If you’re a wedding or event photographer, you’ve likely come across mixed light. Whether it be the venue or the time of day, bad lighting can make or break a photo. Being able to work with mixed lighting conditions in photography is a crucial skill for any photographer. In this video/article, we’ll be discussing various examples of mixed light and how to fix it in camera or in post production.
Video: Mixed Lighting Conditions in Photography and How to Fix It
What Is Mixed Lighting?
Before we go into how to fix mixed lighting, let’s first talk about what it is. Mixed lighting is when two or more different colors light up the face of your subject. This can have an unflattering effect. It’s a common occurrence at outdoor or evening events as well as indoors where there are many types of lights.
In this example, the deep orange light clashes with the cool ambient light from the sky. If I try to correct for the skin tone, I end up turning most of the image blue. Not great.
Here’s another example. Here, the warm tungsten light is the dominant source. The window in the back provides neutral daylight. Even after slightly adjusting the white balance for the skin, the image still seems off.
Related Reading: What is Mixed Lighting?
Solution #1: Turn Out the Lights
In this scene, we have daylight coming through the windows and deep tungsten lighting the room. The result is a deep orange hue throughout the image. The solution is quite simple. Turn off the lights and angle your subject to the strongest or most consistent light source. In this room, the daylight is bouncing off the warm colored walls.
If we angle our model to the daylight, we get great highlights and the warm room fills in the shadow side. When we adjust for this in post, we get a much cleaner overall look. This is the easiest solution when you have a large room with a great fill of warm light like we had here.
Solution #2: Use a Gel
When turning out the lights isn’t an option, such as a reception hall, use a gel over your flash.
Most rooms are lit by tungsten or other warm lighting. This is a perfect place to use a CTO gel (Color Temperature – Orange). Then, the flash will balance with the existing light.
In this example, you can see that the colors are all balanced.
It’s not uncommon to see various colored lights like magenta or blue in a reception hall. If that’s the case, leave your light un-gelled. Your daylight balanced light will be closer to those colors.
Solution #3: Editing in Lightroom
In this example, I lit the couple using the natural light from the large door. I left the background lit by the lights inside the chapel. When the colors clash like this, I prefer to ease the background color in post.
First, I set my white balance for the skin and I use HSL to ease up the intensity of the orange in the background. This is quite simple when there is clean separation from foreground and background. However, that’s not always the case.
In situations like this, the room was lit with tungsten but we also had blue lights shining on everybody. When I captured this, I used a CTO gel on my flash to evenly light the faces. Whoever wasn’t getting enough light ended up being blue.
In post, I added some basic settings to start the edit. At Visual Flow, we have a Tungsten Mix preset which corrects for strong blues in these specific situations. However, to do so manually, I pull down the blue saturation in HSL. Then, in luminance, I pull down the brightness. After, I shift the blue hues to complement the oranges in the photo.
In addition to a radial burn, I also added a burn gradient to create a vignette and darken the bottom of the image.
Check out before and after we get our blue tones under control.
I hope you enjoyed this video/article. Mixed lighting conditions in photography can be easy to work around once you get the hang of these tricks. Even in unideal lighting conditions, you can still capture beautiful images. Next week, I discuss when and how to incorporate mixed lighting in your photos, so stay tuned. Be sure to check out Visual Flow‘s lighting based presets as well as SLR Lounge Premium for a full tutorial on weddings, events, and location lighting.