On Assignment: Scout and a Shoot Pt. 2

Okay, so we're back shooting at the MCE after our scout a couple of days ago. The weather is hot, so I am glad I choose speedlights. Much less to lug.

Leading off is entrepreneur Biplab Pal, of Zreyas Technology, whose company facilitates product development and manufacturing for other companies.

Let's walk through this and the other shoots...

Note: If you have not seen the full scout of this area we did earlier this week, it's here.

I shot Biplab in this corner of the room:

We'll underexpose the wall with the key and fill light, which are a ways away from it and much closer to Biplab. On top of that underexposed base, I like to use a gridded speedlight to create zones of interest on a blank wall. And in this case, into the corner as well.

With one grid you can create a splash of light behind your subject (subtle or harsh or anything in between) and define the corner at the same time for a little graphic element and shape.

Here is just that light, but at a slightly different angle and intensity:

Stick Biplab in front of that wall with a big key up and over camera right, and he looks pretty good. Set up another flash lower (and closer to the camera) for a little fill-wrap and he looks better.

To create some color I added a warming gel to the key (one-quarter CTO) so the underexposed wall also carried that warmth. The splash was white to accent it. The fill had a Rosco 08 warming gel.

Next, Jason Brooke and Abhishek Rege are from Vasoptic, a startup with technology that aggregates and analyzes blood flow as viewed over time inside of your eyeballs. With this, they create sophisticated vascular profiles which can tell your doctor all kinds of cool things far earlier than before. Like whether you are starting to go blind from diabetes, for instance.

I know my eye scientist/photographer friend Bryan Jones just raised his eyebrows at that line. (Hi, Bryan.)

We'll be keeping the light scheme very similar for the next one. They're a two-fer, so we'll go a little looser. And I'll swap out the gel on the background light and fill to be a CTB to shift the color palette. On a white wall that is already getting some light from the key (albeit underexposed) that CTB will go pastel blue instead of rich blue.

We keep the key warmed up, cool the fill with a one-half CTB and also splash a rim at back camera right.

The rim will also have a one-half CTB, keeping the whole scene coolish. So, more of a color shift than anything. We now have a slight warm look and a slight cool one. Let's go hard cool for the last one.

Okay, here we are in the hallway on daylight balance. Lovely, isn't it. But I want this hallway to have a little more punch.

Jeani Burns' company is a software startup that focuses on large-scale volunteer management. Since there is nothing visually relevant to work with here, I am just gonna make this one look cool and a little tech-y for the Howard County Economic Development Authority, for whom these photos are being shot.

So that's what it looks like on daylight and properly exposed. What if I underexpose the crap out of it, shift the white balance to tungsten, and then add as many more units of blue as the Fuji X100s will give me. (I love the range of control that camera gives you over color balance. And it lets you see the result in the EVF, too. Me happy.)

That's more like it: "Kirk paging Spock. Tell Jeani she is wanted on the bridge."

So let's finish this one with a single, bare LP180 speedlight. We'll put Jeani in the window and throw the flash up into the wall inside the room to use the room as a light mod. We'll hide the flash right behind the wall (in the room) to my right.

Since I am blued-to-the-hilt on my color balance, I am gonna double-CTO the flash to balance for it. That'll get me relatively close to daylight on Jeani. Then I'll tweak my camera's white balance until Jeani looks a normal color temperature.

Interestingly, the blue'd hallway is the only photo today that has any ambient light component at all.

That's pretty cool. It might be a little to out there for the EDA, but I like it. We'll see. I'll shoot a more traditional shot inside the room, and only show them if they ask for something else. Until then, it'll stay in my pocket. (UPDATE: Nope, they went for the blue one.)

So there we go. A quick scout-and-shoot in a fluorescent white room. There are a million ways you could have done it. But that's the way I did it on that particular day in that particular room.

Hope the full process was useful in some small way.

Next: Don't Deny the Obvious


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Blogger Mikkel Eggers said...

Great work as usual and inspiring! Maybe a different crop on that last one? I miss the upper part of the window a little bit...

August 01, 2013 8:13 AM  
Blogger Nic said...

Some small way ha! Thanks David, this post and the one before it were great. These kinds of shoots are exactly the kind of easy paying gigs that I think a lot of people here could get

August 01, 2013 8:38 AM  
Blogger Kurt Miller said...

VERY useful (and creative), thank you! I recently had a shoot in a dentist's office that had florescents and was a shoe box. I wish I had thought of some of these creative compositions.

August 01, 2013 8:54 AM  
Blogger Cory B said...

David- Did you use the x100s for all of these? How're you syncing to the strobes, radios or something else? Thanks

August 01, 2013 9:05 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

David, in the first photograph, would you have considered using a 1/4 CTO on the fill as well as the key, or would that have made things too warm? Is there an effect you were going after by using the 1/4CTO on the key but a slightly different color on the fill?


August 01, 2013 9:12 AM  
Blogger David Hobby said...


Nikon D3 for the first two, Fuji for the hallway shot. Fuji gave me *much* better control over the white balance to set the hall where I wanted it (color) and then tweak to match the double-CTO'd flash.

August 01, 2013 9:27 AM  
Blogger David Hobby said...


The Rosco #08 is a straw filter and thus has a little less red in it than the CTO series. That was the reason.

August 01, 2013 9:28 AM  
Blogger David Hobby said...


Ideally, yes. But Jeani's height left a lot of empty room up there with any composition I tried. So I split the difference a little.

August 01, 2013 9:30 AM  
Blogger Tim said...

No disrespect David, but you did a great job polishing that cowpie. I have great respect for you and your use of light.

August 01, 2013 9:32 AM  
Blogger David Hobby said...


Not a cow pie at all. It's what's there. There were lots of visually cluttered office spaces (it's an incubator) so I was pleased to come across an empty room. IMO, it is preferable to start from scratch and build a simple photo than to have many options and sight lines outed by what might happen to be in them.

August 01, 2013 9:39 AM  
Blogger REggie said...

Nice write-up. And great trick with that background light.

What stand did you use with the key light?

It looks like a good one. Thanks.

August 01, 2013 11:06 AM  
Blogger lv pg said...

Curious David...why switch to a blue tint in the Brooke/Rege shot? Also, was the capture of the floor intentional? Not criticisms, mind you; it's just the first thing I noticed.

Also, LOVE the blue hallway. Did you try any with her on the other side of the glass?

Thanks for a great post.

August 01, 2013 11:09 AM  
Blogger Zach said...

Can you explain how you managed the window reflections in the first blue hallway shot vs. the final image?

August 01, 2013 12:05 PM  
OpenID gsportsphotog said...

Hello David,

I like the way you use white balance for the last photograph, that the true power of digital that we can see.

August 01, 2013 12:30 PM  
Blogger Craig M. said...

You made it so a viewer of the photos might feel there is more to be had from these people than a boring room portrait would have indicated. Makes the viewer want to see what else they might be up to. Great pictures.

August 01, 2013 12:38 PM  
Blogger MikeScottPhoto said...

That shot with the window is exactly what I was thinking all along. (I wrote this comment two days ago and have been saving it).

August 01, 2013 12:54 PM  
Blogger Nic said...

This assignment showed me two things...I should get a hold of some of this straw filter, and that a seemingly bummer of an office setting can great location studio. Control that ambient son!

PS David I just spent four months at Fort Meade learning military photojournalism but was too chicken to reach out to you. Sorry....

August 01, 2013 1:06 PM  
Blogger MikeScottPhoto said...

@gsportsphotog - digital makes it easier, but folks were doing this with tungsten slide film and gelled flashes "way back" in the day (again I'm thinking of McNally who did this at a Maine Workshop I attended back in 2000 or so).

August 01, 2013 1:10 PM  
Blogger Andreas Breunig said...

I think that the reflections are gone due to the changed light levels. Once the room behind the window is brightly lit, the reflections on the glass disappear.

August 01, 2013 1:20 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Hi David - really great shots. When I saw the locations, I was really wondering where you were going to go with it. I know my first reaction would have been - well let's look around outside!

Quick question: I just got the softlighter and I am still learning it. I'm curious how many speedlites you had in it. Do you often use it with just 1? When you use it outdoors do you get away with 1 as well? It's the largest modifier I have ever owned so I guess I am just intimidated by it's size! ;-)

August 01, 2013 1:24 PM  
Blogger John Walton said...

Thanks, David, very helpful. But I am wondering if you can comment now or in a future post your rational behind using your big Softlighter as a Key or as a Fill. I remember in this post (link below)it is used as a fill. Is there a way (or formula) we can use to decide when to use it as a key and when as a fill? http://strobist.blogspot.com/2013/02/on-assignment-cheap-portable-studio-pt-2.html

August 01, 2013 1:34 PM  
Blogger Cheryl said...

Thanks, cool shots! Did you know in the 3rd shot of the woman that she was going to be wearing a blue jacket? I like the tie-in.

August 01, 2013 2:10 PM  
Blogger Ian said...

This and the previous post make great (informative & entertaining) reading, thanks for creating them. You do make it sound easy which probably comes from long experience but it also sounds like you're enjoying the chance to experiment. I need to gain 1% of your confidence!

For me, the crops look sweet especially when viewed after clicking on them to see them in large size.

August 01, 2013 4:26 PM  
Blogger Mark Bellringer said...

"and then add as many more units of blue as the Fuji X100s will give me"
Can you expand on this a little more for me...just got a 100s not up to play yet

August 01, 2013 4:27 PM  
Blogger Pixiepurls said...

<3 sweet

August 01, 2013 6:03 PM  
OpenID shutterbugshub said...

Wow, makes me wanna learn more about gels. Never thought WB could be used creatively like this. Great stuff again David.

August 01, 2013 8:53 PM  
Blogger Matt Kosterman said...

Superb write-up! Question: what was focal length and aperture on the Rege & Brook shot? From the image it looks as if one is a couple feet in front of the other. Curious what you needed to use to maintain focus on rear subject.

August 01, 2013 8:58 PM  
Blogger David Hobby said...


35mm. Shot it at f/8 or f/11. Can't remember. And no EXIF, as the 35 is probably as old as you are.

August 01, 2013 10:40 PM  
Blogger David Hobby said...


Explore your white balance submenus. Lots of options there. Better for you to learn it yourself by experimentation than for me to spoon-feed it...

August 01, 2013 10:42 PM  
Blogger David Hobby said...


Nope. And I might have shifted that color just a teeensy bit...

August 01, 2013 10:42 PM  
Blogger David Hobby said...


If you are looking for a formula, that's a red herring. Try it both ways (testing, not on a shoot day) and see the different effects.

August 01, 2013 10:43 PM  
Blogger David Hobby said...


One speedlight in the Softlighter. Works fine indoors; won't compete with the sun outdoors.

August 01, 2013 10:44 PM  
Blogger dave moser said...

REALLY nice job, Mr. H.
I commented on the first post about "leave the gels" at home or some such, and I apologize, they make the images work.
Love the tweaking of the fuji white balance, that right there is clever :-)

QUESTION, if you could: do you use any kind of white balance card in a test shot for reference to help you find "normal" when processing the raws?

I often find in my own work that if I don't have a reference in one of the shots I'm sometimes hunting in camera raw to find a decent flesh tone.

I believe you blogged once about a big time wedding photog who tweaked the white balance through a custom setting on a dslr to make a hallway red, then greened his lights. Guess you could have achieved the same had you not used the x100s?


BTW -- Maine is magical, you will enjoy it... just stay away from the craft stores, tshirt stores and the other BS. Bar Harbor can be touristy -- get to the other side of the island, all the way down to Bass Harbor... hike the Bubbles but avoid the crowds at the other end at the Jordan Pond House -- it's crazed.


August 01, 2013 11:00 PM  
OpenID shutterbugshub said...

Hi David,

Just a quick question. For experimentation can we also use this plastic colored diffuser?


Got mine free when I ordered two speedlights.

I know gels will allow more light to pass. Might looks for gel someday, but for experimenting can I use this too? What will the consequences? Thanks


August 02, 2013 12:01 AM  
Blogger Brian McCarthy said...

David -- I really liked how you used the corner as an off-angle element. And lighting the corner by raking a light across the adjacent wall adds great texture to the scene. Thanks for sharing!

August 02, 2013 1:11 PM  
Blogger Mark Adams said...


You are a Lighting Wizard. Period.

August 02, 2013 2:31 PM  
Blogger George Aubrey said...

David: Very creative use of location and light. You show how a lot can be done with very little and I learned some things from this that I will take to my next location shoot. Thanks.

August 03, 2013 9:55 AM  
Blogger alexdpx said...

Really cool technique on the last photo (the blue one). I gotta try that with my own X100S. Thanks for sharing all these David.

August 04, 2013 6:58 AM  
Blogger Mark Adams said...

Hi David,
I've noticed in this post as well as others that you use either a 1/4 cut CTO or CTS to add warmth to skin tones, and I'm curious as to why you chose to use gels rather than setting a white balance in camera (by using the white wall in the office) or by using something like the Passport Colorchecker and adjusting WB in post.
I mean, I understand if you would want to better match the color of a setting Sun outdoors but this is indoors. Also, are you setting your in-camera white balance to the Daylight setting while using these gels? And if so, why? This is not a critique. I'm a big admirer of your work and I just seeking understanding.
Thanks in Advance.

August 04, 2013 6:22 PM  
Blogger Josh Whelan said...

@Mark Adams

Regarding warming with gels vs pushing WB, there are a couple of reasons why gelling is often the better way to go.

Firstly, skin tones are a bit of a nightmare to warm purely through tweaking WB. I'm never entirely with where skin tones end up when going down this route, and I tend to find the results more natural when using a weakly warming gel. YMMV, obv.

Secondly, using gels gives you much more control over the scene as a whole. If you want to warm your subject whilst keeping the background neutral, then you would most likely have to blue the crap out of the background to avoid the WB dragging the entire scene warmwards. Much easier to warm your key and fill, given that you're lighting your subject anyways.

Somewhat relevant is a cool article (not sure if it was reproduced on Strobist or just written by a Hobbyist*) where the photographer in question wanted to shoot a model inside a barn with warm, sunsetty beams shooting through the windows and rafters. Inevitably, on the day of the shoot the light was overcast and awful. Instead of sticking big warm lights outside to fake a sunset, the photographer just blue-gelled the key on his model - setting the WB so she was neutral warmed the ambient light perfectly, and all that was needed were a couple of speedlights. Hurrah.

*I'm sure the connection has been made before, but I'm totally going to start referring to Strobist followers as Hobbyists. I have blue eyes, enjoy long walks on the beach, love childen and animals, and am a Hobbyist photographer. Yes the capital is deliberate.

August 05, 2013 6:06 AM  

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