Need help for low lighting restaurant photos...

Shades of Blue

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I will be taking some pictures for a co-worker at a nice restaurant this weekend. She's having a family get together and have rented a room in the restaurant. I need the experience, so she's agreed to let me spend about half an hour before dinner getting a group photo.

I need some low light help fast. I plan on using either my 35mm, or 50mm depending on room size and the number of people. I have a speed light that I plan to point towards the ceiling, and I doubt I'll have any additional flashes before the event. I also really have no clue how the lighting will be.

Basically, what should I look for? I'm thinking I'll have to have the aperture around 4-5.6 with an ISO around 200-400, but like I said I don't have a lot of experience with indoor photos. I'll definitely have a tripod though!

Composition wise, I normally will try to get some photos of entire bodies and from the waist up, but are there any other shots I can try?
 
Group shots may need an aperture of f8 or even f11, depending on how may rows of people or their varying distance from point of focus.

I don't know exactly your light or how low it is, but my experience of anything remotely low light, i'd be surprised if you are not at iso 1600, 3200 or even 6400 if your camera goes there.

You'll probably need at least 1/60th of a second if your subjects stay very still and you are steady with your camera
 
^^above is the key information

Practice low light before you go out there. Go into a room, close the windows at various amounts and use inanimate objects. Practice various situations so you can be more comfortable with your camera's limits before being having to figure it out on location.

To get proper exposure
You'll have to raise the ISO to a point that you feel comfortable it doesn't increase too much noise.
and lower shutter speed dependent upon movement.

I forgot what camera you have. People here can generally recommend max ISO levels.
 
Group shots may need an aperture of f8 or even f11, depending on how may rows of people or their varying distance from point of focus.

I don't know exactly your light or how low it is, but my experience of anything remotely low light, i'd be surprised if you are not at iso 1600, 3200 or even 6400 if your camera goes there.

You'll probably need at least 1/60th of a second if your subjects stay very still and you are steady with your camera

Thank you! I imagine the lighting will be very low. I've never been to this restaurant, but I plan on arriving 30 minutes prior to get everything set up. So noted...higher ISO, higher f number.
 
^^above is the key information

Practice low light before you go out there. Go into a room, close the windows at various amounts and use inanimate objects. Practice various situations so you can be more comfortable with your camera's limits before being having to figure it out on location.

To get proper exposure
You'll have to raise the ISO to a point that you feel comfortable it doesn't increase too much noise.
and lower shutter speed dependent upon movement.

I forgot what camera you have. People here can generally recommend max ISO levels.

I have a D5000. I will definitely practice. I'm going to have my daughter and wife stand several feet apart, front to back and practice my focus and exposure. This will be good experience!
 
I've never tried a d5000
but try ISO 1600. Also test 800 up to 3200/6400

Practice with the flash too. But the ceiling height and color, etc will be different from your test room to the restaurant.
 
Have either a DoF calculator on your smartphone (if you have one), or printed DoF tables so that you can use an appropriate aperture for the situation. Too little and you will have focus issues, too much and you're going to make your exposure even more difficult than necessary. Without knowing anything about the venue, or the group size, IF POSSIBLE, given that you have only one speedlight, my preference would be to position the group in such a way that I had a fairly plain, blank wall behind me, and bounce the flash offof that, rather than the ceiling, and turn it into a large reflector. Also, don't forget to pose them in a semi-circle around you (again, depending on the size of the group) so that the DoF and exposure is more equal, rather than having significant fall-off as you would in a straight line.
 
Have either a DoF calculator on your smartphone (if you have one), or printed DoF tables so that you can use an appropriate aperture for the situation. Too little and you will have focus issues, too much and you're going to make your exposure even more difficult than necessary. Without knowing anything about the venue, or the group size, IF POSSIBLE, given that you have only one speedlight, my preference would be to position the group in such a way that I had a fairly plain, blank wall behind me, and bounce the flash offof that, rather than the ceiling, and turn it into a large reflector. Also, don't forget to pose them in a semi-circle around you (again, depending on the size of the group) so that the DoF and exposure is more equal, rather than having significant fall-off as you would in a straight line.


I downloaded an app for that yesterday! I will take a tape measure and try to do as much pre-work as possible.
 
If you are lucky enough that the table cloth is white and you have a low white ceiling, bouncing flash off the ceiling may work quite well if everyone is sitting around the table. Sometimes ceiling bounced flash leaves shadows under the eye sockets and nose, often a reflector is used to bounce back up, and thus creating small less harsh shadows, that are pleasing to the eye as we are used to overhead light from the sun. The white table cloth can help act as that reflector
 
When bouncing flash off a ceiling to photograph people you need some of the light going straight forward to put light in their eye sockets so everyone does not have 'raccoon eyes'. Many flash units have a white 'bounce' card built into them we can extend for just that purpose. It's easy to make one yourself.
The good news is bouncing the light off the ceiling makes the light source apparently a lot larger so it is softer, less harsh light even if the light is coming from an unflattering overhead angle.

Another issue with bouncing flash is the light has to travel further and as distance increases the amount of light power reaching your subjects decreases.
The phenomena is a law of nature - the Inverse Square Law.
The decrease in light power is inversely proportional to the distance the light has to travel and the reduction in light power is a square function.
In other words if the light has to go 2x further, the light power reaching your subjects is reduced by 4 times. If the light has to go 4x further the reduction is 16 times less light that reaches your subjects.
 
I'd be using f/4 as my base aperture, and only stopping down if you have groups of people at differnent focal planes.

I'd also start with a higher base ISO so the flash doesn't have to work at full power and has wiggle room to go brighter if the scene calls for it. Since you mentioned the 35 and 50, im assuming a crop sensor so maybe use 1600? I can get away with much higher. honestly, the 18-55 might be better here.

I like to shoot flash somewhere between 1/60-1/125sec. The slower the shutter the more amibent lighting that mixes in and you can start getting double exposures. the ISO level is what really brings th to control the overall lighte ambient lighting back in. If you want a dark background and bright subjects, lower the ISO a few stops. If you want a bright background and subjects, increase the ISO.

So you'll just be exercising your ISO settings to balance the ambient, aperture settings to handle the DOF, and letting the TTL flash keep the subjects/scene exposed properly.

Dont always just point the flash up. I like a 60° forward in a lot of cases, and sometimes I'll even point it on a wall behind me.


here's a random shot from a lunch event thing in a simly lit room.

DSC_7195-21
by The Braineack, on Flickr

That's ISO 4000, f/5.0, and 1/60sec. Flash in TTL. Full Frame to give you an idea.

I had another example set, but the EXIF got scrubbed, so ill have to go back and look:

856501_10102063126599806_8992722026218456384_o.jpg


pretty sure very similar settings. Flash with diffuser pointed forward, angled up at 60°.


first time I ever shot anyhting like this, I used my D3100 and 35mm 1.8G. I had the camera pegged at f/2 and a
 
I'd be using f/4 as my base aperture, and only stopping down if you have groups of people at differnent focal planes.

I'd also start with a higher base ISO so the flash doesn't have to work at full power and has wiggle room to go brighter if the scene calls for it. Since you mentioned the 35 and 50, im assuming a crop sensor so maybe use 1600? I can get away with much higher. honestly, the 18-55 might be better here.

I like to shoot flash somewhere between 1/60-1/125sec. The slower the shutter the more amibent lighting that mixes in and you can start getting double exposures. the ISO level is what really brings th to control the overall lighte ambient lighting back in. If you want a dark background and bright subjects, lower the ISO a few stops. If you want a bright background and subjects, increase the ISO.

So you'll just be exercising your ISO settings to balance the ambient, aperture settings to handle the DOF, and letting the TTL flash keep the subjects/scene exposed properly.

Dont always just point the flash up. I like a 60° forward in a lot of cases, and sometimes I'll even point it on a wall behind me.


here's a random shot from a lunch event thing in a simly lit room.

DSC_7195-21
by The Braineack, on Flickr

That's ISO 4000, f/5.0, and 1/60sec. Flash in TTL. Full Frame to give you an idea.

I had another example set, but the EXIF got scrubbed, so ill have to go back and look:

856501_10102063126599806_8992722026218456384_o.jpg


pretty sure very similar settings. Flash with diffuser pointed forward, angled up at 60°.


first time I ever shot anyhting like this, I used my D3100 and 35mm 1.8G. I had the camera pegged at f/2 and a


Thanks! I do typically put my speed light at 75 degrees, so it does generally help get some light on the subjects without having that full flash in the face effect. I will try 60 as well in this situation! As mainly an outdoor photographer, I think the ISO tips are the most important for me because I've never really had to have the ISO much above 200-400.

You guys are awesome!
 
I like to use this ==> Flash Pocket Bouncer for Nikon SB910 SB900 SB700 SB400 SB300 SB600 SB28 SB24 ++

though I just use a couple of rubber band to keep it on.

last night taking a few pics of some cameras I used 2 SB800s. 2 pieces of white paper which I affixed to the flash with rubber bands, then bent the paper a bit to replicate the flash bouncer.

direct flash from your popup can cause red eye. the further away from the lens you get with flash the less likely you'll get red eye. And if it's not direct, and you diffuse it more you'll get better spread of the light.
 
I like to use this ==> Flash Pocket Bouncer for Nikon SB910 SB900 SB700 SB400 SB300 SB600 SB28 SB24 ++

though I just use a couple of rubber band to keep it on.

last night taking a few pics of some cameras I used 2 SB800s. 2 pieces of white paper which I affixed to the flash with rubber bands, then bent the paper a bit to replicate the flash bouncer.

direct flash from your popup can cause red eye. the further away from the lens you get with flash the less likely you'll get red eye. And if it's not direct, and you diffuse it more you'll get better spread of the light.


Ok here is an update:

I got out the camera and turned on 2 lamps in my living room. Started at ISO 1600 and used my 18-55 lens. I am in manual mode and started at f8 at 50mm. I can't the shutter speed anywhere NEAR where I need to be and get the exposure meter to read near the center. I jumped the ISO up to 3200 for giggles, and manually set the camera at f5.6 with a shutter speed of 1/200. Ok, now I'm getting a decent shot, but it's still way under exposed and grainy. So I bumped the ISO down to 2000, dropped the shutter speed to 1/125, and kept shooting at f5.6. Pics look better now, just underexposed.

I've got the lighting low like I imagine a nice restaurant would be. The speed light helps me get a decent shot, it is just way underexposed. I'm working right now to try and get the exposure up in post.

So, do I go into this with the idea of ISO 2000, fast shutter, at f5.6 and just increase the exposure in post? Or, am I still missing something. My hope is that the restaurant even though it may seem very dark will have more light than my living room at the moment.
 

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