I was taking a building structure with nice ambient light using high ISO without flash. The photo turned out as what I expected. However, when I took it with a person as foreground with Canon Speedlite as flash, the building structure at the background became too dark especially the ambient light became yellow. Any ideas how to take the person as foreground with the same lighting effect of the building as background as what I mentioned with good ambient light?
1) Photo (Photo 1.jpg) taken with nice ambient light without flash. f/2.8 1/40 21mm 0EV ISO 6400

enter image description here

2) Photo (Photo 2.jpg) taken with the same ambient light with a person and flash. f/2.8 1/40 20mm 0EV ISO 6400

enter image description here


2 Answers 2


The building did not become darker in the second picture, the colors are different but the brightness is about the same.

There are two differences between the photos:

  1. White balance.

    The building is lit with somewhat yellow lights, in the 1st picture the camera compensates and makes the light white.

    For the second picture the flash's light is blue, the camera again compensate making it white - but that makes the yellow light of the building even yellower.

    If you just set the white balance for the building the girl in the background will become blue (I guess you don't want that) - to get teh right color for both foreground and background you need the color of the lights to match, you do that by using a "CTO gel" (basically, an orange transparent film) - that will make your flash also yellow and let you get both the building and the girl in natural color.

    Note that it probably won't work with auto white balance.

  2. The building is out of focus

    Since it is dark outside you are probably using a large aperture to get more light into the camera, light aperture causes shallow DOF and so you can't get both foreground and background in focus at the same time.

    To get more in focus you will need to close down your aperture (use a higher F number), this will make the exposure longer, it won't effect thee person in the foreground much because the flash's burst of light is still very short but you will need to hold the camera steady longer to avoid motion blur in the building - this can be solved by using a tripod or placing the camera on some solid surface nearby.


The problem with the second photo is that your light sources are different temperatures, or have a different white balance. I'm guessing that you had your camera's white balance set to the "Auto" setting. Since the first photo used only the ambient light, the "Auto" setting did a decent job of setting the correct white point for the scene.

In the second photo, your camera based the white balance on the color temperature of your flash, which is considerably cooler or bluer, than the ambient lighting. The ambient lighting isn't much, if any, dimmer. It just appears to be when your eyes and brain compare it to the brighter, whiter, light in the foreground.

To balance the light sources, the easiest thing would be to place an orange gel over your flash so that it would be closer to the colors of the ambient light. This would allow you (or your camera using Auto WB) to set the white point so that the background and ambient lights are both the same color.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks Michael & Nir, may I know the CTO gel or orange gel that you mentioned is it attached like the white cover diffusion on the flash? \$\endgroup\$
    – Kenny
    Commented May 30, 2013 at 1:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ You can get an orange/gold diffusion cover or you can take a piece of orange cine-gel and cover the head of the flash. If you have a set of gels it will give you more choices over the exact shade. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented May 30, 2013 at 2:31

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