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FORUMS Photography Talk by Genre Critique Corner 
Thread started 10 Jul 2017 (Monday) 10:01
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Harsh Lighting, advice on how to fix.

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Joined Mar 2009
Location: Edmond, OK
Post edited over 3 years ago by ChrisMc73.
Jul 10, 2017 10:01 |  #1

So I've been asked to come into a location here in my home state that is an indoor water park, with some really difficult lighting.
Here is the email I got from the client who wants me to come in and take pictures better than the ones in the dropbox link...they were not shot by me, just a previous shoot he had done.

Hi Chris,

Here's a Dropbox folder with them. No login needed.​m …tMjuSc8_Uqe8UrZ​A8bBa?dl=0 (external link)

Essentially, the biggest problem is harsh contrast. Too dark shadows, blown out highlights. The water park is a glass building, so whichever way you take the pic, it's almost always against the light. Also, no ceiling - except under the tipping bucket "second floor" - so nowhere to bounce flash off.

One obviously wants to keep some of the harsh lighting to convey the sense of a bright summer day to the people's subconsciousness. Especially because we are an indoor water park, opened year round, so we want to attract people in the fall and winter with pictures that will make them associate the summer atmosphere with the place, and hopefully come and pay.

Any advice on how to shoot this, I usually shoot in natural light, outdoors but its portraits and I can guide the people to get in front of a setting sun (or rising sun), here is not the same. Would ND filters do well with this situation, or maybe just getting the right exposure for each shot? I can't tell from the photos in the dropbox if they were shot with a decent camera or not.

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Jul 10, 2017 10:28 |  #2

I don't think a ND filter is going to help you on this. Maybe a polarizer for glare from the water and windows.

Is it possible to wait for a cloudy day? That will help a lot with the highlights.

Do they light the interior for night activities? If so have the lights on, even in the daytime.

Both together will help with the contrast problem at least some. Plus, like you said, be sure that the exposure is right and then use your highlight and shadow sliders in post but using them too much gives a HDR look so you need to be careful. Using a camera with the most dynamic range will also be helpful.

Good luck.

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Cream of the Crop
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Jul 10, 2017 10:31 |  #3

If you have sunlight & shadows in the same image, maybe a flash fill is the answer.
Otherwise, #5 looks pretty good. Was there a cloud over the sun? Maybe that's a clue?

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Jul 10, 2017 10:47 |  #4

There are a lot of windows so essentially some of these shots can be treated like you are shooting in natural light.

Do you have a say in what day you shoot? Can you choose an overcast day, or is that few and far between this time of year?
Are you better shooting around noon when there are fewer shadows?

I see in a lot of the posted images that the dappled lighting will be awful as well as having an over blown background with just shooting natural light in some scenes.
I think with paying more attention you can control your framing a little bit better and just shoot when people are in full shade or full light. Area scenes (titled activity pool) with getting the pool and people under the over hang, is it possible to bracket expose and merge the two images together?

Child yellow slide, if they had waited another 1 second, the light would have been all shade.

I would also use a speedlight on camera or on a bracket. Wet skin may cause a glare or hot spot, but at least the exposure would be so much better. Perhaps even a rogue flash bender of Stofen diffuser. Sometimes just angling the head of the flash slightly up can help feather the harsh light, rather then directly at the person. A flash is best used at 10-15 feet.
dscf2046.jpeg and dscf2049.jpeg. Lower the ambient light and add fill flash.

Will light reflecting off the water work as a fill light?

Good luck, i hope some of this may be useful. I am anxious to read what others ideas are.

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Joined Mar 2009
Location: Edmond, OK
Jul 10, 2017 11:33 |  #5

So this place is over an hour away from OKC where I live, I'll be going down there on Friday evening to inspect the place out maybe take some test shots. The deal is my friend is a videographer and he'll be doing some video with his crew, he threw in a still photo package for the guy to help land the gig. So he's asked me to come shoot those for a small cut. The previous photos were taken from someone else so I have no idea what they shot with or when etc, my shooting will be this Friday and Saturday so I'll just have to go with what the clouds are on those days.

I'll bring speed light, a few reflectors, I don't really know what he's going to want me to shoot besides just the water park and folks enjoying it. I will bring everything I have maybe even a softbox or so, to possibly grab some portraits of the folks inside, who knows. I do have a diffuser I can use as well. I will just play with what I have and experiment a lot. I will try some of your suggestions, reflecting the speed light flash off the water or the areas that have lots of shade due to the structures.

I didn't know if maybe even some tripod longer exposure type shots would be cool, I know when people are moving about it might be weird because of the movement but maybe I can get some shots before its open etc.

Thanks for these suggestions, I'll see what others say as well and just go with it, do my best.

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Jul 10, 2017 15:33 |  #6

A couple (the more the better) of strobes on stands (or with an assistant) & one on camera with wireless triggering, basically for fill. Shoot raw & be prepared for a lot of post-processing work. Or pray for that cloudy day in #5. Good luck.

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Post edited over 3 years ago by olafs osh.
Jul 10, 2017 16:27 |  #7

Dude, I think you're ok - those images are terrible for a paid job.

I would take couple speedlights to open here and there [Small places, obviously]. That's it. It's more about composition here - do it right and you'll be good.

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Jul 10, 2017 17:38 |  #8

Without knowing what gear you have, I'd suggest some combination of speedlights, shooting raw+post-work, and just wow them with better exposures/color/and most importantly composition.

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Post edited over 3 years ago by kf095. (2 edits in all)
Jul 11, 2017 10:45 |  #9

"Getting right exposure for each shot"... how else it supposed to be?
I don't see anything extremely difficult. It is place where it is better to take test shots first at each spot, because light, scene is different.
You have hotel rooms, wide indoor spaces and close up for sliding people.

Bump the ISO, lower TTL flash output. Use RAW. "Combination of speedlights" in indoor aqua park might need some reality check, I think. You don't want electronic device near with water and people. Or do you :)

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Location: Hartford, CT, USA
Jul 11, 2017 11:09 |  #10

If you don't have the equipment to light the space nicely with speed lights, how about doing multiple exposures and blending in post. Either using HDR methods or moving the speedlights you do have between shots.

Constructive criticism is always appreciated.

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Jul 11, 2017 11:27 |  #11

I concur that more than half the problem is being aware of the lighting, vs. trying to fix it.
ie: it seems the previous photographer had little to no idea how to work with light.. compose etc.

That said,. some lights on stands with brollies could help a lot.

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Jul 11, 2017 12:56 |  #12
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You need an overcast day. This cannot be emphasised any further. You'd need very many monolights with adequate reflectors in order to properly illuminate that location (and considerable time to place them and fine tune them): it's just way to big for speedlights, which would have to be used bare anyway. Forget about umbrellas, softboxes, and fancy modifiers. These are only useful for close ups such as #12 in that gallery: now in that one a brolly and synchro-sun woulda helped immensely.

Read about synchro-sun, as that's what would be most advisable in this situation: http://www.dofmaster.c​om …hotographycours​e-143.html (external link)

On a sunny day you will get harsh shadows and, worse, the shadows of the structure falling onto your scenes.

Yet, the biggest challenge will be getting compelling photos in the first place. I'm talking about working with the people. If you're a people person and adroit at journalistic photography, this might not be very difficult for you. Still, guests are not paid models. They are there to have fun and not to be told where to stand, how to swim, or when to smile. Some might even shy away from the camera (or be hostile towards the photographers). There's a reason why those commercial photos of restaurants and fun places are shot with paid models and after hours.

I'm not trying to discourage you or be negative. I'm just trying to forewarn you of the challenges you'll face doing this kind of work. Been there, done that.

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Harsh Lighting, advice on how to fix.
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