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11-21-2018, 03:44 AM   #1
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Taking pictures in dark, smoky rooms

Hello!
I found myself shooting often in some of the WORST conditions you can imagine: private parties, with people moving and dancing, with the only lights changing constantly, coming from lasers machines, color changers and fire projectors.
It's a hard job but I am pretty happy with the results (and free drinks I get) with bright prime lenses and the built in flash of my KP; at least until they start the smoke machine.
Yes, they also have that. And that's why I am here, it's ****ing me up.
Since they start it, I have to remove the fog in post prodiction and do miracles to keep a bit of color fidelity , but I just can't get the picture if I need to use the flash.
The fog lights up instead of your subject and you get nothing out of your picture. It annoys me, there are many wonderful shoots in the fog I want to get.
Anyone knows a way around this?
I'd like to avoid the flash but I have to, and when I have to, the fog doesn't allow me to do my thing. Any ideas?

11-21-2018, 04:07 AM - 1 Like   #2
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I think the issue is the direct flash hitting the smoke head on .... You are likely to get better results using an accessory flash that swivels and tilts, bouncing the light towards the subjects. This technique will avoid the flash lighting up the foreground harshly and provide nicer looking light. The trick will be to aim it so that the bounced light falls onto the people.... This way they will be illuminated in and around the smoke.
11-21-2018, 04:51 AM   #3
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What ISO are you using? Depending on the camera, you can select 3200-6400 and remove the minimal noise in post, no flash needed.

Otherwise, bouncing the flash, and diffusing are the likely solutions.
11-21-2018, 06:47 AM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by robgski Quote
What ISO are you using? Depending on the camera, you can select 3200-6400 and remove the minimal noise in post, no flash needed.

Otherwise, bouncing the flash, and diffusing are the likely solutions.
The dancefloor is REALLY, REALLY dark.
Take a look at the picture attached: 12800 ISO; 50 f/1,8; 1/8 on monopod.
But I can't shoot at people at 1/8, I would have used flash if I could but the smoke machine was running, I just got lucky there.
So you guys say that if I use a tiltable flash pointed up with a diffuser it may work? Guess I found a use for my dad's 80's flash, will test and report back.
But I still think that if you light up smoke you still can't see the other side no matter which side the light comes.

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11-21-2018, 08:08 AM   #5
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Don't put your dads 80's flash on the hotshoe, it may fry your camera's electronics due to the voltages particularly in older flash units designed for film camera's, for safety, fire it using a remote trigger at least until you know what the voltage is.If you can post the manufacturer and model number on here, someone will be able to advise further.
11-21-2018, 08:25 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by chrism888 Quote
Don't put your dads 80's flash on the hotshoe, it may fry your camera's electronics due to the voltages particularly in older flash units designed for film camera's, for safety, fire it using a remote trigger at least until you know what the voltage is.If you can post the manufacturer and model number on here, someone will be able to advise further.
It's a Vivitar 283, I have alredy used it for a few shots, should I be worried?
11-21-2018, 08:43 AM   #7
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If the Vivitar 283 says "Made in Japan" on the bottom near the shoe - DON'T put it on a modern digital camera. Those ones are guaranteed to have trigger voltage on the shoe near 300v - when your camera was designed for a trigger voltage of about 5v. This isn't a myth. I've seen cameras electronics fried by using over-voltaged flashes.


The last 283's were made in China, and all the ones I have tested have low, safe trigger voltages.

In between are the ones made in Korea. I've definitely seen them with safe voltages, but can't be sure they all were made that way.

When in doubt, check the voltage across the shoe terminals with a multimeter.
11-21-2018, 10:21 AM   #8
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A modern P-TTL model makes sense for this type of use case, and considering your DSLR.

This all depends on whether you are interested in taking control over the light distribution (ie having light on your subjects), the exposure balancing (background vs foreground), colour balance control (ie having good looking skin tones) and managing excessive contrast within the images .....

If you are interested in all of this, then on camera bounced automatic flash is the way forward. High ISOs do nothing to deal with any of the matters I listed.

Personally I would try and use the smoke to advantage and use it for atmosphere. It just needs to not have direct harsh bright flash blasting at the smoke ....nice directional bounced flash that lights the people through the smoke will surely look much better.

11-21-2018, 11:43 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by mcgregni Quote
A modern P-TTL model makes sense for this type of use case, and considering your DSLR.

This all depends on whether you are interested in taking control over the light distribution (ie having light on your subjects), the exposure balancing (background vs foreground), colour balance control (ie having good looking skin tones) and managing excessive contrast within the images .....

If you are interested in all of this, then on camera bounced automatic flash is the way forward. High ISOs do nothing to deal with any of the matters I listed.

Personally I would try and use the smoke to advantage and use it for atmosphere. It just needs to not have direct harsh bright flash blasting at the smoke ....nice directional bounced flash that lights the people through the smoke will surely look much better.
I got advantages of the smoke at times, but only when they first shoot it or playing with long exposures and laser machines

But maybe the picture attached helps to understand how smoky the room gets the whole party: aside from this kind of shoot, I can't get anything else good.

What I should do is to NOT illuminate the smoke between the camera and the subject at all, but illuminate the subject only...
I'll try to bouce the flash to the ceiling, that old thing should perform well since it's SO bright. Besides, I checked it, it's safe to use.
And since they pay me with free drinks, the Vivitar 283 is more than enough
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11-21-2018, 11:51 AM   #10
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Is this time for use of a Black Foamie Thing?
11-21-2018, 12:39 PM   #11
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Yes, flag off the direct light.

11-21-2018, 01:36 PM   #12
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A Vivitar 283 ?? ...... I'd be very interested to know how you would plan on controlling the flash exposure, whilst controlling your ambient exposure simultaneously, in the sort of shooting environments you are telling us about.
11-21-2018, 02:05 PM   #13
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The guidance from the peanut gallery seems to point pretty strongly to getting a new flash. It doesn't seem like a very powerful one would be required to still provide noticeable improvement.

An FA 50 1.4 or one of the 50 or 55mm f1.2 k-mount lenses out there might be nice as well. I like the 50 1.8 wide open but you can't argue against more light gathering from the lens.
11-21-2018, 03:55 PM - 1 Like   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by pres589 Quote
. I like the 50 1.8 wide open but you can't argue against more light gathering from the lens.
Ok, I will.

The issue is the shadows on the people.

There's too many stops difference in their faces and the club lighting, and the tendency will be to get silhouettes only.

The flash is used at events to narrow the difference, like shooting outdoors in sunshine.

Like all photography, you work out the depth of field needed to capture your subjects, and for two to five people that might be f4 or 5.6 and you arrange the light appropriately.

Last edited by clackers; 11-21-2018 at 05:15 PM.
11-22-2018, 02:59 AM   #15
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You've found some premium cashews up there then Clackers! Lucky, it seems we need to improve on the quality of advice given here, apparently .....

I agree entirely about the aperture ..... Both focus and DOF are compromised in these environments by wide open primes. Really, the true "light gathering" potential comes from the camera itself .... With the KPs ISO performance you have a real advantage WITH flash! Shooting at 1600 or above will give you ambient light recording plus add to the flash effective Guide Number, meaning that bounce and flags become possible without too much power sapping .... And yes, you may not need the most powerful flash as a result.
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