Do you use reflector/flash or just ambient light when shooting indoor?

Started Nov 25, 2013 | Discussions thread
Michael Thomas Mitchell Forum Pro • Posts: 11,570
Re: Do you use reflector/flash or just ambient light when shooting indoor?
1

andyus08 wrote:

Thanks. I understand now there is no one size fits all. So depending on the location, lighting condition, we may use natural light only or combine with flash off camera..etc...

When I first began really learning photography back in the early 80s, I remember hearing how light was the most important element of photography, and the idea seemed alien to me. It took time for me to really understand it.

Today, I see everything in terms of lighting. Direction. Quality. Quantity. Temperature. Size. Etc.

When I enter a room in which I will be photographing, I have to determine not only whether there will be a sufficient quality of light as it is, but also whether that light will make my subjects look good.

For instance, it is a common occurrence when I am taking portraits inside a church for someone to offer to turn up the alter/stage/front lights to their highest setting. Usually, these are spotlights or overhead floods. I immediately but politely insist that these lights be turned OFF. Most often, they are very direct and overhead, which results in the tops of my subjects heads being very bright while casting deep, dark shadows below their brows and noses. So instead, I have the offending lights turned off, while other background lighting may be set to provide an attractive setting. I'll then use my own light (frequently a large shoot-through umbrella with two flashes) for the subjects, balancing the exposure with the ambient background. Sometimes, I might even need to warm my own lights to balance color temperature with incandescent illumination. However, these days, it's getting more difficult to do this since even a single room may have a mixture of incandescent bulbs, flourescent or CFL bulbs, and even windows lighting. There's only so much balancing than can be done!

My favorite indoor setting is the kind where there is a nice low, white ceiling where I can just bounce my on-camera flash. But I don't just bounce straight up. I'll also swivel to the sides in order to give light a bit more interesting direction. Of course, one of my favorite techniques is to use a speedlite (on or off-camera) in such a way as to mimic outdoor window lighting by bouncing off a wall. Whatever the case, flash doesn't have to look like flash. It can also look completely natural. And the benefit comes from giving the photographer CONTROL over the lighting.

Recently, I met with a bride who also had her planner with her. Her planner was actually quite experienced, and was obviously brought along in order to "screen" the bride's prospective photographers. She had a list of standard questions. As they two looked over my sample albums, I got a kick out of one of the planner's questions: "Do you use any off-camera flash?" It was amusing to me because the album they were looking at featured extensive use of off-camera lighting technique. It simply looked so natural she did not notice it!

Indoor lighting with supplemental lighting is two-sided: on the one hand, doing it well can often take all of a photographer's knowledge, experience, and skill. On the other hand, the photographer often has far greater control over the lighting than he does when shooting outside.

 Michael Thomas Mitchell's gear list:Michael Thomas Mitchell's gear list
Canon EOS-1D Mark II
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