How to Tame Ambient Light With Flash When Shooting Indoor Portraits

A common challenge for many portrait photographers is shooting people in a room with very strong ambient light. This tutorial and demonstration video gives a good solution to that, as well as to the challenges of shooting in front of a mirror. 

Coming to you from portrait photographer Jiggie Alejandrino, this tutorial talks about overcoming the very bright ambient light in a scene to give better mood to an environmental portrait. In the video, Jiggie talks about helpful light modifiers to pair with your speedlights to create moody indoor portraits. This method comes in handy when shooting indoors so as to not end up with very bland lighting. Whether you're shooting portraits or documenting events, the ability to go around the obstacles of uncontrollable ambient light can help you inject some creativity into your photographs. 

To tame the bright ambient light in the form of actual light bulbs on a makeup mirror, he underexposed the shot by about two stops to keep the bulbs just bright enough to look like orbs creating a halo around the model to give the image a dynamic feel. He then uses a couple of speedlights remotely triggered to cast very soft light onto the face of the model to illuminate it just enough to balance with the lightbulbs. 

At the end of the video, Jiggie shows a demonstration on how he post-processed photos from the shoot in Photoshop to come up with a more refined portrait. 

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Robert Montgomery's picture

A analyzing flash meter like a Minolta Flash Meter IV with its handy dandy analyze switch on the left side. That analyzes and calculates mixed ambient/strobe exposures doesn't hurt either . Made from 1995. Been using one from then too. Kenko bought the rights and makes this meter to this day.

Zack Schindler's picture

Sekonic has a number of meters that do this too. This is what I use.

Robert Montgomery's picture

Cool! I have a Sekonic L508 &L558R that I also use. I use the Minolta IV as a dedicated studio meter .