Monday, September 24, 2012

Shooting Sports Under Florescent Lighting

Photographing sports under florescent lights is a pain, plan and simple. One way to deal with that is to use flash to balance the light. Great, but how can you work with florescent light in situations when you cannot use a flash to overcome it? That is a good question, and one that I've been sorting through during the last two weeks at a tennis tournament I've been shooting.

One way to work with florescent light is focus on photographing subjects in the the hot spot of the light source. The hot spot is directly under the source. Outside of the lights hot spot, anything can happen. The light will be bright in the hot spot and drop of rapidly beyond it. The first example is of a player on the edge of the hotspot, you can see the bright area on the left side of the frame, and how the light quickly drops off on the right side.

The sample below shows what happens when a player is out of the hot spot altogether. Keep in mind, due to the poor lighting, and the shutter speeds needed for this type of shooting, high ISO levels are required. The issue is that high ISO levels limit the amount of shadow recovery that can be achieved without destroying the image. So what can you do?

First, locate the hot spots for light in the scene, and wait for your subject(s) to enter that area. Side note, I found that subjects in the hot spot need to be slightly underexposed (-0.3 EV to -0.7EV) to prevent the loss of detail in the highlights.

The second important thing to remember is white balance. Yes you can correct white balance in post, but if you are working with hundreds of files that can be a pain. I use liveview to find the correct white balance for the scene in these situations. I just point the camera at the hot spot in the scene and adjust as needed. The default florescent setting on my camera didn't work, so I had to tweak it or the files came out with a strong blue hue to them. I still need to make some minor tweaks in post sometimes, but overall the white balance is okay.