Location Lighting Part 2


The picture above was taken at CALTrans’s traffic monitoring center (California Transportation).Using at 28mm lens, I metered the scene, decided on ISO 400, 1/8 sec @ f11. The flash that’s hidden between the monitor was set to give me f11. It was triggered by wireless Quantum radio slave.

The Ol’ Control Room/Nerve Center

The picture above of a control room is fairly common these days. Gone are the old chalkboards and other “analog” displays, this picture could be the setting for a casino’s security center, or any hub for communication.

In this situation,  camera shake will be a factor because you will have to use a slow shutter speed to allow the lighting in the room to “burn in” or record on your camera’s sensors.

So it might be a good idea to bring along a tripod. I keep one in the trunk all the time just for this types of situations.

I filled the frame (viewfinder) with one of the displays in the scene to see what the exposure needed to be.

I chose monitor which had the most dominant image in the room.

I fired off a frame or 2 @ ISO 100 1/2 sec @ f11 and checked the LCD monitor or as we photojournalists say “chimped”

I made sure the colored lights had good saturation. Over exposing will cause the colors and the image on the monitors in the scene  to be washed out.


Then it was it was time to check the Guide Number of my flash.

gn_location2Every flash should have one in the owner’s manual.

Guide number for flash units are always given in metric and feet.

For my purposes, since I’m in the US,  I’ll be concerned with the bottom number in each cell in feet.

Guide Number = Aperture x Flash-to-subject distance.

I’m estimating that my flash placed between the 2 monitors is roughly  5 feet away from my subject.

So the Guide Number I’m looking for is close to 11 x 5 i.e. 55.

I can see under Flash Coverage between 50 mm and 70 mm I come  closest number to GN 55.

Now I can read across to the left and see that I have to set my flash to approximately 50 mm setting at 1/8th power.

If your flash has no ability to zoom in and out, then you have one less variable to worry about. That just narrows or widens the beam of light that comes from your flash.

You might be thinking this is a whole lot of Math. It isn’t if you are using your equipment daily or often.

**Make a copy of your flash unit’s Guide Number chart and tape it to your flash. Setting your flash manually has the added advantage that it doesn’t shut off prematurely because it doesn’t care how dark or light your subject is.   

When you use Auto, the flash may be “fooled” when it hits something reflective.**


Coming up next will be how to use 2 light to make your subject “pop” in location lighting.

2 thoughts on “Location Lighting Part 2”

  1. Sean,
    Thanks for commenting. You’re absolutely right about the lighting not meshing with the brightness of the monitor’s output.

    One of the issues working on location as a newspaper photographer is this: you are often constrained by what you’re allowed to do and also the amount of time you’re allowed.

    While that is not necessarily an excuse, it does limit what you can do.

    This was a Caltrans (Calfornia Transportation) agency control center which was “live” and the personnel were actually working. I didn’t have the luxury of asking them to bring up on that particular monitor something brighter that would match what my flash was putting out.

    I do want to thank you for the critique.

  2. Picture would have worked better if the monitor he was facing had a brighter screen. As it is..his face is overlight for the amount of ambient light a dark screen would give off. But nice concept.

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