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Splashing the Flash - part 1 of 1 2 3 4

by Terry Donnelly Published 01/04/2017

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When shooting commercially on location, we often need to overcome lighting challenges that require a technique I use that I call ‘splash the flash’, which involves lighting small areas of the set piece by piece, and taking multiple photographs of the set, each time lighting a different small part. Finally we layer the photographs together in Photoshop and using blending modes and masks, produce a finished well-lit image. [image 1].

The challenge is to light large areas without having the capability and logistics to isolate the area to be lit and photographed. We regularly don’t have the time, space or opportunity to fully illuminate areas as we would like were we in an ideal world, unlike when working in a studio environment. Location shooting often means working in an uncontrolled environment with many factors taken from our control, so we need to come up with solutions such as my ‘splash the flash’ technique.

Consider the original image below [image 5]. This was taken in the lobby of a 5-star hotel, that was open for business with guests, staff and visitors using the lobby as a thoroughfare between the reception and hotel lifts and dining rooms, passing in front of the camera.


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We had been asked, in the client brief, to feature the statues in this area, and to portray the light airiness of the seating area, with a glint of light from the area behind the statues hinting of another seating area beyond. The mix of ambient light and artificial light to create an ambiance was very important and crucial to this image. This space had been created from many hours of design by architects and designers, and needed to be photographed in such a way as to reflect their vision.

So I knew that we would need to feature the statues prominently in the shot, and also balance light and the colour temperature of the different light sources in the scene. There were four dominant light sources in the lobby, the natural daylight entering from above, the light from the two lamp stands, and also the light from the ceiling spot lamps. We needed to make the final picture look natural and unforced, and also try to make it look inviting to sit in – with the natural light from above being key to the picture. I knew I needed to light some of the area, but sympathetically, using as much ambient as possible and supplementing it with fill flash light. Including the light I would introduce to the set, we had a total of five light sources to consider.


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1st Published 01/04/2017
last update 20/05/2017 10:59:25

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