multiple flashes at press conferences

tom beard

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I was watching a press conference on tv and the speaker was surrounded by photographers taking flash pictures to the point that the strobe overlap became as if the area had been lit by a static spotlight. What does a press photographer do (if anything) in this situation? Sorry if this seems like a dumb question; I get curious about wierd stuff, but i've learned a lot from this forum.
Many thanks, Tom Beard
 
The actual burst of flash might be something like 1/5000 or even 1/10,000 of a second...although I think our eyes see the after effects longer though. So it's quite likely that most flash bursts do not fire at the exact same moment in time. However, any flash that fires during the time when the shutter is open, will probably show up in the exposure...so I'd guess that to minimize that, they would use the fastest shutter speed that they can easily sync with their flash (1/250 or there abouts). Plus, they all seem to be firing their cameras like machine guns...so they are bound to get some that are adversely affected by other flashes and some that aren't.

That's my guess, anyway.
 
It's actually not really a big problem. Here are a couple of things that I do in these types of press conferences:

First of all, believe it or not, most of the flashes are set to similar settings and if you get two, three or even four flash burst while your shutter is open the impact on the exposure is minimal. Usually at press conferences you want to be shooting at a somewhat fast shutter speed (as in 1/250 the minimum) because motion blur is unacceptable to most editors in this situation. You're not there to get artistic with it, you're there to get a clean, crisp image. The speaker usually isn't moving much, but they often wave their hands around when they talk and that can blur with anything below 1/250.

The second thing I do is often times shoot without a strobe and set my white balance to Auto mode (I work with top of the line Nikons which can handle the variations) and then expose manually for the bursts. Sometimes this effect will give you the perfect exposure you're looking for. I have worked a few press conferences where the Auto WB gave me a blue tint when there were a number of flashes firing at once and TV camera flood lights on the scene, but again, it wasn't anything that couldn't be corrected easily in post.

In the end, I prefer the multiple blasts. The different light sources from different angles can give you cool shadows, believe it or not.
 

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