How can I take better indoor snapshots?

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by Underdeveloped, Jan 28, 2012.

  1. Underdeveloped

    Underdeveloped TPF Noob!

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    So since looking around TPF for a while I've realized that I have a long way to go to take amazing shots. However, I've also realized why I bought a DSLR to begin with was to have some creative control while capturing memories of my 2 daughters. (big camera=nice pictures, right? :p)
    I have a t2i with kit 18-55

    My 2 biggest problems so far are :
    1. while shooting in the evening/night using indoor light. Even at 3200 ISO my shutter speed can be too slow for my fast kids.
    2. focus issues. My pics rarely seem very sharp. I use the center dot focus selection and it seems a little off (I'll try to post examples when I get to my home computer) I've always assumed I'm doing something wrong, but I dont' know what.


    Any suggestions to get better shots at close range in low light? what do you guys do when shooting in this situation? Flashes seem great, but very distracting?

    Thanks in advance


     
  2. SCraig

    SCraig Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    I use a flash. It may be distracting but it solves the problem. I don't use the pop-up flash though, not enough control over the light.
     
  3. WhiskeyTango

    WhiskeyTango No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    The basic truth is you need to get more light into the camera. Your options are better lenses or added light. Depending on how you like to shoot (i.e. near/far to subject, relatively fixed spot vs. lots of movement, etc.) you can spend as little as a few hundred and as much as a few thousand on lenses. A good ttl flash should be no more than a few hundred.

    Your focus issue may be related to your low light issue... Is it truly a "focus" issue, or is it motion blur? If you take a shot of something sitting still in bright light, do you still have the focus issue?
     
  4. MLeeK

    MLeeK TPF Noob!

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    Every camera has it's limits and it sounds like you are hitting them. Not that your camera is limited, but you can only shoot in light so low with the lens you have and the ISO capability.
    Your options are to purchase a new lens-which may help, but chances are indoors you still will need more light. Or purchase a speedlight and get a few quick lessons on how to use it from Strobist.
    I am pretty sure that will solve much of your focus problem also. You are shooting at a very slow shutter speed and that compromises sharpness even if you think you are holding still.
     
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  5. analog.universe

    analog.universe TPF Noob!

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    Yes, what everyone said is true. An inexpensive lens that's pretty good in low light conditions is the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II. They can be had around $100, and shot wide open, will grab 4-8 times more light than your current lens (depending on what focal length you're zoomed to). So, a shot at 50mm f/5 on your old lens that needs ISO 3200, would need ISO 400 at 50mm 1.8.

    Flash certainly solves the problem no matter what lens you've got, but they are distracting. Lots of times indoors I like to shoot without flash, but you face a lot of limitations doing so.
     
  6. paigew

    paigew Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Yes! I have this lens! I Looove it! I hate using flash so I usually max out my iso and have my ap at around 2.3 or more. My photos are grainy, but they are snapshots and I love them!. I had on my kit lens the other day and was surprised how much of a difference in lighting the 50 mm made.
     
  7. KmH

    KmH In memoriam Supporting Member

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    Learn how to use strobed light and you'll rarely ever crank up the ISO again.

    The short duration of the flash of light can be used to stop motion instead of using the shutter speed to stop motion. You can then use the shutter speed to control the ambient light exposure while using the flash output power and the lens aperture to control the strobed light exposure.
    In other words, you gain the huge advantage of being able to control the ambient light exposure seperately from the stobed light exposure all with a single shutter release.
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2012
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  8. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    I am quoting Keith (KmH) here because his advice is so good, it needs to be repeated. I will add one thing that you need to learn about strobed light and family snapshots, and that is that if one puts his camera into "single shot" or "focus priority" mode os "S" focus [terminology varies between camera makers], and make sure the AF assist system is set to ON, even the lowly kit lens will achieve a focus lock indoors, or outdoors, even in sucky light. Got some neighborhood raccoons that like to raid the garbage cans??? Single shot focus + AF assist ON can nail those little bedy-eyed suckers at 3 AM with NO light, and you aiming the camera by sound and general garbage can outline familiarity, if you get my drift.

    Elevate the ISO level to 640, and bounce a $389-$549 shoe-mount speedlight off the ceiling in most homes, and your kid pics will be good. Even with the kit lens. As long as the AF assist system is on, and as far as I know, there are NONE that function in Continuous focusing mode. Single-shot autofocus + AF Assist on + Good bounce flash techniques = good kid pics.

    Strobist is nice for off-camera flash, but that (flash off-camera) does not solve the issue of poor focusing performance indoors with the lower- and mid-level cameras.
     
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  9. sdrphotography

    sdrphotography TPF Noob!

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    Its all about the amount of light. if you're using iso set at 3200 it must be pretty dark (and having an iso set to 3200 will create a lot of noise). Use more light i.e. flash bounced off a wall (never straight at the subject) or getting a faster lens.
     
  10. KmH

    KmH In memoriam Supporting Member

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    Bounced light isn't always the quick and easy solution many make it out to be.

    Bounced light has to travel further, sometimes a lot further (up and then back down) and as noted by the Inverse Square law light power drops off as a square function with distance. If the light power is not changed but the distance is doubled, the light only retains only 1/4 of it's power - not 1/2 of it's power - when it reaches the subject. Double the distance again, and the light has only 1/16 as much power when it gets to the subject. Plus, few surfaces are 100% reflective so even more light power is lost.
    An additional loss of light power comes from the light going to parts of the scene you don't really need the light to go to.

    Bounced light can also pick up an unwanted color cast from whatever surface it is bounced off of. Very few 'white' ceilings and walls are actually white.
     
  11. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    Some good points, but we need to consider "how to" do bounce flash right. Note my suggestion of "good bounced flash techniques". First off, let's talk about the FIRST THING to do: ELEVATE THE ISO LEVEL of the camera. 640 is my suggested starting point. NO ISO 100. Not 200. Not 320. Nope--ISO 640. Or even 800. Moving from ISO 100 to ISO 800 will provide the shooter with four full, complete f/stops MORE of "everything". The Nikon SB-800 has a Guide Number of 125 in FEET, at ISO 100; at ISO 200, that GN goes up to 174. These figures are at the 35mm zoom head position, which has a "Flash Shooting Distance Range of 2 to 66 feet" according to Nikon.

    The second thing is to use "good bounced flash techniques", and that means ZOOMING the flash head to telephoto, as suggested in the instruction manual of most flash units. By zooming the flash to a telephoto position, the beam spread is reduced to a 20 degree x 27 degree angle of coverage, compared with the 45 degree x 60 degree beam spread at the 35mm zoom position Nikon specifies for the SB-800 [http://www.nikonusa.com/pdf/manuals/Speedlights/SB-800.pdf specs on pages 120-123]

    One of the biggest problems people have with bounce flash is doing it half-assedly, and leaving the camera at ISO 100, not zooming the flash head, and then wondering why on long-range shots, their snaps are underexposed...

    Yes, the inverse square law can take a flash that has traveled a good distance and reduce its effective power to 1/16 of full power. But, it's pretty simple math to realize that moving the ISO from 100 to 800 elevates the "effective" light level by four f/stops' worth...and zooming the flash head so that it covers a beam spread area that is smaller creates YET AGAIN ANOTHER EFFECTIVE INCREASE in effective flash power, since the area covered is roughly 1/4 as large as it is at 35mm means there is PLENTY of effective power for superb bounce exposures. THis elevation of the ISO ALSO means that ambient light in the room is more-easily rendered, and makes the backgrounds look less cave-like.

    I'm not really sure why KmH's last post above did not address these simple facts about shooting bounce flash...unless he wants to make it look like something that simply cannot be done, and that you are suddenly left sitting there with flash that is merely 1/16 power, because that is simply NOT the case...

    You want better "snapshots" of the kids indoors? Listen to my instructions.
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2012
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  12. Underdeveloped

    Underdeveloped TPF Noob!

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    Thank you for all the feedback. Actually, I already have a 50mm 1.8, which sits on the side (assamedly) as I always find I'm too close on my cropped camera (say when the kids do something funny with their food at the kitchen table!). I guess I should spend some time fooling around with it to see if a faster lens would do enough. If not I'll try learning strobs - which I would like to do anyway. I'm excited to learn that the flash can help with the AF system. That would be great!
     

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