How to Keep Ambient Light from Ruining Your Images

Ambient light is the light not supplied by the photographer in a photo shoot, whether it be from a natural source or a light fixture. Especially when shooting portraits, this light can affect the color and tone of skin in an unfavorable way. The light usually affects the shadows and tints them a color such as green or orange, depending on the source. Lindsay Adler provides a few tips for keeping unwanted ambient light out of your photos:

Solutions for Working with Ambient Light

1. Shoot at or near sync speed. Flash sync speed is the fastest shutter speed you can use without shutter curtains closing mid-flash. This is typically somewhere around 1/200 of a second, but it varies with different gear. A faster shutter blocks out ambient light; the longer your shutter is open, the more ambient light can enter.

2. Turn off or minimize the ambient light. When possible, cover windows with light blocking curtains or turn off any overhead lights.

3. Shoot a test frame without the strobe. Typically, you want a shot without your strobe to result in a black frame. If you can still see your subject in the test shot, the ambient light is interfering.

strobe-turned-off-test-shot

Ideally, your test shot without the strobe will be a completely black frame.

strobe-and-ambient-light-color-cast

A color cast from ambient light becomes more apparent with slower shutter speeds.

4. Increase the power of your flash. If all else fails, close your aperture down and turn the strobe up. This should minimize ambient light.

“Try to get rid of anything that is affecting the tones in your pictures.”

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