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Liz and the leisure centres

photo of weight lifter using bounced flash

Weight training in a badly lit gym using bounced flash



Liz is a designer working for FreedomLeisure in Sussex and wanted to be able to take photos of leisure centres and sports activities for publicity brochures and publications.

She booked a day’s photography training with me to look at basic camera techniques and see how she could improve her in house photography. We spent most of the morning on theory and camera settings, then headed off to a leisure centre in Brighton at midday to put everything into practice.

A leisure centre is a difficult place to start taking photos, the lighting is usually horrible and everyone is moving around quite fast. It became obvious  that Liz was going to be using a lot of flash to get decent photos in these conditions. The only flash she had available was the one built into her camera, so she borrowed one of mine for the day and we put a tilt and swivel flashgun on her wishlist.

Direct flash is not a good way to light subjects, it’s harsh, it tends to burn out foregrounds, underlight backgrounds and destroys any atmosphere in the shot. You can see in the images that I’ve posted that we were trying to use bounced flash whenever possible. This gives a much softer and more directional light, and lights the whole scene more evenly. You do need a white ceiling or wall to use this technique so it’s not always an option.

In the second photo below we had a more difficult situation, a large sports hall lit with neon light. We couldn’t use use direct flash, because it would have burned out the foreground and the back would have gone black, we couldn’t bounce the flash because the ceiling was 60 foot high and painted green, so we had one choice, available (or ambient) light. The lighting levels were quite low here, so it really came down to having a camera that worked well at high ISO’s and also shooting in RAW to correct the white balance as well as possible.

I think Liz is still planning to use professional photographers for for the more difficult or critical work, but I hope the day gave her a good start with camera basics and using flash. I look forward to seeing some results!
Please get in touch if you’re looking for a photography training day for your business.

photo of runner lit with bounced flash

 Gym user on a running machine using a mix of flash and available light

indoor football lit with fluorescent lights

 Photographers nightmare, a large badly lit hall with people running around very quickly!

woman lit with window light

 A photo of Liz. Example of a shot using window light only.

woman lit with window light and bounced flash

Liz again, same situation but using a small a mount of  bounced flash to fill the shadows. Both look OK to me, it just depends on what particular look you want.

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