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Flash and mixed lighting


Mary Burgy
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Brian - I seem to be getting negative feedback from Damien when I use my flash outdoors.  I am fully comfortable with it indoors when I kill the ambient light.  However, when I am using it outdoors, he is stating that I am creating horrible mixed lighting.  I know tons of people use flash and I don't hear of them having this issue.  I am to the point of being scared to use it and I have another shoot coming up.  It creates a warming effect and he says you can't pick WB from an area that the flash hit b/c of the cast.  I use my flash in a softbox.  I do have a blue filter but I think that would block a lot of light having it inside of a softbox, if I could even rig that.  These are unedited photos (jpegs SOOC) from two recent shoots that apparently I messed up.  I don't look at them and think they are horrible, but I don't see things that he does.  I do struggle though with the WB b/c of the many results I get using the clicker due to the flash hitting different areas.   Any help is much appreciated!!!

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3 hours ago, Mary Burgy said:

I am to the point of being scared to use it and I have another shoot coming up.

Relax.

3 hours ago, Mary Burgy said:

It creates a warming effect and he says you can't pick WB from an area that the flash hit b/c of the cast.

That's what White Balance Cards are for. LOL!! I do agree your photos are a bit on the cool side. Do you shoot Canon? The Canon Auto WB always seems to run on the cool side to my eyes. You have enough blue in your sample photos. Do not add a blue filter to that flash. You will create Smurfs if you do.

If you set your camera to Flash WB, or your camera knows that it has a flash attached, it will warm the photo. Flash and a Cloudy WB are similar.

3 hours ago, Mary Burgy said:

I use my flash in a softbox. 

How large is your Softbox? What flash are you using? (Make / Model) Are you shooting with the flash set to Manual or are you using TTL? It seems you are only using one flash. How far away from the subject is it? How do you have things setup? Walk me through your process, from light placement to camera settings to flash settings.

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White Balance Card: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/909206-REG/vello_wb_cm_white_balance_card_set.html

Have the subject fan out the three cards and put it in front of them and take a test shot. It doesn't have to be perfect, you just need a photo to get your WB numbers off of a sample photo. Take a test shot when you change power settings or move the flash. Especially if you shoot with an Alien Bee light.

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Damien will only accept white balance from the WB printout sheet.   However, he is saying if the flash hits it a cast hits and it can’t be used.  Normally I use daylight or cloudy and keep it on one.  I don’t pay too much attention since I shoot Raw for editing and we adjust in ACR.  The issue is coming from setting the wb on an area that wasn’t warmed from the flash and and then as a result warming up the people a lot.    I have a godox 360 (used for Santa) and a godox 600 (used on dogs).   Both were used in a med sized soft box (3.5 x 2 ft approx).   When I took the dog photo I set my wb using the wb sheet (which was impacted by flash too).  Damien said the photo was much too cool.   

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I manually set it flash power normally by using a gray card.  I set my ambient settings and then bring in flash.  Have subject hold up gray card and I adjust flash power and distance until histogram spike is in center (pic of gray card that confirms exposure)

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Since you are shooting outdoors, you have two different light sources with two different color temperatures. You either have to set the WB so that it favors your flash, which is usually the recommended method, OR use a CTO 1/4 Gel to get your flash to match more closely with the existing / ambient light. Most flashes produce light on the blue side, that's why the Flash WB setting tries to compensate for this and adds warmth. I took a look at the Godox WB settings and they seem to be around 5560K, which is close to a Daylight WB setting, but not 100% dead-on. Daylight WB, in terms of Kelvin Value Number, is different with each camera manufacturer; they all have different ideas on what that number should be.

I took a look for a Gel Kit for your flash and found this one. While it's great you can mount a gel to the flash, the color gels that you get with the kit really aren't that great. Fortunately, you can use the gels that come with it and use them as a template and get a Lee CTO 1/4 Gel sheet. You should be able to make a couple of Gels for each of your flash.
 

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I found your problem.

Take a look at the WB sheet:
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Look closely...SUNLIGHT IS COMING THROUGH THE SHEET. Which changes the rules on you. That area of the photo has skewed colors. It has nothing to do with the flash, the problem is it's a sheet of paper. I shouldn't see a finger shadow coming through the sheet.  Honestly, I still would use thick gray cards or print a new sheet, that one is a bit rough and I would only print that sheet on a B&W Laser Printer. Hold whatever WB sheet in front of the subject's torso or face, blocking any light from coming through.

Honestly, from my POV, this is just like using a card reader...just use WB Cards.

 

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3 minutes ago, Damien Symonds said:

The problem with these photos is that the ambient light is nowhere near daylight.

That's due to having an Atmosphere, which is a good thing. LOL!! If we could take photos in space, we wouldn't have to worry about white balance. But then you'd see the Sun's true color, which is white.

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No Brian.  PLEASE concentrate on the actual issue.

Mary needs to know how to read the temperature of the ambient light, then match her flash to that temperature.

I figure that she needs a light meter to take the reading, yes?

Then how does she modify the flash temperature?  With the gels you mentioned?

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Brian -  I don’t think my flash produces blue light.  It seems warm.   I know in Raw you adjust wb so I didn’t think it mattered. However does the wb your camera is set to impact the color of the flash in relation to the ambient?  Could it be as simple as me using auto wb or flash wb?  I didn’t think it mattered but that could be where I am going wrong.  

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3 hours ago, Damien Symonds said:

Mary needs to know how to read the temperature of the ambient light, then match her flash to that temperature.

That takes time & practice, being able to "see" the light and know which gel to use. That's the Craft of photography, it goes beyond camera settings. In addition, you can not change the white balance of the flash. The color temperature that the light produces comes from the flash bulb itself. There is no adjustment. It is what it is. You compensate the color temp by using gels.

The CTO 1/4 Gel that I linked to is a good starting point. Some scenes might require more orange, others more yellow. CTO stands for Color Temperature Orange. 1/4 is how dense the color is. Think of it like a Orange Layer in PS at 25% opacity.
 

3 hours ago, Damien Symonds said:

I figure that she needs a light meter to take the reading, yes?

Yes. A hand-held one. The camera's meter is completely worthless when it comes to off-camera / manual flash photography. Traditionally, hand-held meters concentrate on just exposure and flash power, never take a reading on color temp. That said, there are hand-held meters out there that will take a reading of the ambient/flash color temp, in addition to exposure readings, but they can be really expensive. Fortunately, there is a work around today...your Smartphone. There is a device called Luxi for All. This Smartphone attachment clips over the front-facing camera and you use an App to take a reading. Once such App is Cine Meter II and another one is the free one that Luxi released. Both should take a color temp reading, though it seems Cine Meter II seems to be a bit more refined interface-wise.

How to use a Gel? basically it's a piece of colored plastic that clips on your flash. You can get really creative with them to produce your own look. Lots of YouTube videos. Here is one and here is another.

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1 hour ago, Mary Burgy said:

I don’t think my flash produces blue light.  It seems warm.

All flashes are towards blue. That's why they recommend setting your camera's WB to around 5500K - 5600K, give or take, e.g. 5560k. The warmth could be coming from your Softbox; you might think the material is white, but it could be messing with things. Have you tried fiddling without using your Softbox? Speaking of which, what Softbox are you using? A good one like a Profoto or Westcott? Or a inexpensive one? Though I'm thinking it might not be the modifier, but your lights themselves.

 

1 hour ago, Mary Burgy said:

However does the wb your camera is set to impact the color of the flash in relation to the ambient?

Does the cameras WB impact the color of the flash? No, not directly. The image that is produced is affected by your choice of WB. The light from the flash is impacted by the bulb itself. If you have a worn-out bulb or a crappy light to begin with, THAT will affect the flash output / light produced. Do you have a photographer friend that is local? Could you borrow a flash? Just for a few test shots, just to see.

There is a difference between a $2000 Profoto and a $200-$300 light, the color temp consistency of the bulbs are WAY better with the high-end lights. Alien Bees are notorious for being all over the place, especially if you change flash power. It often takes 2-3 pops of the flash to get a Alien Bee to settle down. I'm not sure about the Godox Lights, I've never used them. I have used Alien Bees and Profotos and I can tell you first hand there is a MAJOR difference. Of course, with a price-tag to match.

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Before getting ahead of yourself, I think you need to fiddle. Get off of Daylight WB & Cloudy, it's messing you up. Just set it to auto WB and take a few test shots. If you have a true WB card, use it. I don't want to see any printed WB cards for these round of tests. This is just like using a calibration tool to make sure things are set correctly. We need to figure out a baseline so we can proceed forward.

Sidenote: I asked a Photographer Friend who just used his Godox for the 1st time today. He used Auto WB. So let's start there. Next, I want you to set your WB to Manual and set it to as close as 5560K as you can. Then take a round of test shots. Forget trying to make people look good. Forget upcoming sessions. Just fiddle and report back.

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Will do.  I was under the impression you should use one and stick to it for ease of editing later.  For example it is easier to sync settings if they all had the same initial wb.  I just got back home and have kids that keep me busy but will get some test shots done as soon as I can.  Thanks for your help.  I have a gray card that I can use that has black, white, and gray.  I had those cards at one point too if I can dig them up.  

Edited by Mary Burgy
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Ok. Then her flashes are suspect.

Traditionally, Flashes are supposed to be 5500-6000K range. I've seen Godox recommend setting the WB to 5560K on some of their models. You can not physically change the WB of the flash via camera. It is what it is. 

I have one question, what camera body and lens are you shooting with primarily? I know Sigma lenses tend to add a bit of yellow and Tamron lenses like adding red. With your test shots of the WB cards, try different lenses too. Just to see what the values are (using Auto WB.) 

One more thing, let's set your camera to both Spot Metering and Matrix (Nikon) Evaluative (Canon) with the Auto WB tests. I want to see if your camera chooses different WB values in a controlled setting. Yes, I know this shouldn't do anything in terms of WB, but humor me. 

I'd do these tests indoors first. If the flashes are really warm, we should be able to determine that indoors. Especially if the Kelvin Values tend to go below 5500K or hang around there.

Start the round of tests without any modifiers. Just camera, flash on a stand and a set of true WB cards on a table or something. Take a series of photos, 4 should be fine, at Full Power, 1/2, 1/4 and 1/8. Use a small dry-erase board with your settings and put it next to the gray cards on the table; it makes this type of test so much easier when the settings are photographed along with the cards. Write camera exposure settings, lens used and what flash power on the board. Spread the WB cards out on a small table  take a series of shots with Spot Metering and then Matrix / Evaluative. Write that on the board as well. I want to see those Kelvin numbers and if they change on you. Especially when you change flash power.

Oh, I'd have the flash about 4-7 feet away from the cards. Just like you shoot. In reality, the working distance of the modifier is the diameter of said modifier. So if you have a 60" modifier, that gives you up to 5 feet of working distance. Your 40" x 24" Softbox is too small for these outdoor sessions. That's why you have more contrast in some of those shots when the flash was 7' away. But I'm digressing here...

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I plan to do all of this... I did find a video that explains the issue here.  However, I won't have a chance to research gels  and how to attach them prior to my shoot.  (and get them here)

I went to check out the area today at the time of day I will shoot (morning around 9) and my only option is to shoot in the shade.  For a family of 5-6, I really want to use the flash at least as fill.  Here is the area.  Can I get away with it?  Most areas are backlit... There is one spot I can have them facing the sun and be in the shade, but I am limited.  I need to figure this out.  After work, I can try and do some test shots tonight and maybe use the flash that is the coolest.

Honestly, will a non photographer notice this issue?  
I agree, I want to fix it moving forward, but I don't think most eyes would realize this "horrible" issue.

Maybe I could just aim to flat light them so the light hits them evenly?

I didn't have my light... I was just scoping the area with my kid after school drop off.

 

https://fstoppers.com/lighting/ctb-gels-might-be-whats-missing-your-outdoor-portraits-144614

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This guy shoots in the shade too and I know he doesn't use gels.  He typically uses an AB and barely does any work post.  Does he have this issue?  I am just trying to see what some pros that I am familiar with do.  

 

Edited by Mary Burgy
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