What to Do When Shooting Flash-Ambient and There Are Shadows When Using Darken Mode?

December 9th, 2018

Joshua in the UK asks:

I shoot for flash-ambient blending and find that when using the darken-mode window pull technique I get shadows cast on balconies when I flash my windows. Is there a workaround for this?

Yes; with this technique, where you aim the flash(s) directly into the windows your flash(s) can cause unwanted shadows. The workaround is to just remove the shadow in Photoshop or move your flashes around to reduce or eliminate shadows.

One way to control shadows from your flash is to use a single flash and shoot a separate flash frame for each window as Nathan does in this window pull tutorial.

Does anyone have any other advice for Joshua?

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7 Responses to “What to Do When Shooting Flash-Ambient and There Are Shadows When Using Darken Mode?”

  • I always make one exposure of the window without the flash to have a frame to clean up the view looking out of the window.

  • I was going to be a smart guy and say “stop using the flash” but I understand. I shot with flash for many years, well a few before I gave up and went with the crowd of all ambient.

    During that time I did discover the Gary Fong diffuser after a couple of bags full of other diffusers. It was great.

    Then today, while looking for that same diffuser to answer this post, I found this tidbit of a 99 cent DIY diffuser. It just may help. My guess is that if you can reduce the shadows a good bit then a touch up with the magic brush in LR will do the trick.

    Or maybe not.

  • I assume the OP is asking about shadows caused by furniture and light fixtures that are in the path of the window.

    When possible, it helps to aim the flash from the camera position and right above. When it’s not possible, or this still produces unwanted shadows, I’ve found that while it’s time-consuming, it’s best to change the brush to 100% flow/opacity/hardness, and switch to black brush using X key and work within the darken mode mask. Precision is key here, but along the window frames, it’s easy and much quicker to hold Shift and click along the edge of the window frame to get a straight line and fix any noticeable smaller areas free-hand. This also goes for anything where there is a straight line like a table or chairs.

    Usually, if it’s just the window frame, it’s easiest to do this with Shift click, and can be pretty quick. To be more precise you can reduce brush hardness to 75-80% to improve transition between the mask and original photo.

    Maybe this is just me, but whatever you do, I wouldn’t try to clone out the shadows, at least not with large windows where it would be noticeable. The shadow and color transitions are just too fine and graded to the point you could spend hours trying to make it look right.

  • @Ryan. My read was that Joshua was getting flash on things outside of the window with heavy shadows. That happens to me especially when there is an awning/posts outside. Having the frame with no flash either for the window pull or to light the room (reflections), it let’s me paint out or at least soften any bleed that I don’t want. The other option would be to put a flash outside to add light to combat the spill, but that could be a giant pain to get right. Even just having a completely ambient frame and doing a bit of quick selection work to only paint inside the lines can be very fast.

  • I would say the workaround is to stop using the darken mode window pull technique.

  • What type of accounting software is available to photographers?
    I have been using Quick Books, but now I can’t email my invoices due to some problem QB has with gmail accounts.

  • once you did the window flash, go outside on to the balcony and bounce the flash off the balcony ceiling if there is one, then use lighten layer mode to fix shadows there

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