How to Photograph in Fluorescent Lighting

May 31, 2010 · 4 comments

in Interiors,Tutorials

I love sharing knowledge, I believe this is the only we truly grow and improve ourselves. Anyway, I recently received the following question via my blog, and thought I may as well make a tutorial out of it!

“My name is Tino Jensen, I am a Danish national and I am one of those ‘reborn’ amateur photographers: Sold my hunting rifle last year and bought a Canon EOS 500D 18-55 mm kit, an EFS 55-250 mm telezoom plus a Canon Speedlite 430EXII flash. I found your homepage when looking for info on how to take pictures with flash (bounce). I have been challenged with a huge task; to take pictures inside of a dental clinic…! I would be most grateful if you would be kind enough as to give me some few hints on what light source to use (flash / no flash). Further, they want the pictures to reflect some ‘action’ in stead of static pictures… Thank you for taking the time to read this and hope to hear from you. Very best regards, Tino Jensen, Denmark”

Hi Tino, thanks for your inquiry – you didn’t mention what type of light source there is in the dental clinic, but since most dentists use fluorescent lighting, I’ll assume that is the case. This is what I would do:

1. Set up your camera on a sturdy tripod (I like Manfrotto)

2. Set your white balance manually, or you can also set your camera to the predefined fluorescent white balance setting. This will create a far more neutral colour cast. Also, since fluorescent lighting is not directional like tungsen lighting, your image will have soft pleasing shadows.

3. In order to get some movement or motion blur, experiment with slow shutter speeds. Try anything from 1 second – 1/30, but the time will largely depend on how fast the dentist / subject is moving.

4. I would not recommend shooting with flash, or bounce flash in this enviroment. I prefer using bounce flash for events, weddings, and informal portraiture.

5. Once you’ve downloaded your images, open your images in Photoshop, and play around with the Levels.

All the best for your shoot!

Below are two images I shot in a fluorescent environment:

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Tino Jensen June 1, 2010 at 5:54 pm

Dear Rikki.

Thank you very much for your tutorial, which actually prevented me from making some pretty basic (read: ugly…) mistakes.
You’re right about the fluorescent light at the dental clinic, and although I initially found it difficult to come up with ways to get some action into a dental clinic – apart from screaming patients running away – I have found your advice on the shutter speeds very useful.
Well, now it’s only up to me to go practise on my dog and wife and then I’m all ready and set to go – and I will not use flash ;-))
Again, thank you so much and I hope to be able to show you some of my ‘work’ in the future,
Cheers, Tino :-)

rikki hibbert June 3, 2010 at 11:37 am

Hi Tino
It’s my pleasure, glad I could help! all the best for your shoot, looking forward to seeing the results!
By the way, I wanted to mention – I love the fact that you have moved from shooting a rifle to shooting with a camera – Nice!

Erika June 9, 2010 at 4:06 pm

Sharing is caring! You’re a star, Rikki.
From your biggest fan!

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