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How to Deal with Flash Glare in Windows

Published: 06/04/2019

Shooting with flash is probably the best way to deal with overcoming the high dynamic range challenge when shooting interiors. But there are some challenges that present themselves often when using flash and we all tend to develop techniques of our own to deal with them. One of those challenges that I come across all the time is dealing with reflections in windows or in framed art which are caused by my flash.

I hand-hold my flash somewhere above my camera and point it at the ceiling. Sometimes I'll see a large spot of glare in the window caused by my flash, and that forces me to place my flash elsewhere--a pretty simple solution. But what do you do where there is so much glass around you that you can't seem to "hide" the flash reflection effectively, no matter where you place it?

In this short video, I show you one such example and go over what I do to overcome the issue with just an extra 10-15 seconds on site and 30 seconds in post.

How do you handle this situation?

10 comments on “How to Deal with Flash Glare in Windows”

  1. I do much the same.
    I would be curious how you handle a situation where lighting the interior makes the room so bright that the window gets an overall reflection of the room (not just the spot area of the flash) that washes out the exterior a fair amount. I sometimes encounter this with situations where I have to run a lot of flash in order to the windows exposed properly. One thing I have done is to do a ambient shot with no flash and cut the exterior out and paste that over the flash show, perhaps blending if needed. This works ok for just glass, but when you have blinds over the window as well, then you wind up with dark blinds.

  2. @David, Have you tried "darken mode window pull" techniques?

    I always make an exposure for the view with no flash and lights off to have a clean up frame if I need it. It's not very useful for blinds but great for sliding doors and big view windows that are going to have some sort of reflection no mater where you put your light(s). The clean up frame must be at the same camera settings as the "darken mode" frame or the repair won't work very well.

  3. Well one solution is to go HDR even if you normally shoot with flash. Good to have as many tools to solve problems with as you can. I have not used flash since 2012. I had to use it when shooting film. But its not just windows that present problems but many houses have mirrors too, highly polished floors, counters and so on. Naturally especially in bathrooms and they may not just reflect the flash but the over exposed parts of the room that you don't include in your framing. And before everyone jumps on me for suggestion HDR, yes I know HDR can be used badly, just like flash can be used badly. But it can also be used well and some people combine a flash exposure with it for a variety of reasons. But personally I don't use any image as it comes out of an HDR app. I always then work with it in Photoshop or LR would do much the same thing. Frankly after using flash for decades in adverting and annual report photography, it is a delight not to have to lug around all that equipment even the highly miniature flashes available today and with digital cameras, they require far less flash power from flash than film required which is a Godsend.

    When most still photographers would use flash, when I need additional lighting, I use LED video lights since I am usually also shooting video of the property. So with long exposures, you can turn off the LED lights partway through the exposure to the get balance you want as well as having controls over the intensity of the LEDs. You can also use quartz lights with blue gels (or in a tungsten lit room just with the bulbs as they come) which are powerful enough to get good light output from umbrella bounce which keeps the color balance un-affected by the color of the wall paint. Continuous lights also let you see exactly what you are going to get when you look through the view finder as you set them up so any reflections are apparent before you press the shutter.

    All depends how you like to work.

  4. I always shoot on a tripod with several lights on stands and always one unit in my hand. I fire directly at the window in two different areas and mask out the hot spots in post.

  5. Thanks for the timely topic, Garey. Yesterday I encountered an "L" shaped bathroom area with vanities far left and right and deep tub between in the corner with picture windows on each side of the corner over the tub. I've just started to mix flash in with my HDR routine. With some shots I simply had to fall back to HDR and with no flash. No matter where I placed my flash(es), I ended up with a large reflection off of the glass over the tub.

  6. Steven Schafer - For the shower door, I either prop the door open slightly, if it is the swinging door type. I keep some dollar store door stops in my bag just in case. If the shower door is the sliding sort, I doors to one side. If neither of those is workable, I do like the video says, take my normal shot with the bad reflection, then move my flash, and take another shot, poorly lit, but without the reflection and composite them in PS.

  7. @Steven Schafer. Nathan Cool has a short tutorial on glass shower door reflections where you would pop a flash on the inside of the shower which can get rid of a reflection on the outside surface of glass. It works great. To kill flash highlights on silver/chrome framing, it's the same thing as Gary shows; move the flash to put the hot spot somewhere else and brush in the non-highlight in Photoshop.

  8. All good suggestions! Yes, I do occasionally add a pop of flash from inside the shower to help with reflections. I run into that issue rarely, though, but in fact this same house that you see in this video was one where I had to use that technique, in the master bathroom. Black tile in the shower and on the floor, and a "galley" style floorplan with limited possibilities for flash placement. Add a giant mirror into the mix, and it was a perfect storm of challenges. Had to pull out all of the tricks in that one... wish I had a camera crew to film that one, as it would have made a good video!

  9. All good suggestions! Yes, I do occasionally add a pop of flash from inside the shower to help with reflections. I run into that issue rarely, though, but in fact this same house that you see in this video was one where I had to use that technique, in the master bathroom. Black tile in the shower and on the floor, and a "galley" style floorplan with limited possibilities for flash placement. Add a giant mirror into the mix, and it was a perfect storm of challenges. Had to pull out all of the tricks in that one... wish I had a camera crew to film that one, as it would have made a good video!

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