Well-Balanced Mixed Lighting Sources

Today’s Post by Barry Staver

Nope, that’s not an oxymoron. It’s really possible to achieve correct color images using several types of light. In my opinion lighting is one of, if not the most important, ingredient of a successful photograph. Poorly lit shots are boring, generally lack interest and are overlooked in the sea of visual data bombarding our brains everyday.

Of course light makes it possible to just see what’s in front of the camera (brightness), but it also gives shape and brings out texture (contrast). It sets or intensifies mood (by use of the brightness and contrast plus color temperature).

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The first thing I do when walking onto “the set,” either an office, healthcare locale, event, or any other place is to check out the existing light. Especially, what’s already there that can be used to light the photo. I look for dimmers (can the light be controlled), broken or worn out bulbs that can be replaced, fixtures that can be repositioned to my benefit (think gallery with multiple moveable track lights in the ceiling). Then I make decisions about what light I’ll add.

This corporate shoot took place at the company conference table, set against large north facing windows with strong daylight coming in. The banks of tiny spots over the table aren’t strong enough to balance with the sun. The windows became the background and back light.

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I set the camera to manual mode so I could have total control over the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. In order to keep attention on the two men, I picked an exposure that “washed out” the details outside of the windows. That was a 1/200 sec at f/4 and ISO 640. My key light came from two speedlites being shot thru an umbrella. The umbrella softens the light and spreads it wider. I made several test exposures until the flashes lit the subjects properly. That would have been enough for a successful shot but I took it a step further and added fill light from the left side using a 1×1 LED panel. It was easy to visually adjust its output to slightly brighten the dark suit jacket and side of the face.

Speedlites have a color balance close to daylight and the LED panel was set to its maximum daylight output of 5600 degrees Kelvin. Three different light sources, all closely matched to daylight.