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How to deal with a fluorescent-lit office spaces

These are always tricky lighting situations and the best approach is to keep it simple. I would suggest using a fluorescent light, a Lowel CaseLite or a Kino Flo Deva to provide the fill to even out the “toppy” overhead light from the existing flouros. A single light on a stand should not be too disruptive.

To add some punch to the sequence, shoot using the tele end of the zoom lens shots to bring the depth and the scope of the room into the sequence and rely on your light to take care of the close-up shots. The long telephoto shots will deliver the business of the room which surely is what the client would prefer. It's important to cut as much light from the LCD computer screens as you can, so a black cutter on a lighting stand may be helpful. This may not work as your impact will be bigger and it may impede the operation of the office. To get a nicer balance, turn down the brightness of the computer LCD screens. With LCD screens you will not have to deal with roll bar issues .

Tracking shots will do justice to the sequence and the office. The repetitive set-up of many office cubicles and work stations is appealing so don't attempt to light these shots.

It's best to not over complicate however a gentle fill from a flourescent light may be needed. Use your fill light at a low output setting or move it away from the subject to find the right balance. Daylight tubes should be fitted in this situation.

If a light on a lighting stand is not practical then a Lite-Panel LED battery operated camera light is the next step. The dimmer on the panel will allow you to set just enough fill to clean up the toppiness from the overhead house lights. Check first that you have a reasonable colour match with the existing lights. Add a sheet of Rosco Half Plus Green to the Lite Panel or the CaseLight add green in order match the green colour cast in the overheads; make it everything greenish – remove this overall cast in your NLE and the colour will look quite normal again. Some testing would be good if you have the time.

In summary, use gentle light fill for faces and use your flouro to back-light mouse and keyboard shots. Rely on long lens to create busy foregrounds, and dolly shots: a Wally Dolly or even someone pushing you on a rolling office chair.

Frame faces with the computer screens breaking up the frame. Half face – half back of the screen and organise lots of stuff hopefully moving through the foreground.

© 2013 Pieter de Vries ACS