Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Color Management 2: A Recipe of Speedlites, Gels and White Balance

Photo by Jun Dumipnas

In part 1 of Color Management, we talked about how to preserve ambient light and match it's white balance with our flash.  But what if you want to change it entirely?  Did I hear someone say, "fix it in Photoshop"???  STOP . . . get out of this classroom, you're dismissed!! 

Here, we do things IN CAMERA.  Photoshop is a last resort.  You'd probably ask, "Why would you even want to change ambient light?"  Well, you know, sometimes, the location you are given is just not perfect - or it is perfect but the light is just not inspiring.  

A typical rentable commercial spaces hallway with the most basic interior finishes.  Not the kind of location you would typically scout for a photoshoot.

Take a look at the picture above.  Here we have a generic, boring and lifeless hallway of rentable commercial spaces with their typical glass and aluminum frame walls, standard sized ceramic tiles and white grid acoustic ceiling.  Most photographers would simply dismiss this place.  But I saw potential here with its converging lines, reflections and "light at the end of the tunnel" kind of effect.  I took a few test shots just to see the possibilities.  Made a few adjustments until I'm happy with the exposures and a possible composition.  Now we are ready to play.

I know that changing the camera's white balance will change the color of ambient light so I switched to incandecent (or tungsten) turning daylight into blue.  To restore warm colors onto my subject, I match the colored gel on my Speedlite with my camera's white balance which is a full-color temperature orange (CTO).  Just to make it a tad warmer, another 1/2 CTO was added in there.

The rest is left to composition.  By positioning the subject to cover daylight coming from the glass door, we are cutting down glare and flare.

Here's the simple setup.  Just one light on a stick.

In another setup, we used the same white balance and CTO gel combination.  Here, you'd think you won't need flash with all of that light coming through the curtain walled entrance but you'd be wrong.  Check out the photo below without flash on the left and with flash on the right.

Same scene, same setup except flash with CTO gels were added to take the photo on the right.

It is very common, when planning for a photoshoot, that we scout for a good location.  "There's a nice fountain, let's shoot there."  "I know a beautiful park with lots of trees, let's shoot there."  "I found a nice view on a building rooftop, let's shoot there."  Very few, though, will scout for quality of light.  Ironic when you consider that photography is all about light.

A few weeks ago, I had lunch at a restaurant inside this old building which existed long before photography became big among Filipinos in Qatar.  When I saw the gorgeous sunlight coming through the  curtain walled entrance and shadows of aluminum frames being cast on the floor, I thought to myself, "How is it that no one has organized a photoshoot here?"    

. . . And so I did.


Blogger's Notes:  Model - Jun Dumipnas taken during last month's Pocket Sunlight Intensive Lighting Workshop.

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