How to Balance Indoor and Outdoor light: Exploring Photography with Mark Wallace


Hi everybody welcome to another episode of Exploring Photography right here on AdoramaTV brought to you by Adorama. It’s the camera store that has everything for photographers like you and like me. Well I’m joined here by Natasha, and we are in an environment that you probably shoot in all the time. We have a really bright outside, big windows and a really dark inside. What we want to do is, I want to take a picture of Natasha inside and make sure I also capture the light from the outside and balance those two things. Well how do we do that? There are a bunch of different ways to do it but essentially what we want to do is we want to use an external Flash to add the appropriate amount of light to our scene, while still capturing the ambient light to the best of our ability. That’s a lot of words, but basically what it means is I have to first figure out how much light I need to have coming from my Flash, that’s the appropriate amount of light. I need to make it flattering, In other words, I need to use some kind of light modifier to make Natasha look great and then I have to figure out how to set my camera so that I don’t just get something that looks nasty. I need to have that ambient light coming in and capturing as much as I possibly can so those two things blend together so we’re going to do that in three different ways today. Now the easiest way to do this and if you’re shooting maybe summer family photos or Christmas portraits or something where you just need to do something really quick and easy and fast is to use this. This is your trusty old speed light the nice thing about speed lights is they have a feature built in to do exactly what you’re trying to do. So to do this, what we’re going to have you do, so Natasha is going to come over here and we’re going to have her maybe looking at some flowers and thinking awe it’s spring. So what we’re going to do, the first thing we need to do is to make sure that our flash is set to the correct mode and so you want to put this on TTL mode or E-TTL mode if you have a Canon Flash. That’s the standard default mode and then you have to turn on something called high-speed sync. Now I’ve already done that for this Flash. We’ve done a bunch of videos on high-speed sync, so make sure you check those out to know exactly how to do that or check your user manual. So the Flash is an E-TTL mode on high-speed sync now your camera what we want to do is to put this on Aperture priority mode. So AV on a Canon A on most other cameras, so that means we can set our aperture. The camera is going to figure out the correct shutter speed. On aperture priority mode what the camera will do is first expose for the ambient light and then adjust the flash automatically so that those two things match. It all just happens magically. So once we’ve done that let’s see exactly what we get. So Natasha is going to be looking at those flowers just like that, beautiful, that looks pretty good. We have one issue and that is when I take a picture the flash is bouncing off the window and so I need to make sure I’m at an angle and so that flash is bouncing into my picture but it works pretty well. I can also try to bounce up the ceiling but the problem with that is, you just need so much light that well sometimes it doesn’t work out. So this is great if you need something that works really fast. If you’re shooting something that’s not really expansive, maybe one person or two and if you’re working in that situation where to have a really bright sunlight, if you’re doing those types of things and we want a little bit more flattering light, a little bit better control? We need to go to the next step up and that’s an Off-Camera Flash system that we can use maybe a Softbox or an umbrella, so let’s do that next. Well those are a good start on the issue though with this speed light is, it’s such a small light source, that it has lots of specular highlights. In other words if we look really closely at the picture that we shot of Natasha, you can see, that her cheek is all shining. It looks like she’s sweating and it’s not even hot in here and so we want to make sure that we’re really complimentary to our subjects and so instead of using a really small light source, like the speed light, we’re going to go to the next step and that is to use a small off-camera flash Softbox. So Natasha if you’ll zip over there. Let me show you how I’ve set this up. So this is a two foot octave box from Pro Photo on an OCF, Off-Camera Flash system. Now the nice thing about the Profoto OCF system is it has high-speed sync, so I’m doing exactly the same thing I did with my speed light I’m using the TTL through the lens metering of my camera and I have set my remote here to make sure that I have it set to high-speed sync and TTL mode. Now that we’re just fully automatic. Then I’m using this nice soft box here and that’s going to soften the light so that Natasha’s face isn’t so shiny I can position this and start shooting. Now one of the things that is great about having an off-camera flash is I can change the direction of that light and that helps me avoid reflections in the glass. It also helps me shape the light in the way that I want to do that and so without further ado, we’re going to start shooting and I’ll show you my results. Well there’s a third scenario that we haven’t talked about and that is using a fully manual system, so I have over here I’ve got a Profoto Acute 2 pack. Now why would I want to use something that doesn’t have TTL when I’m doing something that’s difficult? Well the reason is if you want to do something a little bit more creative. So for example we want a full-length shot maybe we want a wide angle of the interior of the room. We need a lot more light and to make that light look pleasing we need a much larger light modifier and that means we need more power and more power comes from those manual systems they’re 1200, 2400 4,800 watt seconds. They’re really, really punchy and so we have to figure out how to do this it’s not as complicated as you might think. So what we’re going to do is we’re going to start with the ambient light because we can’t control it, we have to react to it. We can’t turn the Sun up and down and we can’t shut things on and off outside. We have to take what we can get so we have to start there and then we’ll make our adjustments to our flash to match that. So we’re going to do a little trick here because outside we have a really contrasting bright light and if I include the trees and the sky. Well I’m going to have all kinds of problems but the trees are actually darker than the sky and so what I’m going to do is, I’m going to meter on the trees out there using my camera’s built-in TTL metering. It’s really simple. I’ll put my camera in manual mode. I’m going to set my shutter speed at my camera’s sync speed, so when we’re using an external manual flash, we have a sync speed, which is the fastest our shutter can go. On this camera I’m going to stick to a 1/200 of a second. You might have a camera that does 250 maybe it’s 160 but for today we’re going to stick with 200 just to make sure everything is fine. Then I’m going to adjust my aperture until my meter shows me a proper exposure because we’re dealing with bright light. I’m keeping my ISO really low so I’m shooting at ISO 100. So ISO 100 shutter speed of 200. I point at these trees out here. I take a meter reading and I get a value of f/4 which is great that means we still get that shallow depth of field that we want now the next thing is to meter our flash so Natasha if you can go over here. We’ve given her a nice grape juice drink to emulate maybe a nice cocktail party or something and then what I have to do is I’m going to meter toward this light and so I’ve got everything set up with my PocketWizards. I meter that. It meters at 3 2 so I just need to make an adjustment. I’ll do that, take another meter reading. Now we’re at f/4 yeah so ISO 100 shutter 200 f/4 so now my flash and my ambient light agree and I can start taking pictures now one of the things I want to do in this situation, is to sort of eliminate a lot of the clutter in the room and so I’m going to use a long lens. I’m going to walk way over here and start taking pictures so I’ll do that and I’ll show you the before and after results. There you have it. Three ways to balance your flash with the ambient light. It’s not so difficult. Make sure you use high-speed sync, if you can and if you’re using a manual flash, start with the ambient light. Tune everything in and then just balance your flash to that and you’ll get some great results. Thanks Natasha for being a wonderful model today I think we’ve got some really good pictures and don’t you forget to subscribe to AdoramaTV, it’s absolutely free just click the button and subscribe today also check out the Adorama Learning Center there are tons of articles for doing Flash photography and light modifiers and rear curtain sync and high-speed syncing, all of those kinds of things. Check it out again it’s free, so do that. Thanks again for joining me and I will see you again next time.

79 Replies to “How to Balance Indoor and Outdoor light: Exploring Photography with Mark Wallace”

  1. Why is HSS necessary – that's what I don't get. If you're willing to have a large depth of field and shoot at ~F16 – why do you need HSS?

  2. I'm no expert, but.. I wonder how they did this back 20-30 years ago without HSS πŸ™‚ If you measure outside to be F5.6 at ISO100 and 1/200, can't you just underexpose outside by using ex. F8 on camera, put softbox close, measure & adjust strobe to F8 – or whatever light ratio that suits you? I'm quite surprised how much HSS sells (and cost) when people can work around this with better settings and in worst case a $100 ND filter. I'm shooting with controlled lighting in a small amateur studio, so I'm not a regular HSS user. Those HSS strobes cost a lot more than regular ones, just asking myself if its worth the $ when people can work around it for less money…

  3. Dear Mark Wallace, as I am not a native speaker the written subtitles in your video make that I completely understand what you are telling. And I learn new words. Thank you so much for that help! Your videos ar so helpful.

  4. In this video, I noticed that the huge help comes from that light meter device but I checked-so expensive πŸ˜‚.. any good way to learn how to flash meter by eye/guess?

  5. You don't need such a big modifier to adjust your flash to M lol. Why is it being made to seem that you couldn't set your setup to Manual mode unless its super big? You can use the same fundamentals in every mode as you taught at toward the end.

  6. 8:49 i'm sorry but how a single softbox (close to your subject) can lite up an entire room + the whole body. See, those before & after results are simply full of post-edition and people (your customers) should be aware of that. Still, the metering technic shown in this video is an essential tip.

  7. If you have light coming through tree leaves that is causing a marked green hue with the ambient light how do you compensate for difference in colors between the ambient and flash?

  8. That cheek light has become a new trend for make up artists, n it has become more difficult to take a rightly exposed photo of already over exposed cheek

  9. love this video. im lost in one part. when you set your camera to manual, 1/200 iso 100 to meter off the trees…how does it set the f stop to f4.0 Im confused!

  10. Love learning so much from all Adorama videos. I got a problem with this kind of shot last week, it's in a medium sized hotel room with windows facing a great nightview of glittering Skyskappers. I couldn't make the view outside appear. I hope you guys could make a video tutorial from this kind of scenario.

  11. What about shooting video, I am new to lighting techniques, and I had my son you against a very bright window and he was just a silhouette. Should I still use a soft box for this? or more directional light at his body?

  12. I typically will just bounce my on-camera speed light off the ceiling with the flash card flipped up and then manually adjust the flash to match the ambient light. Saves me a lot of time. Mostly however I just face the hot Russian girl toward the window light and my flash is in my camera bag.

  13. Can you please detail about how to take in-camera meter readinng (you have taken f-value of the light coming from the rees, in this video). Thanks

  14. Thank you for the explanations. But what if I wanted a shallow depth of field while using a Profoto 1200 pack? it would be pretty tricky to handle this window light with your x-sync (1/200th) and not having a HSS on your remote.

  15. Hii
    Thanks for good vedeo. ..
    I have canon 6d and speed light canon 580 ex ii …
    What the highest shutter speed I get if I want to do like first photo. .
    Thanks a lot. ..

  16. DA 16-50mm f2.8, DA 50-135mm f2.8, DA 70-200mm f2.8 which one is better? If you have a limited buying capacity!

  17. Wow, some of you guys have nothing better to do than make comments about bare feet and bash the model? Who cares, it's a tutorial on balancing flash!

  18. Cam someone please help me how to shoot if opposite: when background is very dark and subject is at the bright point. How to blend them together evenly?

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