds,
    especially when i use asa800 film (npz), but my subjects dont
    look so hot. i shoot at 1/40 or 1/50 second. just wondering if
    maybe the slow shutter is giving me not so sharp shots? it is
    frustrating. i am trying hard to improve my shots, but sometimes
    the background is so incredibly dark that it doesnt really improve
    the look to go to all this trouble. Is the warming filter a problem? I
    am trying to warm things up a tad, but it seems that maybe it is
    negatively effecting my images. any suggestions? that warming
    filter is a must for sunset shots, the warm background needs a
    warm flash. even with the 1/4 CT straw gel, i want more warmth
    than that. would 2 layers of 1/4 ct straw give me more warmth, or
    do i need a 1/2 gel? just trying to improve things, ready to go
    back to doing nothing! I get to a reception with 800 film and i get
    a pitch black mood lighting. sometimes you cant win! comments
    pls, i know others contemplate these things. thanks!
  2. Im not sure I understand your question completely?You lower flash power by placing filters over it?Why not lower the power & save battery power?The way to light up backgrounds is by dragging the shutter or using a 2nd light.Also using warming filters with negative films is sort of a waste of time,since your lab probably removes the color cast in printing.
  3. John - I completely understand your frustration. I've tried a couple of things myself including a staw filter over my flash. I just tell the lab not to correct it and that I want the warm coloration. <p>I ask my clients how they feel about keeping the lights high during important moments such as toasts, cake cutting and a portion or all of the first dance. Lights are lowered for dinner and since I only stay for 1 - 1 1/2 hours of dancing -- The lights are higher for only a portion of the reception. I give them a choice and they decide. I tell them it can improve the quality of the images but acknowledge that the "mood" might be sacrificed for a portion of the evening. 95% of my couples agree to have me be in control of the lights. This helps with 800 spd. film shooting at F4 (sometimes even 2.8 if I'm far enough away from my main subject - with a zoom) and I'm usually shooting at a 60th. It also helps my autofocus that it isn't too dark. <p>To improve things further - I also do shoot with a second flash. The second flash is the main and the on camera flash is the fill. Depending on the ceiling - I will bounce the second flash - that helps. Depending on the tastes of the clients..... I will also shoot some of the reception with 3200 speed film. I rate it at 1600 and depending on the lighting - I can often shoot without flash. <p>I suggest that film is cheap and it doesn't hurt to shoot experimentally for your personal research on what best works for you during those times during the reception where you might not ordinarily be shooting that many frames. Shoot some extra for your own education and make notes during down times as to what you tried. Eventually you'll find the answers that give you the results you are looking for.
  4. You are applying a "trick" that doesn't work for you. A better way is to apply a procedure.
    Use bounced light from a ceiling. This will illuminate your backgrounds, too. If you use a
    normal lens or slight telephoto setting, like 70mm, the bounced light will be slightly
    brighter due to the added distance between you and the subject. I know, it sounds
    illogical, but it isn't. The rule of inverse squares effects subject lighting to consequently
    setup a new ratio for your background illumination.

    The next thing I do is to have a 2nd slave on a light stand. The reflector has a white card
    in back of it. By pointing it at the ceiling, I have evenly illuminated the background. By
    pointing the white card, I can point the "rest of the light" at something, like a wall.

    When you shoot, you would then only shoot when this illuminated background was in back
    of your subjects. Therefore, you use additional patience. You can also manipulate the
    dancers by touching them on the hands to point towards you. They know what will

    Using Straw filters takes up valuable light power. Personally, I would only consider using a
    "full straw" filter to convert flash to incandescent light. In this way, the background
    ambient lights are converted to "white light".

    A ND fiilter would be something you would use on your lens only, not your flash. I think
    you are trying to fool your auto mode system. Don't, use manual and learn how to use

    "Warming things up a tad" means to me you want diffused light; you don't want yellowish
    red amber skin tones unless you are around candle light. If there are no candles in view, it
    makes the viewer think the pictures are simply oldish. "Logical amber" might be a way to
    put it; if there are no candles in the picture, there shouldn't be any amber cast on the

    The problem you are having by using 800 film is really caused by you not having control
    over your auto mode system. Go manual, and you have control. This means you need a
    flash meter to know where you are; or you need a lot of experience.

    A shutter speed of 1/50th is very slow for candid useage. 1/125th is really my minimum,
    and then I have to be careful. Only at 1/250th can I let everything rip.

    If you use a white card behind your reflector, and bounce from the ceiling, you won't need
    diffusion filters on your flash.
  5. I agree with Steve--with such a small amount of warming color, the lab will just print your proofs to "normal" balance anyway so it isn't worth it. If you have a good relationship with your lab, you should be able to tell them you like your color balance warm. For sunsets, I can see using one, but make it definite, not just a little, and tell the lab what you did. I don't understand why you're using an ND filter (I assume over the lens), because you aren't changing the relationship between the subject exposure and the background exposure at all from the level you get with f5.6. I assume your flash doesn't give you any auto stops wider than f5.6. Think about it--even though your f stop is f4 with the ND filter, your flashes are still pumping out f5.6 light, and the relationship between that light and the ambient remains the same, even with the filter on, so all you've done is cut down on your depth of field by using f4. Also, what do you mean when you say your subjects don't look so hot? Are they blurred, underexposed, overexposed, out of focus? I use 400 speed film and f5.6 1/30th or 1/15th at receptions, and unless the hall is huge with very high ceilings, I get some background detail--certainly not a blank, black background. If you use 800 speed, you ought to get even more, even with f5.6. You shouldn't be getting a lot of blur if you use shutter speeds of 1/40 or 1/50 (don't you mean 1/30 or 1/60?), since most receptions are, as you say, pretty dark, and the flash should pretty much freeze your subjects unless the ambient light is close to the camera exposure. The diffusion over the flash (and the straw gel too) shouldn't interfere with your exposure if the flash is used in auto mode--it would just cut down your maximum working distance. If you really want to use f4 to help open up the background--unless the flash also does TTL--you pretty much have to go manual with power control or bounce, like Timber suggests or get an auto flash that does f4 at 800 ASA. I also use a second flash on a stand, and it helps in opening up the background. You can bounce it if you have the ceiling to bounce, or light up a distant wall or two either directly or by bouncing. Even using it as main light or rim/accent light helps, because you get peripheral light bouncing off the walls and ceiling. An on camera flash isn't as good for this as it is mainly aimed at the subject, which is usually close to the camera. For those receptions where it is a huge hall, very dark, dark walls (or no walls if outside), all you can do is make sure your subject is correctly lit and use an off camera flash as rim/accent light or aimed at some parts of the background. Even using higher speed film may not help that much in these cases. I remember being pleasantly surprised when I photographed the first dance of a couple in a reception hall that had huge windows looking out over a lake with lighted buildings in the background. I put the camera on a tripod, used 1 second at f5.6 and two flashes, expecting to get subject blur, but because the dance floor was pretty dark, the couple was fairly sharp and the background burned in quite nicely.
  6. John, I struggled with your issues also, until I started shooting digital and experimenting with different techniques... those that worked, I now also use when shooting film. I now shoot almost exclusively with on camera flash using a LumiQuest soft box. At the reception, I tend to favor really fast lenses shot wide open at slow shutter speeds using second shutter. I am more interested in capturing the mood and feeling of the events than in making technically perfect images. Most receptions feature all kinds of light sources from candles to the DJs lighting to dimmed incandescent bulbs which go red naturally. Ceilings are often to high to bounce off of and walls tend to be colored... so I usually avoid bounce, preferring direct diffused flash as fill even in dark conditions. Personally, I was shocked at the results being as crisp as they were even with the subject in motion. The duration of the flash is the reason why. When you shoot like you want to, with a more open aperture, the background tends to go soft, and hides camera movement at slower shutter speeds... while the flash duration which is like 1/2000 of a second tends to freeze the foreground subject. I've come to trust this only because of my digital experiments. It works so well for me, that I rarely set the camera ISO over 100 any more. If the film lab zeros the color balance to neutral white, the image will still be a bit on the warm side due to all the low incandescent light sources in the background and the skin tones will be pretty close due to the flash temperature.
  7. Very nice example. It certainly makes a huge difference when an image accompanies the technical info. There are so many "opinions" as to "the right way" of doing things that an example speaks volumes and helps us to accept the technical information as workable. <p>I shot manually for 10 years and experimented quite a bit because I shot so many shots of the reception that I'd get bored and "try" something. I also found shooting wide open worked so well especially when using my zooms.. I do like using a second light at times - especailly in very large dark rooms. I end up with clients that don't want light set ups all over the room - so I've been forced to try different things. It can sure be challenging... ;-) Thanks!
  8. I found Marc's example very interesting. Here's one of mine for comparison using medium format film (Portra 400NC), undiffused flash, f8 @ 1/15th, with off camera flash although it doesn't show up much in this photo. Several things to think about here--on Marc's, the flash duration is shorter (wide aperture), possibly hiding motion more. Because of his use of digital, where conversion factors are in force, depth of field is seemingly greater (?)--I used a 55mm wide angle. Also, there seems to be a little more background blur in mine. Other shots from the same reception that have point light sources showed wavy light trails. Technically, Marc's settings let in an additional 3 stops of ambient light in comparison to mine. Anyway, there are lots of factors that affect the image, like wall and ceiling lightness/darkness, stage lights, and perhaps things like film/digital and flash duration too. I'd experiment a little with each reception you do, and after a while, you'll know what settings work best for different light levels.
  9. Thanks Nadine... Great example.. Again - it just makes such a difference to actually "see" an example of the technique. I love the warmth of your image. Well done!
  10. By the way, the lab I use, which is Pounds (used to be Meisel) in Dallas, prints their proofs warm and "deep" meaning highlights are printed down. So I'd find a lab that is similar and leave the gels off the flash.
  11. James G. Dainis

    James G. Dainis Moderator

    I agree with Steve. Try dragging the shutter. That is the simplest thing to do.

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