How to shoot in a fluorescent-lit training room, dental lab? at

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Old September 2nd, 2008, 10:00 PM   #1
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How to shoot in a fluorescent-lit training room, dental lab?

I'm shooting single-person interviews in a fairly large dentist training room and a lab. Both rooms have a lot of fluorescent lights in the ceiling. My lighting kit is a couple of Lowel Pros, a Tota (all halogens) and a 5-in-1 reflector.

I can't turn off the overhead fluoros because I want the settings to be realistic--these are fairly large, fluorescent rooms that people work and train in. But if I leave them on, won't I have problems with mixing color temperatures?

If so, how I fix that?

BTW, there are no outside windows in either room.

All suggestions/solutions appreciated.

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Old September 3rd, 2008, 12:05 AM   #2
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You need to figure out what color temp these fluoros are. In recent commercial construction the color rendition isn't bad, and frequently they'll be close to daylight or tungsten.

If close to tungsten, you're ready to go. If daylight balanced, try some 3/4 CTB on your lights.

The easiest way to determine this is to flip your cam's white balance to a daylight preset and see if skin looks like skin, then try the tungsten preset.

There are filters available to balance tungsten to a variety of old ugly fluorescent bulbs, I've never had to do it. You might want to read up on color-correcting filters at
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Old September 3rd, 2008, 04:37 AM   #3
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My recommendation is to get lots of 1/2 CTB (color temperature blue) for your lights. You might even get a bit of 1/8 green to make your light match the fluorescents if they have a green tint. Once you match your lights closer to the other lights, balance to the room without your lights on and it will turn your background white. Then, turn your lights on and adjust the gels to get the look you like. I prefer the lights I provide to be a bit warmer than the background in mixed lighting for two reasons. I think people generally like the (slightly) warm tone on faces and it takes less lumen-stealing gel to balance a bit warmer than daylight. Don't go without the CTO (blue) gel or your "warm" tint will turn into sickly yellow.

If you find that your overhead fluorescents are tungsten balanced, forget the CTB and pull the shades on the windows. It will be a pain to use warm gel (CTO) on all the windows to match tungsten so try to eliminate daylight in a room like that.
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Old September 3rd, 2008, 06:51 AM   #4
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Call me old fashion, but before I ever shoot, I will visit the location with my light meter and color temp meter and do a walk through. Then from my notes I can quickly correct the on location lights as needed for the shoot.

Nothing says amateur like arriving for a shoot, then wasting time guessing while your clients are waiting.

Good Luck!
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Old September 3rd, 2008, 08:24 AM   #5
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The best thing is to check the fluorescents with a color temperature meter before you get there, or do it when you get there assuming you have a variety of necessary gels. After lots of office shooting you'll get to the point where your eye can pretty much judge whether the fluorescents are closer to tungsten or closer to daylight. Unfortunately, the 1/3" chip cameras many of us use today don't include a color temperature readout like the bigger cameras. There's no reason to not provide that information because when you white balance the camera has to know what the temperature is. Why not display it?

If you don't want to buy a color temperature meter, you could take your camera and flip your preset between tungsten and daylight settings and look at the difference. If on your daylight setting everything looks too warm, then the fluorescents are closer to tungsten and you'd be fine. If on your tungsten setting everything looks too blue, then you know the lights are close to daylight.

Most offices I seem to shoot in are around 4500K. In that case, 1/2 CTB is usually fine. If you need a bit more light, 1/4 CTB will get you in the ballpark. I did run into one office where the fluorescents were right at 7000K. First time I'd seen any that blue. I shot there with daylight, letting the backgrounds go a little bit bluish, which actually popped the foreground subject nicely.
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Old September 3rd, 2008, 03:50 PM   #6
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Thanks for all the advice. I ended up using used Bill's and I think it worked the trick.

I've got a ways to go before I'll be truly comfortable lighting, but boards like this are are a huge help. Thanks so much!

BTW, the reading on my Canon XHA1 had teh temp at 4400. Didn't know the camera could do that.

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Old September 8th, 2008, 12:31 PM   #7
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I was out of town during this thread, but I used to run into off-color fluors a lot when I was starting out doing "store shoots."

The one foolproof technique I had that worked 100% of the time was buying a couple of 4 light cheap fluorescent fixtures at home depot. Then I modded them with a flange and a pipe elbow so that I could put them on top of a light stand.

Whenever I got to a shop with really UGLY fluorescent lighting (spiking really green or whatever) I'd just steal tubes from store fixtures out of the shot and lamp my cheap homemade fluorescent stand fixtures with them - and use THEM for front fill.

In other words instead of trying to match my lights to the store's color temperature - I just created position-able fill light out of the exact same light sources.

Never failed, and the fixtures were about $10 each plus $5 in parts at home depot.

Just another way of thinking about it.

Good luck.
Bill Davis is offline   Reply With Quote
Old October 4th, 2008, 12:11 AM   #8
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And, avoid using shutter... especially odd 'clear scan' values.

You will end up with shots that drift between magenta and green.

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