1. Welcome to NikonCafe.com—a friendly Nikon camera & photography discussion forum!

    If you are thinking of buying a camera or need help with your photos, you will find our forum members full of advice! Click here to join for free!

Lighting technique

Discussion in 'General flash photography, lighting, and technique' started by Rui Lopes, May 29, 2007.

  1. Imagine you are inside a dark, old church. You are trying to get the whole place and right in the upper center you are facing a stained glass window lit by the strong outside light. What would be your settings to get everything properly exposed? Spot meter on the window adjusting exposure settings in M mode? Any other suggestions? I will use the D200 on tripod and either a 28 f/2.8 or 10-20 SIGMA.
    Thanks in advance for your help.
  2. chemisti


    May 24, 2007
    McKinney, TX
    Inside Dark Church...

    Generally, when shooting with off camera lights, the following rules-of-thumb apply:

    Aperture controls flash exposure.

    Shutter speed controls ambient.

    There are limits, of course to how much you can do - so if you set your aperture at minimum (maximum opening) and your shutter speed at the maximum sync speed and the window light still overpowers the flashes - then you don't have enough flash to compensate for the ambient light using a conventional method.

    Many churches have a rather large room (sactuary) and it may take a lot of flash to expose it well.

    So how would I approach the problem?

    Idea #1: Shoot at dusk/dawn when the ambient light coming through the window is changing and less bright. I would probably try at dawn and start before even a hint of sunlight exists (say 5 am). I would set up my flashes and figure out placement, camera settings, and flash power settings to get the type of exposure/image I desire.

    Now I just shoot every few minutes as the sun comes up until the window light gets to the level I want! I might shoot 100 shots (assuming digital) to find the one I like. In a sense I am waiting until the sun light balances my flashes instead of the other way around.

    Idea #2: Use the same concept as idea #1, except lets say it is a very large room - my little flash units might not be able to do the job in a single firing. How do I make up for a limited number of limited power flashes?

    Step one: Start well before dawn. Turn off all lights in the church. Set up the camera on a tripod and set it to bulb - guess on a time (lets say 2 minutes). Get out a flash and set it to manual power (must have a simple trigger button on the flash).

    Step two: Open the camera shutter. Now walk around (preferrably out of frame) and fire the flash unit about the room. Note the locations and number of firings of the flash. Close the shutter. Review the image for exposure.

    Step three: Adjust based on the histogram - more flashes = more light. Longer bulb = more ambient (even though it may be very low) until you have the exposure you want. This may take several tries to get the lighting correct and emphasis on the parts of the room you want. Also, check the window for its exposure because it won't take much light to register in the image.

    Step four: Repeat successful combination of flashes and bulb settings when light barely begins to be visible through the window so that it now is properly exposed in the final (long exposure).

    This trick essentially makes your one hotshoe flash into many, many flashes and you didn't buy any more flash units.

    Idea three: Borrow/Rent some larger studio strobes if you don't have enough light. With some optical triggers you could use your hotshoe flashes to add even more light to overcome a bright window in a large room that is otherwise dark.


    Note: Early morning light is yellower than daylight. You might need to color balance the flashes with gels to keep the light the same color. If it is a stained glass window, this might not be important.

    I've not tried this, but have seen where guys get great lighting effects using long exposures and multiple flashes from their strobes.

    I would almost like to try this myself - just to see if I could overcome a difficult challenge.

    I'm curious to see what other ideas are put forth.
  3. Thank you very much. However in my case I will be not allowed to use flash... tomorrow I'll try using multiple exposures.
    Thanks again.
  4. If you do not have flashes you must balance the light from the window with the interior light in the church. This will be in the early morning or late at night. Set up your shot by having your camera in manual and meter for the interior light of the church by adjusting the aperature and/or the shutter speed; i.e., zero out your meter reading. Now wait until a spot meter reading of the window almost approaches the zeroed out meter reading. Take one shot every few minutes for the next 15 minutes or so. One of these will have the perfect balance of light. Of course it is assumed you will have a good tripod for this purpose and that you will not use your on board flash if you have one.
  5. moffo


    Oct 20, 2005
    Central TX
    Spot on the stained glass, then bracket at least 1 stop under and as many as 4 stops over. Look into HDR for combining the images.
  6. jfrancis


    May 8, 2005
    Orlando, FL
    Chances are that you will never get this perfect in a single shot. The dynamic range will just be too great for the digital sensor to cope with. Easy fix though. Take one shot spot metered on the stained glass; another on an area of mid brightness, and a third from the darkest area. Merge the images in Photoshop. Alternatively, take 6 shots ranging from the brightest to darkest areas in at least 1-stop increments and use Photoshop's HDR feature to do the work for you.
  7. John, I hate to disagree with you but if it is shot at the right time of day and the light is balanced it most assuredly will turn out. I have done this many times. Using Highlight/Shadow or HDR in post processing will certainly recover problem images or even areas in the photo but good technique at the head end will make the image that much better.

    Here is a shot where I balanced outside light with inside light and while it is not exactly like the question that was asked it does give you an idea of what is possible:

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    I have many slides that were taken with the exact situation that the OP describes. One of them was used on the cover of an international magazine. The key is to find that balance and you do that in the early morning or evening after the sun has gone down.
  8. jfrancis


    May 8, 2005
    Orlando, FL
    No problem - disagree by all means :wink: It's just that I just returned from shooting (old) churches in three states and I didn't really see one that I could have got a correct exposure for the stained glass AND the darkest areas of the church without resorting to correcting underexposure of the shadows in PS with an inevitable effect on image noise.

    Also, your example (while very nice) is not was the poster asked I think. He was inside the church with light coming through stained glass as the main (if not only) natural light source.
  9. I posted that one because it was much more difficult than what was described by the OP. Here are a couple more taken inside a church in Italy. I have several more on my website:

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    It was quite dark inside the churches in almost every instance. Again the key is to find the right time of day when the light coming through the window does not overpower the light inside. My technique will work perfectly and if you are ever in St. George, UT I would be glad to shoot with you and we can learn together.
  10. Okay i'm lost....

    Why would you shoot ever minute or so for 15 minutes?

    Is the plan not to wait till your spot metering of the window is around the same as the interior light reading?
  11. jfrancis


    May 8, 2005
    Orlando, FL
    Totally understand what you are saying Gordon, and I appreciate the invitation to shoot with you. Your images are beautiful. A lot of the time though, we don't have the luxury of waiting for the perfect balance of light, in which case the techniques I mentioned may the the only option.
  12. Thanks for the good advices.
    So, assuming that it wouldn't be possible to wait for the right light I'd have only an option: to merge 5/6 pics in PS... Ok. Is it possible to do so in the CS version? Or just in PS2? Does NX has such a feature?
    Thanks again everybody.
  13. Thank you very much Michael.
  14. Good point Doug. For myself I take about three or four shots in order to see which one I like the best. In the case of the stained glass window example the color of it will change with each shot and I am suggesting that he may want to see that happen. Actually when in Italy and other places I have shot, I took one exposure.
  15. jfrancis


    May 8, 2005
    Orlando, FL
    I can't remember when HDR was introduced in PS. It is possible to do something similar with layers and masks though. I don't think NX has a similar feature.
  16. Hi John:

    Yes it is possible to (blend) layers in PS or other type editing programs. I cannot say if NX has this ability but I know many versions of PS or painter do.

  17. Actually....:biggrin::biggrin::biggrin:

    I'm not sure I made a point here Gordon.... (Again) you are way smarter than me.... so I was actually asking why you were taking so many shot's...
    Heck I just thought I was missing the boat (AGAIN)...:biggrin:
  18. Ya sure Doug, I sit at the masters feet and suck up any crumbs that you might drop. :biggrin:
  19. Sorry John.... My earlier answer might not help that much if you don't know your way around PS. So here is a quick tutorial.....

    An easy (manual) way to blend layers….

    >> Open light image
    >> Open darker image and select all >> edit copy
    Click light image and paste the dark image into it.

    Now you will have (2) layers... light one on bottom of stack and dark one on top.

    So now highlight the dark layer and add a layer mask to it.

    Click on the background layer (light version) and press CTRL-A or select all >> Copy to the computer clipboard.
    Hold down the ALT-Key (option-Mac) and click the white mask in the layer above.

    The whole image will now turn white. Next press CTRL-V to paste the contents from the clipboard into the mask.

    You will now see a B&W masked image. Without doing anything else…. Go to Filter/Blur and set the radius around 45 pix.
    Click on the background layer and your images will (blend) just like magic.

    Hope this helps

    Good Luck

  20. You are still full of beans my friend.....:biggrin:
  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.