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Adding light in small rooms

Two Profoto D1 bare bulb adds some light to a small room. BTS

Very often, I find myself in small rooms, trying to do a portrait with limitations in height, width and length. And maybe more things.

Most of the times, I try to squeeze in a light modifier that I think might work, probably a softbox as they are easier to control, and limit stray light/reflections with black fabric. But if there is some kind of situation I need to take a picture of, for example a meeting between a doctor and a patient, taking place at a desk standing near both a window and a wall, that will be harder.

The easiest way, sometimes, is just to add a little light from angles that feels natural in such an environment, and let the room take care of the rest. And that would be from almost straight above, as that is how rooms like that are lit.


This is the unfinished (and pixelated) photo from the room above. I stand in the open door with a Nikon D800 and a 70-200/2.8 II VR trying to get at least a little blur in the background (hard to see in this photo, I know).

Instead of trying to sculp the light in any way, I just point two Profoto D1 without any reflectors or other kinds of light modifiers up, just bare bulbs against the ceiling and let the bouncing light do the rest to make it feel at least a little natural (in a stock photo-ish way).

The result, in my opinion, is better than expected. I was thinking that I would need at least one light pointing in the models direction, but this was more than enough. Just experimenting with the light ratio, and match the shutter speed and aperture to mix the light coming in from the windows until I got something that looked good.

Having the walls so close by didn’t give me much choice, but it also gave me reflected fill light that worked out well. Ok, there will be some time in Photoshop to tone down the reflections in the windows, but other than that, I will probably not do any major adjustments to it.

One thing that might have improved this shot would have been some diffusion, so next time I think I will put a panel with diffusion fabric next to the models, just outside the frame, to soften the light a little more.

But, even if this worked out well in this small room (and that is much thanks to the nice white walls) I wouldn’t leave my reflectors at home next time. This is a technique that is almost only about fill light, but without the color-free room, it wouldn’t have worked.

Will post the finished photos as soon as they are delivered to my client.

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