Threatre/Indoor shoots

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I am currently preparing for shoot for my company function. But during rehearsal the shoots turn out either harsh flash on the face or the background not bright enough.

Tried using speeds like 1/60, iso 800 and aperture of 2.8/4/5.6/8, with flash + omnibounce, flash compensation +/- 1 EV. Still not right.

Using DSLR for this shoot.

Is there anything that I should consider first before shoot? Custom WB? Would it help?


New Member
Aug 12, 2002
Down-Below, Babylon 5
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hi rob,

you had the omnibounce attached the whole time? did u try w/o it? (bounce cards seem to be the best in such situations that u describe)

u could try FEL, did u try that?

well i'm no expert but just giving some suggestions that may help. would also like to learn :)


Senior Member
Don't use Omnibounce. Give it to a friend - he'll be happy. :)

Omnibounce loses too much light. When working with low light situations, the last thing you want is to lose somemore light.

Use direct flash if there's no ceiling, bounce card if there is. My SOP is to use ISO 640, 1/30s @ f/4. f/8 will give you the typical harsh, black background look.

If you can describe the location in more detail, it would be easier too. :)


It is a threatrette where the function will be held under spotlighting situation. So a strong orange cast would appear, I guess. Not much of fluorescent lights.

Here are some test shots I took yesterday:

Shutter speed: 1/60 sec
Aperture: 2.8
ISO 800
Flash exposure compensation: -1
Flash pointed upwards

Shutter speed: 1/60 sec
Aperture: 4.0
ISO 800
Flash exposure compensation: -1
Flash directly pointed at her

More can be found here

Help is greatly appreciated :)


Senior Member
Your pics look rather okay. I think in such environments, there's not much you can do to the orange cast (which I think is in no way objectionable). Shoot wide open if you have to.



Staff member
Jan 17, 2002
how high is the ceiling ?? From the gallery , it looks low to me ...

maybe try

550EX with head tilt 75 degree + a reflector card
flash compensate +0 to +1
mode : P
ISO : 400 to 800 ...

Red Dawn

Senior Member
Jan 17, 2002

aiyo.....this is a mess....with all the different advice..

nek - u know why your pictures are dark? what are u doing with -1 flash exposure comp in the 2 example pics above??!!!?!?

without actually seeing the theatrette u're in, i can only conjecture a few possible scenarios. In a dimly lit room with only spotlights, there's likely to be no way to use flash without destroying the ambient too much. You can go the route of eliminating flash altogether, or use it for very mild fill, but as you have discovered, with colour emulsions / digital, you will end up with colour casts.

so first of all you need to make some technical decisions for flash use. For me (and that's me), since it is too dim for decent handholdable speeds, i would choose to let the flash be the main source of illumination. This helps to get the subject nicely lit, freeze motion, allow me a smaller aperture for more DOF, and eliminates the ugly colour cast of artificial lighting. And that means switching the camera to manual mode, choosing a moderate aperture of around f4 to f5.6 depending how much DOF i want (a group shot requires more DOF), and setting the shutter to 1/50 to 1/60. ISO will be set to 800 for a good combination of speed and grain / noise balance. The EV value for this combination of aperture and shutter speeds will still allow me to retain some ambient light, giving background with details, with the subjects well illuminated and details well brought out by the strobe. I would use a bounce card to soften the light hitting the subject.

For more dynamic / action based shots, you might want try something more experimental. You can try exposing correctly for ambient, which means a shutter speed that is not handholdable. However, throw in a hint of fill flash (or just let the flash do its normal work without compensation) and you will get subjects frozen in motion but with nice motion trails and often stylistically blurred backgrounds. The entire scene will be well lit (cos u exposed for ambient). This is now my favourite mode of flash use, but only for dynamic subjects.

Some pple call that technique slow sync flash, watever. Just don't try it for normal shots else u will get ghosting effects and many pple will question you for that. I understand some magazine / picture edtiors do not like slow sync effects.

If u're feeling really gungho, or shooting theatre / stage work, you can try shooting available light, or with the minimum of fill flash, but be aware of the colour cast issues. For stage work / dance / theatre, colour cast is good since stage lighting is often colourful and varied, but not so for such corporate events!

i did a paid shoot at Hard Rock Cafe recently in December, and i'm sure HRC is just as dark, if not darker, than the theatrette u got there. These are stuff that i applied in real life. And they work, just as in previous shoots.


Senior Member
Jan 17, 2002
OK I'm no expert, but here's my two cents worth:

1. Your flash exposures are terribly inconsistent. Some are over-exposed, some are underexposed. Welcome to the world of E-TTL. Either learn to FEL, or get a cheap auto flash (my favourite is Achiever 260T) and experiment with that. More consistent.

2. In a dark situation, my choice of settings would be: ISO 800, f2.8 (f1.8 if available - consider using your 50mm without flash), AF assist on (you can use the one on your 550EX without triggering the flash). Get a grey card and use custom white balance. If you don't have a grey card, try using a Pringle's lid as an expodisc.



2-cents worth,

Got into similar problems while doing some photo shoots for a company D&D previously. Managed to overcome some problems by following this:-

1) Mounting slave flashes (2x) at the back to lighten up the backstage. This will help to light up your background light. Also have two slave flashes fitted with omni-flashes at the front stage to lighten up the dancers' faces. I used 6 flashes, excluding the Metz flashes on my Nikon for proper lighting of the dane stage.

2) ISO400 setting using wide aperture.

I guess, if possible, try to soften the flashlight, and avoid direct flash on subjects' faces. Use more than 1 flash for better results.

Of ocurse, situation differs for everyone, the above configuration helps in my situation. May not for yours. So yougotta to try it out.

Thanks and good luck.

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