Today we’ll have a look at another shot from my visit to my sister. It’s not a shot I’m all that happy with so we’ll try to figure out what works and what doesn’t.

At first glance the shot to the left here looks like something where I’ve come into the room, raised the camera to my eye and pressed the shutter; done deal, all available light, no fancy light setup. However, that would be an incorrect assumption. I wanted things to look pretty much like that but, if that would have been what really happened, I would have ended up with the shot below (right one). Let’s talk about that available light shot first.

It might look like pretty good light but it was shot at 1/25 at f2.8 and iso 400. An f-stop of 2.8 isn’t too bad but in this case I wanted more of the room in focus, which would mean losing more light. Shooting with iso 400 is less good, at least with the camera I’m using (Nikon D3000). I usually never go above iso 200 unless I have no choice, the files just get too noisy for my taste. Going down to iso 200 would mean losing another stop of light. Finally we have the shutter speed of 1/25s, which is really slow. My subject isn’t moving a lot and I’m using a wide lens, but at this speed I’ll still get blur even if I had a tripod (though the room would of course look ok with a tripod). On top of all this the available light shot was still heavily under exposed so I’ve done quite a lot of editing to get it to the state you see below.

You can also see that there were lamps in the ceiling but I had those killed since they would just introduce mixed light that would be far from pleasing. So, instead I killed most of the ambient by simply dialing in the settings I felt comfortable shooting with and went to work on lighting the room.


First I needed to light my subject – easy enough, a LP160 in umbrella from camera left took care of that. Next, I wanted it to still look like sunlight was coming in through the windows and, alas, this is where I just couldn’t get the results I wanted. Had circumstances been different I know exactly what I would have done; I would have placed a light outside both the windows and just fired them through the windows – instant sunlight. However, the room was up on the second floor, so that wasn’t going to happen. Since I couldn’t get the awesome light I wanted, I instead put a flash in each of the windows and fired it up into the corner of them to get the illusion of light coming in from outside. The problem with that was that it looked like there was light coming in from outside, but only if you looked at the windows, not if you looked at the rest of the room.

In order to brighten the room a bit I clamped a YN560 to the table in the background and bounced it off the floor. The reason for bouncing it on the floor was two-fold: first I wanted to avoid highlights that would look out of place on the walls and ceiling and, second, the wood of the floor also served to warm the light a bit in a natural way.

Looking back at this shot I feel that I was probably too stubborn in lighting it my own way. After failing to get the light I wanted from the windows I should have looked for other solutions. Perhaps I could have squeezed out a combination of ambient and flash that would have been better than either of the two by itself. The light looks a lot more dynamic and interesting in the ambient shot, it just needs some extra light on the subject’s face. In contrast, the lit shot is a lot crisper and clearer with better detail. Thoughts and ideas are welcome.

I think I learned something and hopefully I’ll get lucky next time and get a room on the first floor so I can place my flashes outside like I wanted to do here, that would be sweet.


The artist