How to shoot in Low light

Discussion in 'Photographic Discussions' started by norris_watkins, Aug 9, 2008.

  1. norris_watkins

    norris_watkins TPF Noob!

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    For many months I ve been trying to figure out what setting to use ( on my Canon Digital SLR - Xsi ) for shooting people in indoor lighting.
    This is not particularly low light. Just indoor lighting.
    Should I buy any special lens.
    I cannot use Av, since the time becomes in seconds, and the subject ends up moving/shaking.
    So looks like Tv is the only option. But then I should use flash, which gives me inconsistent results.
    Sometimes the subject is so washed out as teh flash overcompensated.
    Sometimes I end up getting black backgroud, as the flash didnt reach the background.
    In any case teh flash changes teh ambiance completely.
    Is there any special lens I should buy ?
    Thanks
    --nw
     
  2. kellylindseyphotography

    kellylindseyphotography TPF Noob!

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    Try cranking up your ISO to 1600 or greater. Set your camera to manual and set your aperature at wide open. Try to stay near windows or large doors with natural light. Your aperature shouldn't fall below 100 (general rule of thumb, it can vary..).

    If you find that correct exposure falls belwo a shutter of 100 when you have 1600 or 3200 ISO and a wide open aperature, you will have to learn to use flash.
     
  3. usayit

    usayit No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Think of it this way...

    In order to obtain an image in low light, you have to expose the sensor to enough light to actually register. You can accomplish in a number of ways:

    1) Add more light -> in other words flash
    2) Allow more light through the lens -> larger aperture
    3) Allow more time to collect light -> slower shutter
    4) Increase the sensitivity of the sensor so it doesn't need as much light -> increase ISO.

    You can take any number of the above and mix match as well. Keep in mind each of the above adds additional issues from which you need to accept and work.

    1) Flash adds complexity to keep a natural look. Complexities include getting the flash off of the camera to avoid that "flat look" and balancing with ambient.
    2) Larger Aperture creates a shallower DOF. Difficult to keep multiple subjects at different distances in focus. You can work this by keeping the focus plane flat against your subjects... or stick to single subject compositions.
    3) Slower shutter can introduce blur from subject and hand motion. You can work this by keeping in mind the speed of the subject... sometimes the motion blur can work to add story telling characteristics. You can also shoot wider angle focal lengths as you can handhold a 24mm lens (rule of thumb 1/focal length shutter) at a slower shutter setting than a 100mm telephoto.
    4) high ISO can introduce increase noise into the photo.


    There is no one setting that is the holy grail of low light shooting... it depends the situations and how I am wiling to work each of the issues introduced above. I wish it were as easy as just buying another lens.
     
  4. usayit

    usayit No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    So.. I'm shooting digitally with a 35mm lens. I can't use flash because it is a distraction to the people in the room therefore #1 is out... bummer.. really wanted to use those Cactus wireless triggers... :p I have #2-4 to work with.

    I can't go too wide of an aperture #2 because I want to keep a couple subjects in relatively good focus. What about #3, Shutter? Well it just so happens that it is a sit down dinner party. My subjects won't be moving too much so motion blur from subjects are not going to be too much of a concern. I'm shooting with a 35mm lens and I know from experience that I can handhold that at around 1/30th of second. Great. So lets go with that.

    I set my shutter to 1/30th and look at my meter. I then increase my ISO until I get a reasonable aperture setting of letsay f/5.6. I'm good to go. Steady yourself against walls, chairs... Keep the camera steady... don't snap the shutter button. Keep your elbows tightly in your chest. Keep a good stance. Watch your breathing and don't run around to increase your heart rate.

    Ooops... I just walked into an area that is slightly less light. Hmm... I know I can't really handhold any lower. I'll just open up the aperture keeping in mind my shallower DOF. Stick to single subjects and/or keep the focal plane flat against my subjects.

    ooops... Now its getting REALLY dark. I am already limited by shutter AND I'm already at full wide aperture really trying to keep my DOF on my subject. What is left is either #1 (not possible) or #4 (increase ISO). ok.. I'm willing to work noise in post... so I'll choose that option. Increase my ISO a notch or two and continue shooting. Hey.. I could always convert these photos to B&W and "hide" the noise... or pray for noise ninja.

    ooops.. Now its even darker... Sheesh!!! Ok forget it.. .I'm out of options. The people in the room are just going to have to live with flash or turn up the darn lights.

    See.. its really about balancing #1 through #4.
     
  5. tirediron

    tirediron Watch the Birdy! Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Excellent tutorial!
     
  6. Mike_E

    Mike_E No longer a newbie, moving up!

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