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I have been shooting (small) live concerts with poor env. lightning for some years now with the help of F/1.4 & 2.8 lenses, mostly using a 160th shutter speed to make sure that the fast movements of the musicians are not giving me blurred shots. I also stop the camera down by one stop. I left aperture and ISO automatic and got (IMHO) nice results.

Here are the original, and the corrected white balance.

As shot white balance enter image description here

The issue is however that the lightning in the locations had too strong color accents, mostly red. I did white-balance correction (using Lightroom) on the photo afterwards but I want to still have less red in the shot since the white balance turns yellow too much into green. So I though I use a flash to be able to neutralize the color somewhat. I am very inexperienced with flash photography and want to find the right way to achieve the following:

  • Neutralize some of the ambient colors, but not all
  • keep the shallow depth of field of the 1.4-2.8 apertures
  • keep the sharpness of a relatively fast shutter speed (100-160th)

I have now seen this video and thought I can use the advice in reverse to preserve color instead of getting rid of it: By using a slow (lower than sync) shutter speed, I could make part of the red go away, but now I am afraid it will blur the picture too much.

So is there any best practice to add some flash into an image to alter the colors more towards white light? How do I control this while still keeping the image sharp? I know I cannot shoot with even an 80th of a second...

I am using a Canon 5D MKIII, Speedlite 600EX-RT and 50/35mm 1.4 lens, shot in RAW.

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    Perhaps you can make use of a coloured gel (that matches the stage lights) mounted on the flash and then adjust the WB to get the desired look? Another trick is to turn the image into a B/W if the colours are too messed up. – Hugo Jun 6 '14 at 7:58
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    I actually like the original one! :-) It is understood that there is theatrical lighting magic going on here, so the effect is not undesirable at all.. – TFuto Jun 6 '14 at 10:37
  • yes, except when it's on all the photos :) – uncovery Jun 6 '14 at 10:59
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I'd like to see the "greenish" version of the photo. Could you please use a WB pick-up tool on the white letter "C" in the background (or whatever the figure is, looks like a C..) and then add the resulting photo here.

In case it is not clear, adjusting whitebalance has to be done in a RAW converter software like Lightroom or RAWTherapee or suchlike, not in an image editing software like Photoshop (if there is a WB pick-up tool in Photoshop even, I wouldn't know;)

However, I did try a tune-up in GIMP for what little can be done to colors after a photo has been converted into a JPEG image. The guitar player seems to have a white T-shirt on. I tried to turn it from dirty reddish white to cleaner white, and see what effect this has on the whole image. I think it is still clear to everyone that there is red lights out there.

enter image description here

Therefore, the solution to your problem could well lie in post-processing, not so much in your camera settings. Perhaps try to forget the -1 EC, so you could avoid brightening a too dark photo in post. A flash can do miracles sometimes, but the band on stage might not like it too much, and you would also like to avoid the dust and fiber flying in the air, as a flash makes it very visible in a photo.

  • This photo does not get that green. This applies more to photos with a yellow light source in the frame. I will post a sample once I get home. Btw I do not try to get completely rid of the red shades. I only want to reduce them. Maybe the photo I posted here is not the best example. – uncovery Jun 6 '14 at 7:57
  • Please make a new jpeg from your chosen original RAW file. Use a WB pick-up tool on a surface that should be white or neutral grey. Do not do any further color tuning or any automatic fix features. This is about the colors and tones in your photographs, not a critique session, so don't be too hesitant to post the worst ;) – Esa Paulasto Jun 6 '14 at 8:01
  • ok, uploaded a new image now – uncovery Jun 6 '14 at 9:24
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You can't effectively use white balance tweaks or filtering to account for true colored lighting. A color filter is going to block all other colors of light, so there's no other color information to adjust. For example, in your photo, the red filter is blocking out green and blue light. When you try to adjust the white balance to make the image cooler, there's no green/blue color information to boost, so the adjustment isn't particularly effective and ends up looking unnatural.

The best solution, in my opinion, is to embrace the colored lighting and try to use it for good effect. Boost saturation and go for intense colors instead of natural skin tones. Use color to capture the excitement and atmosphere of a live performance. If you try to compensate for it with alternative lighting or post-production adjustments, the result will probably look even more unnatural than stage lighting.

If you want to give some of your photos a different look, you could try converting to black and white. That will solve your color problems entirely, but may not really be what you want.

As a side note, a bright flash can be very distracting to performers and their audience during a performance. I'd suggest you avoid it if at all possible.

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It won't really differ from traditional flash usage. My recommendation would be to get a powerful flash that will have enough power and then use either shutter speed or flash exposure compensation to achieve the desired balance of color.

What you are trying to do is mix the amount of ambient light (which is constantly on) with the amount of light from the flash (which is only on for a very short period of time. The longer you make the exposure, the less light needs to come from the flash and the quicker the camera will make the flash pulse (thus lowering the amount of light from the flash used in the exposure while simultaneously increasing the amount of ambient light used in the exposure.)

Most decent flashes can reduce to as low as 1/128th of full power.

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Uncovery - For future sessions at the clubs, I recommend using a Gray Card. Almost every camera store as them. You can add this technique as one more tool to some of the tricks & techniques in the prior answers.

You can do two things with the card.

1) You can hold the card in the light you plan to use, fill your camera frame with the card, and then adjust you Custom Whitebalance based on the light reflecting off of that card. You may want to pick up a larger card for this method - it's easier to hold in the ambient light and fill the frame.

2) Separately, you can use that aforementioned shot as your neutral reference in post processing. Or, take a shot of the card with your current WB settings and use the shot as your WB reference. Note that you can shoot it with your ambient plus flash lighting.

The key is that you have a genuinely neutral reference.

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