How to Mix Flash With Ambient Light?

Mixed Lighting in Photography

One of the most common frustrations people have when looking back at photographs is that the lighting doesn’t look natural because the flash has taken over the image. In product photography, whether that is fashion, food or jewellery photography it is important to be able to mix flash with ambient light so that it looks like natural lighting. The ultimate goal in everything we do is to deliver outstanding results and showcase the product.

We’ve put together a summary of how to best mix flash with ambient light, so read on and find out the secret!

Equipment and situation

Let’s start with equipment! You should already have most of the equipment you need to work in product photography, but one piece of equipment that is vital to obtain is a range of colour gels. These are transparent, coloured materials that help modify and correct the light in a particular way depending on the colour you use and the lighting involved.

This then leads us to the situation you’re in as a photographer. In order to find the best way to mix flash with ambient light, you must understand the lighting scenario involved in your photoshoot. By identifying the lighting source, you can work out the type of colour it is giving off and subsequently choose the most suitable equipment. The quickest and easiest way to determine the colour is to take a series of test shots and assess whether there is a difference between the area of your image covered by the flash and the background.

You will also want to consider the background and props used in the shot, as the colours of certain backgrounds may affect the entire image.

Select your gel

You’ve already done some preparation and testing and now it is time to select the most appropriate gel for your shot. Despite the preparation involved, a lot of this does come down to making a best guess and taking test shots until you get the right result. However, there are some key factors to consider to make the process a bit more efficient.

If the shoot appears to have an orange look to it, then you will likely want to use a Colour Temperature Orange (CTO) gel on your flash. This will help make the light warmer and is the most frequently used gel for many professionals working in product photography and jewellery photography. If the shoot has a colder feel then a Colour Temperature Blue (CTB) is the way to go. Mixing the different amounts of any type of gel is the key to getting the very best results for your product shots.

Set up the flash

The final step in our short guide is a simple one: set up the flash correctly. This means making sure that you aim the flash in the correct way by utilising a bounce card or large surfaces depending on the set-up of your shoot.

The other side to setting up the flash is to ensure that the power is at the right level. By understanding how close you will be to the subject and the area you will want to cover with the flash then you can set the power accordingly. If you’re a professional photographer then this shouldn’t be a problem and most flashes have settings to help with this process.