DaveMazz Photography

Obsessed with Photography

DaveMazz Photography - Obsessed with Photography

Mixing Ambient with Flash

It’s been a while since I posted, the little one hit 1 year and is a wild man now!!  This post is from Christmas, finally finished it, enjoy!:

After spending some time re-reading David Hobby’s awesome Lighting 101 and Lighting 102 tutorials, I decided to create a holiday picture with our Christmas tree and Bichon, Cooper.  I wanted the picture to be kind of moody, almost looking like it is lit by the fireplace.  But I also wanted the main focus to be on Cooper.  I remember a while back I read a great post by pro David Tejada, and it was my inspiration for this particular shot.  Come and check it out after the jump.


I ended up doing this shot at night, and this being our “formal” living room, the light is usually set pretty low, and even when we want it to be brighter, we only have a few low light lamps.  Right away I knew I’d have to either grab a tripod if I wanted to use the available light in the room, or use my trusty speedlight…or two.

Initial Shot Setup

Here is a test shot, note the camera settings, this is just the ambient in the room:

Mixing Ambient light with Flash

Ambient and Flash

  Yeah, so as you can see, the ambient isn’t going to cut it.  I could have went down to 1/20, but that wouldn’t have made much of a difference.  So instead, I opted to put a 1/4 CTO gel on my 560II, chuck it on a light stand, and blast the ceiling at 1/64, camera rear right.  This put just enough ambient light in the image.  Although it took about 5 test shots to get this right.  I originally set up the speedlight on the left, but putting it on the right just looked better to me, as some of the light also spilled onto the tree.

Spot Lighting Cooper

Once I had my fill light set up, I went to making sure the rest of the lighting was good to go.  I recently ordered my first boom arm.  it’s something I wanted for a long time. I ordered one of the cheap eBay jobs, and so far so good.  It is definitely not a heavy dude boom, but it’ll work for what I want to use it for.

I set up the boom directly above our new cream-colored chair and waited for my buddy Cooper to take his seat.  After a few minutes, he waddled in, tail wagging!  He jumped in his favorite chair and I took a few practice shots to make sure the light looked good.  I ended up using my SB700, with a Pringles snoot, shooting at 1/128 I believe.  I didn’t need a lot of light on him, as it was only hanging a few feet over him, just out of my camera’s view.  I don’t even think he noticed it.  This only took about 5 minutes to get right.  I didn’t use any CTO on this flash, as I wanted the lighting to be a little different color, to make Coop pop a little more.

Christmas Tree Light

Now that the ambient and first snooted light is good to go, I was ready to light the tree.  I wanted the tree to be a little darker than the light on cooper, but I also wanted the presents behind the tree, on the bay window, to get a little pop of light.  The wrapping paper on them was pretty reflective, so I was hoping it wouldn’t be a problem.  Getting the light on the tree how I wanted it was by far the trickiest part of this shot.

I started out thinking I’d back light the tree, and said screw lighting up the presents, as I couldn’t get the presents lit properly.  I couldn’t get the speedlight to break through the branches without it looking horrible though.  I tried raising the light, putting it low, even inside the damn tree, no go.  Then i tried feathering the light, and still didn’t like the results.  I ended up putting it back camera right, next to the fill light, and after a few test shots, I was good to go, here is the final shot:

Final Image

Final Image





It’s definitely underexposed, but I wanted a fireplace type feel to it, white balance definitely leaning towards yellow.  This was a fun exercise, mixing ambient with flash.  I’m hoping to get my little guy outside now that the horrible Northeast winter is coming to an end….stay tuned I plan on posting a lot more often!

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