Low light, with no tripod?


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May 19, 2012
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Hi, I am in a pre college program, and tomorrow, I have an assignment of taking pictures in this museum with very low light. Now since I will be going with a class, and constantly moving, and id prefer to stay away from the tripod. I defiantly do not like the look that a on-board flash gives. Im working with a Cannon Rebel T3i, with no external flash. ONLY HANDHELD, so slow shutter speed is out of the question. I will also be shooting in FULL manual mode. I need these images to be as sharp as close as I can possibly get with just my camera. My ISO is set at 100... I feel if i turn it way up, the noise will be very visible, and if i turn it down to low, it will be too dark. Any possible suggestions? Thanks guys!
^ This. If you can't, push the ISO or go slow - you'll have to decide which risk is better - noise or blur.
^ This. If you can't, push the ISO or go slow - you'll have to decide which risk is better - noise or blur.

I'd choose noise. At lease I got a chance to deal with it in post.

Blurry pix are destined for the Recycle Bin.
I can't see a reason to keep the ISO at 100, bump it and use NR in post production. Use a large aperture.

Technique is a huge factor. See the video.
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Thank you guys so much!. I think your right, Noise is the way to go, I was just hoping i could keep both from happening. haha. Maybe there will be really bright lights.
I agree bump up the iso and open the aperture and if worse come to worse go into the gift shop buy some post cards and go out side and take a picture of them :)
I'd probably keep the ISO around 800 and shoot wide open, then adjust the shutter speed to achieve correct exposure. This should be fine for a low lit museum. If that doesn't cut it jack ISO up to 1600 even and then do some post processing to remove noise.
What are you shooting in a museum? Going wide open might give you too narrow of a DOF.

My suggestion would be to shoot in Shutter priority mode and set it to 1/60. Then let your camera decide the ISO and fstop.
Many museums don't allow flash or tripod. Use high ISO.. that is what it is for. If you HAVE to use full manual, than set a fairly large aperture (but preferably not WIDE open - you didn't mention what lenses you have), shutter around 1/60 assuming 35 or 50mm primes... and meter the subjects... raising ISO until you get a good meter reading. noise reduction software can work wonders...
Wes, you didn't happen to mention what lens options you have, but some lenses are MUCH better about collecting available light.

For example... the 50mm f/1.4 can collect SIXTEEN TIMES more light than a variable 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens when the kit lens is also at a 50mm focal length. The downside is, as the focal ratio gets lower, the depth of field becomes more narrow... so narrow, actually... that you will usually find you'd rather bump it up to about f/2 (or higher). But even at f/2 the lens is collecting about EIGHT TIMES more light than the kit lens.

That makes a HUGE difference in low light and prevents you from needing to crank the ISO up as much.

I find the de-noising capabilities of Photoshop to be... not so great (and that's really being extremely kind. The moderators would have to scold me for using the language necessary to say what I really think about it. 'nuff said because I'm sure you get the idea.)

HOWEVER... there are some 3rd party de-noising applications and plug-ins which do a much better job. My favorite of the bunch is Noiseware Pro by Imagenomic. Noise Ninja is also popular -- I tried it for a while, but I lean toward Noiseware Pro.

What's different about these specialty de-noising apps is that they're able to be selective. Normally to "de-noise" an image, you take a pixel and compare it to the pixels adjacent to it. You then "average" the color values of that pixel to it's neighbors so that the pixel doesn't stand out as being so different and this diminishes noise. Unfortunately it also "softens" the image.

What you'd really like to do is analyze the image to determine whether a pixel really does represent noise and you'll typically find that noise occurs more in shadows than it does in highlights. The de-noising software also lets you bias the type of noise correction needed (whether it's luma-noise vs. chroma-noise). This way you can tell it to, for example, be aggressive about de-noising in the dark areas... be moderate in the mid-tone areas... and leave the highlights mostly alone. Now you're not unnecessarily de-noising the whole image and diminishing your sharpness.
Great Advice!, Will try out the Higher ISO with a Fairly wide open aperture. I do have the 18-55mm Kit lens. Ive been in photography for 2 years, and ive only had two lenses. The kit lens, and the 75-300mm Zoom f/4-5.6
I usually use at least 400 ISO indoors if not 800 or higher if necessary; I shoot film too and usually set my digital camera to an ISO comparable to what speed film I'd use. I use 100 outdoors, don't think I've ever used film that slow in indoor light.

I usually try to keep my shutter speed at 1/125 or 1/60 at the slowest because that's what works best for me handheld - if I need to go slower under some circumstances I try to brace myself as needed to prevent shutter blur. And as mentioned using a fairly large aperture helps in low light.

I try to notice where the light looks brightest in the room, even though the eyes can perceive it I think differently than a camera records it. Choosing what to photograph I tend to go with what seems to be lit the best and obviously avoid darker corners etc. Hope you have fun.
Take a lot of pictures. A LOT. Some will be sharper. Use those.
What kind of museum? Depending on why it is so dark in there, you may not even want your photos to be at full exposure. You may instead want them to look dark like the museum was, if that's part of the ambiance of the exhibit. Which means you can shoot a lot faster.

If it's just dark to hide dirt in there, then nevermind.

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