It can be a little daunting when the shooting location itself is a large cavernous space where you have to light using your small flashes. It’s all the more difficult when you have to kill the general ambient but yet maintaining just some traces of existing hot light sources (e.g. table lamp, down lights) for mood. To do that, you got to balance the short duration of the flashes with a slightly longer exposure to burn in the light sources. Thankfully, that’s not what I have to solve this time, though it would have been a challenging task.
When you stop down either by aperture or raise your shutter speed to kill the ambient, you have to rebuild using flash. Seen here in a Warehouse at Rentwise, my starting working slate is a pile of desktops ready for shipment, set against a backdrop of card board boxes and shelving racks. No significant light sources at the scene to burn in for detail. Simple! Just kill everything.
The above shot was taken at f/5.6 (a little more DOF as I’ll be having 3 people in the shot), 1/80 sec (I needed some traces of ambient in the distance) @ ISO 400 on 24mm wide zoom. To add interest to the shot, I shot at a base temperature of about 3,300K to cool down the entire scene. Alternatively, I could have gone with blue or green gel on flashes but I did not want to overwork my speed lights. I also wasn’t having enough of them to spare as I needed them to shape the subject matter.
So, it was a cheap and easy way to paint the scene with a colour in-camera, and then work my way up from there. Unfortunately, you can’t go green on colour temperature. It’s either warm, neutral or blue, so I went with blue.
Next, I had a 1/2 CTO umbrella speed light at camera left to light my subjects. A second bare headed speed light was at far camera right to help hold the edges of the desktops and cardboard boxes. This also helped provide accent definition to my subjects and the entire scene. A final third bare headed speed light is placed behind to back light the entire scene. With this simple cross-lighting approach, I have more definition and texture in the resulting picture. Here’s a shot with the above mentioned lighting setup.
And here is the shot with the subjects on set once I have everything tested and was sure it’ll work and look the way I wanted. This is important as you wouldn’t want your subjects to be bored hanging around waiting while you do your test shots. You’ll clearly notice the tinge of warmth on their faces. I warmed the pictures further in post.
Here’s another closed-up waist-up shot of the similar scene.
Next, I moved on to the backroom where Logistics is at work, to photograph one of the staffs performing his duties. Here’s an ambient-only shot of the scene, taken at f/4.5, 1/60 sec @ ISO 400. It’s a pretty good baseline to start with.
You’ll notice a pretty strong but diffused sun light streaming in from the right. That’s where the truck drives in to unload their goods. It is this light which provides the majority of the general ambient in this scene. I was also fine with the fluorescent lamps in the distance which added to the ambient at the rear. Having the detail I wanted, all I need to do now is to just add my flashes to shape the scene.
Here’s the shot of the staff in action. I have a 1/2 CTO umbrella as my key light high on camera left, while another bare headed flash was right behind him as back light.
Then, with the similar setup, a quick grab of him posing waist-up with a smile.
The final scene of this logistics staff was to show him running through a checklist of goods ready for shipment or that of arrival.
There’s an umbrella key light slightly lower at his eye-level to camera right, and another bare head flash to far camera left which helped separate him from the dark background. You can see this accentuated definition on his right arm and shoulder. The hint of flare was deliberate to convey powerful spot lights in operation at warehouses.
For these shots, I have to drop my shutter speed from 1/60 sec to 1/30 sec to help open up the dark ambient in the distance (i.e. crates of items on the high racks at the warehouse). This added detail to an otherwise dark featureless background. Had I a tripod with me, I would have gone grounded but I was working light and fast. Anyway, hand held at 1/30 was still solidly fine.
Finally, for this shot of a lady in hard hat, I placed a bare head speed light hidden just right behind the fork lift truck, aimed at the rear of the warehouse. This lit the entire place as though the picture has been exposed ambient-only.