Couldn't find this particular 50mm question.


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Jul 1, 2013
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Greetings to all,

I have had my first DSLR for less than a year now. I am venturing into the world of dance photography. I have done at least 10 shows now. Still not feeling confident enough to charge. Low and poorly set up light is an obnoxious little devil 10 out of 10.

I just got a 50mm f/1.8 II for my Rebel T2i. Just did my first show with it last night.

In order to reduce the red/orange/yellow hue of the lighting, I had to drop the aperture down to 1.8 and kick the ISO all the way up to 6400. This was also to be able to obtain a shutter speed of 1/250 - 1/320 depending on where the dancers were with the lights. The biggest issue, and reason I pose the question, is the pictures are almost un-cropable with the amount of grain.

Does anyone think getting a f/1.4 (no chance I can afford a 1.2, but am willing to start saving if that might be the answer) lens would allow me to reduce the ISO? I really don't want to reduce the shutter speed any more. The dancers didn't have any blurry limbs for the first time in any of the shows I shot.

Any thoughts would be appreciated. I have zero experience with any lenses outside of a starter kit and this 50mm, which is why I thought it best to ask.

Thank You,
the solution might be to get a newer body capable of better ISO performance. the difference between 1.8 and 1.4 is only one stop, which might not be enough for you to be able to significantly lower the ISO. 6400 is a really high ISO to be shooting at, and only fairly new DX or pro FX bodies can handle it without a lot of noise.
Personally I would invest in Adobe Lightroom to color correct in. I'm not sure what the exposure has to do with color cast. If you shoot any wider open, (and even at 1.8) parts of your subject will not be in focus because of the shallow DOF. Also I have to imagine that getting the focus correct on a moving subject at 1.8 has to be difficult. You are better off shooting at a more narrow aperture. So, to answer your question, a faster lens won't help I don't think.
A 50mm f/1.4 would solve one problem but cause another -- you'd only be able to get one subject in focus. The DoF using f/1.4 on a 50mm lens to a subject 25' away is about 4'. Any other dancers who are not at the same distance would be out-of-focus. The f/1.4 lens is a MUCH better lens than the f/1.8... it has more aperture blades, a better quality blur, and a faster focusing motor -- not to mention a much better build quality.

A 6D would handle it without any problem, but that's a $1900 body. If you're cropping in with an APS-C body and a 50mm lens then you'd probably want a 135mm f/2 on a full-frame body because an 85mm on a full frame body will give you approximately the same field of view you get with a 50mm on an APS-C crop-frame body like your T2i.

Canon announced their new 70D camera tomorrow. We'll soon know how it handles noise at high ISO. The rumor mills are churning that it may be the highest performing (ISO-wise) crop frame body on the market. That's a big claim for something where we have yet to see even a single image.

As for the light and color values... that's _EASILY_ remedied in the computer afterwards... which is where I'd suggest you do it. It's tough use in-camera white balance in a theater situations because the lights are deliberately gelled to many different colors. Just about any photo editor will let you fix white balance.
Try shooting RAW and use the Canon DPP software for editing if you're not already doing so. Click the NR/ALO tab and start increasing the sliders. Click on the NR preview or the apply button. See if you obtain satisfactory noise reduction. The DPP software has extensive white balance adjustments as well as a color tone slider on the RAW tab. Hue can be adjusted in the RGB tab. Hope this helps. Good luck.
The difference between f/1.4 and f/1.8 is only 2/3 of a stop.

DoF will be reduced by 20% using f/1.4 instead of f/1.8 at a point of focus distance of 10 feet.

The best solution is to learn how to use a strobe light (flash).

The "red/orange/yellow hue of the lighting" is likely from an improperly set camera white balance.
Understanding White Balance

Digital images don't have "grain". They have image noise -
Digital Camera Image Noise: Concept and Types
Digital image exposure accuracy is checked on the camera's rear LCD by displaying the image's histogram:
Understanding Digital Camera Histograms: Tones and Contrast
Understanding Digital Camera Histograms: Luminosity and Color

These might be helpful to you - Making the Most of Natural Light in Photography
Digital Exposure Techniques
Optimizing Exposure
Strobist: Lighting 101
flash photography techniques - Neil vN - tangents
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Thank you all for your thoughts, suggestions, expertise, corrections and links. I will look into it all and try to find the best (but probably cheapest) solution. Sadly cheapest solution and cameras seem like opposites.

Thank you all again. Much appreciated. I am happy to continue my walk down the road of figuring out what the heck I am doing. At least I am more informed now.

In your situation, I'd add a couple of small flashes, wireless triggers and gels, colour the flashes and balance the flash level to a couple of stops over ambient - that should let you keep the feel of the original lighting while bringing the ISO down to 1600 or less. Going with third party flashes and triggers - such as Yongnuo -could make this very cost effective.
yep.. sounds more like a white balance issue to me....
If you want to really be a "professional" dance photographer, you will definitely want to move away from an entry-level camera like the Rebel T2i. As you found out last night, getting to that 1/250 to 1/320 second shutter speed was a revelation, as you wrote, " The dancers didn't have any blurry limbs for the first time in any of the shows I shot."

Given that it took ISO 6,400 and a wide-open lens to pull 1/250 to 1/320, the course of action is clear: ideally, you will want to move up to a professionally capable low-light camera that has good High ISO performance. That means a full-frame sensor camera that has a good focusing system. Something Like a Nikon D3s, or failing that, the Canon 5D Mark III, or the new Canon 6D.

I mean...if you want to offer professional results, and it takes ISO 6,400 to GET those results...the choice is obvious. Dance/theatre work is done under very marginal lighting conditions a lot of the time, so you're really at a big disadvantage with a Rebel-class body.
Actually, now that I think of it, the white balance was automatically jumping all over the place. I was shooting in manual. When I went to modify white balance, it wouldn't let me set anything. Just push what I am going to call book ends further apart and closer to the middle. Not knowing what that was doing, I set it back to its original state. However, turns out I am just stupid and that was the exposure comp. So, thankfully I will be shooting another show in three weeks, a week before I go back to the same venue as last night. So, I will look into playing with the white balance at my next show.

In regards to any flash, I have yet to do one of these shows where flash is allowed. So sadly and thankfully that is not an option. I know it would help the shots but I also know I already feel like my head is going to explode from just asking this one question.

Thank you all again.
Regarding flashes - it's not surprising they're not permitted at a live show, but maybe you could get access to set them up at a dress rehearsal?

Without flash, as Derrel said, you need a body that offers brilliant ISO performance and a decent autofocus system. But, those come at a steep price. The Canon 5D mkIII would do you proud, but costs close to 3000 dollars for just the body. (I don't know non-Canon alternatives well enough to make suggestions).

Regarding white balance, if it's tricky to achieve, I would always advise shooting in RAW, which gives you complete control over fixing/setting the white balance in processing.
In regards to wb it is advisable to shoot in raw. You can then pp by using the dropper tool to pick a nuetral colour in your image to correct. Of course you can tweak this with sliders after as I am sure you want to portray some elements of the colourful lighting.

As said ISO 6400 is high for any camera. There are probably times when you will need to shoot at smaller apertures than wide open to achieve your shot. As suggested it probably would be an idea to upgrade your camera. If you dont have to much invesred in lenses I think the nikon 3s is still regarded as the iso king

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