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How Do You Avoid Having Shadows When Shooting Rooms with a Ceiling Fan?

March 6th, 2017

Rob in Southern CA asks:

What’s the best way to avoid shadows on ceilings fans, chandeliers, etc? When using strobes I know I can blend in an ambient exposure but I’m looking for a technique or trick without those extra steps.

Yes, shadows from things that hang from ceilings are a pain! The trick to eliminating the shadows from hanging things is to use multiple flashes from different directions. This is an important enough subject that Scott Hargis has a whole chapter on the subject in his ebook: Lighting Interiors. Scott shows how with a couple of small flashes when positioned correctly you can completely eliminate these annoying shadows.

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11 Responses to “How Do You Avoid Having Shadows When Shooting Rooms with a Ceiling Fan?”

  • Agreed. Watching Scott’s video, he does such a great job on covering that. It can be done with a single flash if there is enough ambient coming into the room too. One of the tricks is to have the additive light lower than the ceiling fan. Another is to, use as slow as possible of a shutter speed to allow as much ambient in as possible, bounce the light off the wall and adjust the output so it blends rather than overpowers the ambient.

  • I found an easier way by accident on day. If you use the little white card built into the flash and have it up and on the side closest to the fan, you won’t get a shadow. Works perfectly.

  • If you’re shooting with the flash mounted to the camera’s hot shoe, simply flip it straight up, rotate it 180 degrees, then tilt it back toward you one click. You’d basically be shooting straight up into the ceiling, but at a slight 5 to 10 degree angle backwards. Voila!

    Marc and Carolyn’s suggestions work wonders, too.

  • I just shoot straight up from behind the camera, higher up for taller ceilings. It just disperses the light better, rather than hard bouncing, the latter of which is what causes the shadows (it’s based on the angle at which the bounced light is meeting the fixture).

    Sometimes even small things like angled can lights will still produce shadows, but it’s easy enough to get rid of those or even leave them alone if you’re sure it won’t be noticed.

  • Rich Baum just uploaded a tutorial to his YouTube channel, http://www.youtube.com/c/richbaum, where he shoots and then processes a living room with a ceiling fan and goes over his technique to eliminate shadows from ceiling fans, add dimensionality and get a good window pull.

  • I don’t shoot rooms with ceiling fans…So not worth it.

  • There’s an easy and very inexpensive solution. I find that using card on the flash backwards is hit or miss, depending on where your flash units are located.

    A more accurate way to do this is to get yourself some black vinyl like the sign companies use. They usually have scraps they’ll give you, or you could buy some from them. Then, you cut pieces that are 3-4 inches high, and long enough to wrap 3 sides of your speedlight. It can be held on with rubber bands or using velcro. The height above the speedlight can be adjusted so that it forms a gobo between the flash tube and the ceiling fan. You can even still point the speedlight forward a little, so long as the flashtube can’t hit the fan directly. (the distance from speedlight to fan will determine how high you need to go) I don’t wrap the vinyl all the way around the flash unit because I think you may lose 1/2 to 3/4 of of a stop that way – you just need enough to form the gobo without any light escaping out the sides, but without obstructing and losing any light from the tube. I’ve made mine with self stick velcro, but then stitched the velcro to the vinyl for extra strength and longevity.

  • @Tim, you’d be out of business in the Antelope Valley if you didn’t want to shoot a room with a ceiling fan in it. It’s rarer out here in the desert to find a room without one. I had to take the one out of the laundry room of the house I bought. Strangely enough, the master bedroom didn’t have one and I haven’t bothered to put one in.

  • @kelvin Hammond – you mean like this, but using different materials. http://neilvn.com/tangents/about/black-foamie-thing/ ?

  • @Steve Hughs yup, that’s pretty close, but maybe a little tall. Mine is maybe 2 inches above the flash tube, and even then, it forces me to raise the iso from 320 to 500. Small price to pay for having to retouch the fan shadow out. Then again, I’m using beefy Godex TT850’s with a GN-58, and I think anything less then that output might be pushing it (grain from higher ISO’s) If you wrap around the entire flash unit you lose even more.

  • Thanks Kelvin Hammond 🙂

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