Basic lighting to make something from nothing

Normally I enjoy photographing things like council meetings, conferences and workshops, because you can produce some great candid images. This public meeting with the police and fire service was a little more challenging. For a start there weren’t many people there. And it wasn’t appropriate to shoot from the front of the room so the only pics I could get of the public were the backs of people’s heads. So I had to make nice pics of a policeman standing in front of a projector screen in a room lit by fluorescent lights! Not going to happen, is it? Obviously I had to throw a bit of controlled lighting in to the mix.

Here’s the picture I ended up producing:

Hilton police and fire public meeting 1

The flash was positioned camera left, but it had to be further away than the policeman and pointing back at him, to avoid any light hitting the projector screen. Any flash hitting the screen would turn it pure white, and I wanted to use the writing as a backdrop. So the flash was zoomed to 70mm with just enough power to put a splash of light on the side of the policeman. That created another challenge — the pic could only be taken when the policeman moved within the narrow beam of flash light. I paid attention to where he stood most often and aimed the flash at that spot, but ultimately the timing of the shot came down to luck.

Here’s the lighting diagram, not to scale. The flash was on a chair because I didn’t have a light stand with me. The low angle gave the light a hard quality that worked well for this subject. The flash was fired by Pocket Wizards.

Policeman with projector screen

Here’s what the room looked like:

Hilton police and fire public meeting 6

Another quick-n-dirty trick you could try in this situation is exposing for the projector screen and under-exposing by a stop to make the colours pop, and leave the person in silhouette. I shot a lot of silhouette pics of this meeting but none of them had the impact I was looking for. Also a lot of papers frown on silhouette pics nowadays, so it has to be something really special to get printed.

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