Reception Lighting Techniques

Have you ever showed up to a reception and started shooting everything in sight, only to look back later and see that all your images have some seriously orange color in the background? What is the deal with that??

One problem that photographers encounter when shooting indoors is that the color of their flash and the color of the ambient light (tungsten) does not seem to match.  Anytime lights in a room have an orange or amber tint to them, that means that they are tungsten colored. The color is measured in Kelvin degrees (which is what your digital camera understands) and different lighting situations will have different kelvin temperatures (or different white balances) usually ranging between 2200 to 10000 “degrees.” The lower the number (like 2200) the warmer the light is interpreted by your camera, and inversely, the higher the number (like 7500) the cooler the light is.

So if you have your camera set to a pre-set (or auto) white balance for say, tungsten (2800 degrees kelvin), then took a photo outside when it was cloudy (7500 degrees kelvin), the color would come out really blue (or cold) since your camera is set to a warm light setting and the outside light is very cool.

So, the problem with using any type of flash during a reception is that the color temperature of the flash is normally daylight balanced (around 5500 to 5800 kelvin) which is cooler than those darn tungsten lights in the reception (which are usually around 2800 kelvin or so). So when you turn on your flash and take a shot with that cool colored flash, that warm colored tungsten comes out even warmer and starts to look orange. Yikes!! Then, if you happen to have lots of the ambient, existing tungsten light in your image, people’s skin starts too look orange and brides don’t seem to like that! :)

So what is the solution??  The CTO Filter!!


By putting a tungsten colored filter over your flash for receptions, you can turn your cold colored flash into a warm colored tungsten light source! It will balance all of the light sources together and get you natural looking shots every time!! You can buy these filters online just about anywhere and you can simply cut a strip of it (make sure it covers the whole light) and then stick some velcro on your flash and filter (if you are a Nikon user they actually make cool little add-on modifiers that make this really simple). Then, set your camera to the tungsten white balance setting (see owners manual) and you are good to go!!

Below are some examples of using cto gel filters to balance the light in the whole reception. You can see that the background lights are not overly orange and everything looks very natural.

Now the real trick is when you are bouncing your light off a wall or ceiling and that ceiling is red, blue or pink and ends up adding those nasty colors to your shot!  Then what do you do?? For the answer, come on out to our IN-CAMERA: Light 2 workshop and we will show this to you first hand! You do not want to miss out on this workshop and it is almost sold out with only 3 seats left!!