Advice to shoot a party with flash.
Advice to shoot a party with flash.
Apr 3, 2013
I would need advice regarding shooting at a party where the ambient light (ca 2500 K) is about 2-3 EV too dark to be without flash. The ambient light has a constant level throughout the room. There are high ceilings which excludes the bounce from the ceiling. The walls are of varying colors, which makes it difficult to bounce from them to control the color temperature.
Looking forward to your advice.
You have little choice but to use direct flash under these conditions. Use the usual settings for low light but keep the shutter speed high enough to avoid motion blur. Gel the flash with a 1/2 CTO to match ambient light. Keep your distance from your subject so that light fall off is more even around the subject. Remember that at high ISO settings the flash minimum distance is is pretty far and if you are too close you will blow out the subject.
You will be surprised how well this can actually work.
I agree with the previous poster. If I can't use bounce flash, I just use direct on-camera flash with a high enough ISO and slow enough shutter speed so the background won't be dark.
Filtering the flash to the ambient color temperature is a nice tweak.
I've seen other photographers (not me) use a small softbox on the strobe head, or even use the softbox/strobe head off camera with a coiled sync cord. Too awkward in crowded situations, IMO, but an option.
Direct flash is not a professional solution. Point it upward and use a diffuser. If the ceiling is too high, it doesn't matter. Enough light will fall onto the subject to illuminate it, and it will be better than direct flash, but not much. Drag the shutter a bit to soak in some of the ambient light and use rear curtain. Two stops down on the ambient can actually be ideal because you need shadows. You don't want the ambient light to match the flash quantity exactly. You could also hold the flash in one hand, diffused, and trigger it using the pop-up flash as a commander.
Joel Nisleit Photography
The best piece of camera gear is the one used by someone who understands photography.
I just got a large Rogue Flashbender (must be a Futurama spinoff) and found it worked well in a party situation.
Unlike some diffusers I have, there's no light distributed to the rear or sides. That's not necessarily a drawback and instead appears to be a clear advantage in your case.
A few thoughts.
Shoot in RAW mode. The larger dynamic range of RAW files will allow you to salvage shots that are impossible to save if you shoot JPGs.
You would need about a 1.25 to 1.5 CTO filter to match 2500K lights. Don't do that because if you adjust the WB then everything in the image would look like you shot it in daylight. Your best choice would probably be the 1/2 CTO filter Dougs_Photo recommended and color correct just enough to make the faces look slightly warm. This will leave the background looking warmer for atmosphere.
Using a Flashbender or a LumiQuest Big Bounce with your gelled flash is a very good idea.
Getting the flash off camera is another good idea. Joe McNally is left eyed but most of us can learn to shoot left eyed. Joe holds his flash in his left hand, extends his arm out to the side to get the flash away from the camera, then nestles his camera into his left shoulder to steady it. He calls it Da Grip. If you use RF triggers like the Yongnuo RF-602s or RF-603s you avoid the need for cords, and cords are a pain.
Keep the ISO up high enough to make the background visible when you use a shutter speed of around 1/60 sec. At 1/60 sec. you may see a bit of movement of subjects, but movement of people in the background can add to the atmosphere of the shot. The flash will freeze the closest subject.
Experiment with shorter and longer shutter speeds.
Zoom your camera, i.e. try shooting with the camera overhead and down low.
Living and loving it in Bangkok, Thailand. Canon 7D - See the gear list for the rest.
Thank you all for your great advices!
First - I shoot allways in RAW so adjusting the wite balace in PP is easy. Using 1/2 CTO gel sounds good.
I have just made a fast test with the camera on M mode, exposure -2..3 EV down on the ambient, flash=TTL and the flash comensation +-0. The flash direct on the subject.
Shadows caused from flash was not too heavy and the background not too dark either. I´m quite satisfied with the result.
As a next step I will make tests with diffusers.