I have an event I will be shooting on December 1st, evening time, Christmas party being put on by a large corporate law firm, so it is quite incumbent that I get this right.

I went and visited the location today; It is a rather large banquet room that is surrounded on all sides by floor to ceiling glass windows, it has very high ceilings with lights embedded in them, and, there will also be four different food stations that will have their own set of lights too.

I shoot with a Canon 5 D Mark II, the lens I plan on using for this event is my Tamron 24-70 f 2.8 with a stabilizer, and my flash is a Canon 600 EX-RT. I just purchased a MagBounce flash diffuser, but am wondering if it will be applicable in a situation such as this. Lastly, what mode would you suggest I shoot this event in?

I use AV for pretty much all my fashion shoots, and TV for my previous racing shoots. I did a shoot a couple of years ago that was held in a tavern at night; I used flash and tried to shoot in AV, but the images were a disaster in and for blurriness for most of the images.

It is with the thought of the consequences from that event that I write this today, asking for your expert advice. I have not shot manually; it is unfortunately something I have avoided out of fear of failure, but this is not the time or place to try and rectify that.

I apologize for this long winded post. It is my hope however that my questions will be answered and that I can pull this shoot off with great success. Thank you

  • I agree with Michael Clark, and I would set the shutter for the brightest background. Having the background a bit underexposed is fine for portraits/people shots, often even better. Over-exposed is very bad though. And a CTO filter is probably very much needed. – Orbit Nov 8 at 20:12

I have not shot manually... but this is not the time or place to try and rectify that.

Well, it kind of is, because setting exposure manually will give you the best chance to get the shots you want. The only way to get comfortable shooting in Manual exposure mode is to shoot in Manual exposure mode. But you need to practice it before a big gig.

If you are bound and determined to use a semi-automatic exposure mode, I'd recommend using Aperture Priority.

  • Set the aperture to anywhere from f/2.8 to f/3.5 or f/4.
  • Set the flash to E-TTL and dial in between -1 and -2 stops flash exposure compensation. Take a few sample shots and dial it in based on the results. Be sure to match the camera's LCD brightness to the ambient lighting.
  • Make sure the menu option for shutter speed with flash in Av mode, C.Fn I:Exposure-7 is set to '1/200-1/60sec. auto'. Essentially, this will manually set your Tv to 1/60 second for most of your shots. When you are pointed at a "hot spot", such as the serving tables, the camera will reduce the shutter time to as short as 1/200 second (your camera's flash sync speed).
  • You should also set C.Fn I: Exposure-6 Safety Shift to 'Enable (Tv/Av). This will allow the camera to close down the aperture even further if needed to avoid blowing out highlights in bright spots.
  • Set the ISO to whatever you need to allow the ambient light to show the background a stop or two underexposed.
  • If the lighting is mostly tungsten (warm), then consider gelling your flash with orange to match the output of the flash to the color of the ambient lighting. If the primary lighting is fluorescent, then use a greenish gel.

Sounds like a tough situation! A few things to consider...

Shooting in Av may be challenging with default settings as the camera will try to expose for the dark room. What you usually want is for the room to be a little dark and have the flash illuminate your closest subjects. You can accomplish this a couple of ways.

  1. Shoot manual, dial in the exposure you want for the room (usually leaving it a bit dark) and then let the TTL flash expose your subject. This way you can dial in the aperture and shutter speed you want and not get blurry photos.

  2. Shoot in Av mode, but go to the custom function that tells the camera to use a shutter speed of between 1/60th and 1/200th when using flash. I don't know exactly where the option is in the MkII, but in the MkIII, it's in the Flash settings on the first or second menu.

  3. Consider using manual and Auto ISO (Wait, does the Mk II have Auto ISO?) I often use Auto-ISO and set my range to top out at 3200. Great for when you're often moving between scenes.

  4. If you're surrounded by glass, you probably want to avoid shooting straight at a wall and generally stick with an angle. Remember your High School physics - the angle of incidence equals the angle of reflection. If you shoot a flash at a window, you'll get glare in the background of your photo. If you shoot at an angle to the window, you'll get less or no glare.

If it were me, I think I'd look at the room and dial in my aperture and shutter speed manually. I'd remember two or three ISO settings depending on where I was in the room. ex. the main room might be 3200, but the food stations could be brighter so it's the same aperture and shutter speed, but the ISO may only be 1000.

Finally, practice practice practice! You've got some time to figure out how to shoot manual with flash. Play with the magbounce. It could be helpful in this scenario.

Good luck!

  • 1
    The EOS 5D Mark II does not really do Auto ISO in Manual exposure mode. It will let you set the ISO setting to 'Auto', but the only ISO it will use will be ISO 400 and no other. – Michael Clark Nov 8 at 2:43

I Often shoot in this kind of conditions so my suggestion is Manual setting 60th at f4 ISO 800 t0 1600 Bounce flash, Would be ideal if you have 2 flash heads facings up words in the room if its a big hall such as Waltham forest town hall I normally use 4 heads. Danny Green

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