What settings should I start with for low light? 35mm f1.8 prime.

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by Kaydub, Apr 5, 2010.

  1. Kaydub

    Kaydub TPF Noob!

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    I'm a beginner who recently purchased a Nikon D40. Most of my pictures have been of people inside at night under low to mid incandescent light without flash. The kit lens was awful at this so I bought the 35mm f1.8 AF-S prime. I'm getting better at playing with all the different settings like aperture and shutter speed, but most of my shots that turn out well feel like accidents. I'm going all over the place settings wise.

    What is a basic load-out of settings I should use? Something I can use as a starting point and then go from there. It has to be able to handle movement of the subject.

    Thanks in advance! I'll post the resulting pictures once I get this figured out.
     
  2. Gaerek

    Gaerek TPF Noob!

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    I won't tell you exactly what you should set for, but low light can be tricky. Here's a good guideline and how I typically shoot indoor lowlight. Set to Aperture Priority, open the aperture all the way up, in your case, f/1.8. Then meter your scene and figure out if your shutter is high enough to hand hold. If it's not, increase your ISO until it is.
     
  3. Kaydub

    Kaydub TPF Noob!

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    Thanks for the fast reply. I will focus on doing that next time. If anyone else has some suggestions I'd love to hear them too.
     
  4. bigtwinky

    bigtwinky No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    ISO 100, Aperture wide open. Meter and check the reading to see if the shutter is usable. If its not, up the ISO. Meter and re-check.

    Keep upping the ISO until you get a usable shutter.

    Usability depends on what you are shooting. If there is alot of motion, you will need a faster shutter than if there is next to no motion.
     
  5. Gaerek

    Gaerek TPF Noob!

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    Should have mentioned the start at ISO 100 thing. Thanks for adding that.
     
  6. Fedaykin

    Fedaykin TPF Noob!

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    What this man says. Always strive to stay at the lowest ISO possible.
     
  7. KmH

    KmH Helping photographers learn to fish Supporting Member

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    Which in low light is not likely to be ISO 100.

    It is better to have noise (from high ISO settings) in the image, than it is to have blurry subjects because the moved.

    Noise can be mitigated to one degree or another in post processing, blurry can't.
     
  8. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    Low light and a modern camera? Start at ISO 400, 500,640,or 800. Those are the absolute minimum ISO starting points for me. ISO 100 is throwing away two to three stops of shutter speed or aperture; ISO 100 is great for perfectly-exposed, low-noise smeared, blurred images in "low light". With a shortish lens like 35mm, image magnification is not all that high, so the slowest shutter speed one can hand-hold with practice is likely to be as long as 1/8 second. However, at 1/8 second, anything that is moving, even slowly, is very likely to be a blurry smear; at ISO 100 a light level that requires 1/8 second will be shortened to 1/30 second at ISO 400, and 1/60 second at ISO 800; speeds of 1/30 and 1/60 second are much more likely to yield keeper rates in the 50% or better range, while at 1/8 second, keeper rates might be as dismal as 10 percent on many types of scenes and subject matter.

    As far as shooting wide-open, I do not think that is a good idea at closer distances; depth of field is very shallow at f/1.8 at closer ranges, and often times there is so,so little depth of field that there's no room for error in focusing. At close distances, the focus at the edges of the frames is significantly different from the focus distance at the center of the frame, and the difference in actual, measured distance at the edges of the frame, as opposed to the center of the frame, will be enough that there's not enough depth of field to cover the difference between a center AF point and an off-center AF point, so focus and recompose will not work at close distances with the lens wide-open.

    What you want is a little bit of what is called "a cushion" or "a safety margin"; the easiest way to get that cushion is to dial the ISO right up to a medium level, between 400 and 800. That will give you a cushion in terms of either shutter speed, or depth of field and focusing; if the subjects are moving a bit and shutter speed is the needed priority, you can slightly favor speed over f/stop; if you are working at close distances and depth of field from stopping down to f/2.8 or f/2.5 would give you a bit of a cushion, then stopping the lens down is *easily* accomplished by beginning at ISO 640 or 800 instead of ISO 100, in low light. If you have a modern, full-frame camera with superb high-ISO performance, it's practical to begin at ISO 1000,1250,or even 1600, or with the newest uber-cameras, even ISO 3200,especially if the low-light situation involves motion, like sports,dance,etc.
     
  9. Fedaykin

    Fedaykin TPF Noob!

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    Thanks a lot for that post, helped me understand DoF and low-light settings a little better. I've seen some shots with newer full frame cameras at ISO 3200 and such and the improvement in noise reduction has been amazing.
     
  10. Vinny

    Vinny TPF Noob!

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    If the D40 has TTL (or is it i-TTL) metering and a built in flash, use the flash. If you have to calculate the settings, it does become a little more difficult but with TTL it's fully automatic. Having a fast lens is good and setting a higher ISO will hopefully get you to the correct shutter speed but unless you really can't use a flash - use it. You are limiting yourself to "an aperture setting" and/or "a ISO setting" and it will affect your photos. It is amazing how much light the camera's flash will produce assuming you're not trying to get a far subject. Having a shallow depth of field won't work in certain situations.

    Low light is difficult to work in and there may be times where using a flash is not practical. I myself have bought a new camera with the intention of using a high ISO when need be but plan of using the built in flash whenever possible. I expect that the high ISO photos to be somewhat noisy but figure that's better than no photo at all.
     
  11. Gaerek

    Gaerek TPF Noob!

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    There's absolutely no reason to use a flash with a 1.8 aperture. Afterall, that's the main point of having a fast lens like that. Unless he has a speedlight that he can trigger off camera, or at the very least bounce off something, it's almost always better to deal with some extra noise than the effects of a flash.

    Noise can be dealt with in post. Harsh shadows, blown highlights, and other built-in flash artifacts can't be dealt with as easily, or even at all. People are so afraid of noise, it's absolutely amazing to me.

    The built-in flash in most cameras is mostly worthless. It's bright enough, but it creates terrible shadows, it can blow highlights, and will give red-eye. It gives a very artificial look to an image. It can be used in a pinch, and it actually functions pretty well as a fill flash if you need it, but other than that, my recommendation is simply to avoid it.
     
  12. lexdiamond20

    lexdiamond20 TPF Noob!

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    Can you explain why you suggested he use the built in flash with a prime lens. I got my 35mm so I wouldn't have to use flash and then got an SB-600 just to enhance my pics a bit with bounce. Just seems like weird and confusing advice.
     

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