I’m mostly out of the loop when it comes to popular culture. Live TV is pretty much reserved for sports, and I’m still catching up on box set series that finished years ago (up next: Tinker, Tailer, Soldier, Spy. With Alec Guinness...). So, when I got to shoot last year’s Apprentice winner at a couple of events run by Abbots Group I had absolutely no inside knowledge (and, to be fair, no real idea beforehand who the speaker was. Mark Wright, for those of you who would be in the same position as me).
Fortunately, Mark’s presentation was a nice autobiography, so I had a fair idea of what kind of look I wanted to get for him. Which left me with just the bad lighting to worry about - PowerPoint might be very useful for presenters (or maybe not), but heavy backlighting in a dimly lit room isn’t without its challenges. But what would life be without challenges?
So here are a couple of my images, but also a little lesson on how they were captured - great if you’re ever in a low-light situation, or with a strong light in the background that you can’t avoid!
200mm, F4, 1/160s, ISO 5000
The key here is to expose for the subject - the presenter - and not for the screen. Your camera will look to make an average exposure for the whole scene which because there is a lot of the well-lit screen in the shot, it will think is bright. If you used the camera's metering, your subject could be dark.
Here, I shot in aperture priority mode, but knowing that the camera was exposing for the screen I increased the exposure compensation. This has the effect of brightening the image - you can see that the screen appears a little washed out, but this is unavoidable (and not really a problem) - but Mark’s face is exposed properly. Because the main light for this image comes from the screen, there is a nice shadow falling across Mark’s face giving depth to the shot.
The high ISO used means that some sharpness is lost, but there is little noise (thanks to both the camera’s capabilities and some noise removal in post-processing) and it isn’t an issue for a shot like this.
As alternatives to shooting in aperture priority with exposure compensation would be to change the metering mode to spot, and lock the exposure onto the subjects face (although this might overexpose the screen in the background too much) or to shoot manually and choose an exposure brighter than the camera’s meter suggests.
125mm, F4, 1/200s, ISO 1000, flash
Here, I used flash to light Mark, enabling the camera to expose for the screen (which is less washed out than in the image above). When shooting with flash, I (always) use manual mode. On this occasion I followed the camera’s in-built meter, knowing that it would expose for the screen (I tend to set my aperture and shutter speed to something appropriate, and use ISO to change exposure in these situations).
The flash was on-camera (often not ideal, but I was moving around and it gave me the speed and flexibility I needed), set to e-TTL and bouncing off the ceiling (to spread the light and reduce red eye). The danger with on camera flash with an audience between you and the subject is that audience members (especially those that are blond or bald) might reflect the flash and cause hot spots. Here, I’ve been lucky with a mostly dark-haired audience, but you may have to re-frame your shot (or darken in post-production).