Gelling the SB-900 for event-photography?

Started Feb 14, 2010 | Discussions thread
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Rogier Bos Regular Member • Posts: 203
Gelling the SB-900 for event-photography?

I am confused about how I can match the tungsten or fluorescent lighting I see at a lot of events that I photograph.

Please, before you recommend Expodisc, Rosco-filters, or grey-cards - I have all those tools and use them too - the problem is knowing how to use them. Most importunely, I want to know how to use my flash (Nikon SB900) so as to add some light to the light already present.

This week I photographed an event with challenging light conditions and I feel I screwed it up. Below are some samples; some good, some not so good.

The first image shows the hall where the event was held. I determined the lights in the room and on stage-front were Tungsten. The lights at the back of the stage were a lot whiter - I wondered if they were fluorescent?

Anyway, I got out my grey-card and took some pictures around the room of it, so that I would have a reference file.

I determined the light on stage was 1/60s at f4 (ISO 1600) with my Sekonic lightmeter.

I also determined the temperature in the room was a lot warmer than on stage. On stage it was around 3500K, in the room it was 2700K - I thought.

Then I put CTO gels on my flash. The full CTO was way too warm; the 1/3rd CTO seemed OK. I set the camera to the temperature I thought the room was. When photographing something on stage, I set the camera (D3 and D300) to the respective temperature.

I shot the whole event in RAW - as I always do.

When I came home, I liked none of my pictures. It seems there was a color-cast on all of them: sometimes this way, sometimes that way. Of course I was able to color-correct a lot of them in Lightroom with the color-pipet — but some pictures stayed horrible.

Here are my questions - especially to you more experienced event photographers, who understand color temperature and compensating for it.

  • How would you have dealt with this situation?

  • When you put a gel on the flash, what settings do you use on the camera?

  • When I use the WB-Pre-setting on the camera, is there a way to see the temperature the camera chooses - for instance when you photograph a grey-card or use an Expodisc?

  • Sometimes when I color-correct an image using something white as my balance-point in the picture, the pictures goes to blue. Sure, the white is very white - but everybody who attended the event remembers the light was more orange. How do you deal with that?

  • Can you give me comments based on these images?

  • The SB-900 actually came with some gels with metal-contacts on them. My understanding is the camera/flash could sense with gel was on the flash and could compensate for it automatically. How does that work? What camera-settings?

  • What I hate most in some of these images is the skin tones (for instance image 6 and 7). How do I correct for those? Some time ago I saw a tutorial for that using CMYK values, but I cannot find it anymore. Where do I find more info on that? Presumably, if I get the skin-tones back to normal, the whole image should 'normalize'. Right?

I actually posed a similar question on this blog some time ago and got some helpful tips ( ). This week's assignment raised some additional questions.

And, yes, I know about Strobist and Joe McNally. They are very helpful - but they don't always show what settings to use on the camera, or when to use what gel. It's the practical hands-on that I crave…

Thanks for your help and comments in advance!

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