In most interiors, indoor lighting is chosen for maximum illumination and highest energy efficiency.
Based on this, you can safely assume, the light is usually coming straight down from the ceiling and chances are, they are fluorescent light fixtures.
Whenever I have to photograph someone in such surroundings, I always ask “What would the room look like without the overhead lights especially if there is a large window?”
Experienced photographers understand and appreciate quality of light over quantity of light.
They also know their equipment and their own limitations.
They know the shutter speed they can successfully handhold for any lens in their arsenal.
By the time they take a light reading, they know not just the size of their canvas, how much of the scene before them will be in the final image, but also whether they’ll need to boost the ISO, use a tripod or add supplemental lighting.
Recently I was asked to give an impromptu lesson on using fill-flash for an environmental portrait by another instructor.
An environmental portrait is usually taken with a wide angle lens.
This allows the photographer to include some elements of what the subject does as a vocation or for fun.
In contrast, a head-and-shoulders portrait is usually shot tight with a medium telephoto lens.
Sources of light:
- the room door (but I made sure it was closed)
- large window on the same side of the door.
- over head flourescent lights. Potential color temperature problems.
Gear I used:
- wide angle zoom 17-35 f2.8 lens
- Canon 580EX Speedlight
- Canon STE-2 infra red transmitter to trigger Canon 580EX Speedlight off-camera
Keep in mind that a wide angle lens gives you greater ability to hand hold low shutter speeds.
But the wide angle presents you with other potential problems.
It takes in more of the scene, so it also introduces clutter. In fact lots and lots of clutter to distract your viewers from your subject.
My solution ? Turn off the overhead lights. Mouse over the picture above to see what the room looked like with the overhead lights off.
Below is a picture of most of the room.