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Getting the best shot in low light

MJCreations

US
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MJCreations Registered since 28th Feb 2012
Mon 04-Jun-12 02:49 AM

My daughter will be having her dance recital Saturday. It's in the high school gym. I tried taking some pictures from the balcony today, and they are super-noisy. During the recital we will be seated in the bleachers that are on the gym floor, not the balcony. I used my 18-105 lens today, and that is most likely the lens I'll be using Saturday.
I will be approximately 50 feet from my daughter during the recital.

Any tips for the best quality, low-noise pics are greatly appreciated. Thanks!

I was using P-mode today, and most of the shots were 1/60, f/5.6, iso400 @105mm.
I know I need to stop relying on Program Auto mode so much and learn to use all my settings Manually. I should set that as a goal for this summer. But any help and tips for Saturday so I can get the best pics possible would be great. I appreciate any comments.

If I've left out any info, just ask, and I'll post. TIA!!

aolander

Nevis, US
3511 posts

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#1. "RE: Getting the best shot in low light" | In response to Reply # 0

aolander Silver Member Nikonian since 15th Sep 2006
Mon 04-Jun-12 03:08 PM

You don't necessarily have to use manual. Many experienced photographers use the "semi-auto" modes such as Aperture Priority. This way you have control over what the camera is doing at least partially.

Use Aperture Priority, set the aperture wide open and see where the shutter speed falls at the ISO you're using. If the shutter speed is getting too slow, bump up the ISO. At certain moments a shutter speed of 1/60th may be adequate, but it's going to be a little slow to stop action. The 18-105mm doesn't have a very wide maximum aperture especially at the 105mm end, so you're at a little disadvantage because of that. Do you have a 50mm f/1.8 or an 85mm f/1.8?

Try to use the lowest ISO you can to minimize noise, but also be sure the exposure is OK as underexposure will create noise. Even if the dancers are properly exposed, the darker areas of the image may be noisy when you're shooting inside. Are the images you say are noisy correctly exposed?

Alan

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MJCreations

US
14 posts

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#2. "RE: Getting the best shot in low light" | In response to Reply # 1

MJCreations Registered since 28th Feb 2012
Tue 05-Jun-12 06:16 PM

Hi, Alan. Thank you for the reply. I do have a 50mm lens, and I plan to try it out at the rehearsal Friday. I will be closer, so I hope it works out better than the 18-105. I will try Aperture Priority and see how it turns out. Thanks so much for the advice.

Is there a way to post a picture here in this thread? I'll post one I took Sunday, if I can.

Bob Chadwick

Norcross, US
2131 posts

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#3. "RE: Getting the best shot in low light" | In response to Reply # 2

Bob Chadwick Silver Member Nikonian since 12th Jan 2006
Tue 05-Jun-12 07:41 PM

I just shot a recital in the last 60 days. I echo setting the camera on Aperture priority. You might also want to consider auto ISO with a minimum shutter speed. Using a 70-200 wide open at f2.8, I set the auto ISO at a max of 3200 and a minimum shutter speed of either 1/250 or 1/500 (can't remember and I'm not home to check). I then took some test shots, checked the histogram and adjusted exposure compensation until I had just the slightest amount of blinkies.

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aolander

Nevis, US
3511 posts

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#4. "RE: Getting the best shot in low light" | In response to Reply # 0

aolander Silver Member Nikonian since 15th Sep 2006
Wed 06-Jun-12 12:22 AM

If you use the 50mm wide open the depth of field will be quite shallow. Maybe stop down a little, f/2.8 or so. You'll still be at wider aperture than your 18-105mm can muster.

Alan

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WhatAboutBob

Georgetown, US
97 posts

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#5. "RE: Getting the best shot in low light" | In response to Reply # 4

WhatAboutBob Gold Member Nikonian since 02nd Nov 2009
Wed 06-Jun-12 11:24 PM

Did you set the iso to a higher value?

Use a monopod if you're hand holding technique requires it - will keep the blurry shakes down

or

Maybe rent a longer telephoto like the 70-200/2.8 as another poster mentioned.

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HenkB

Wayland, US
547 posts

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#6. "RE: Getting the best shot in low light" | In response to Reply # 0

HenkB Silver Member Nikonian since 18th Dec 2004
Fri 08-Jun-12 02:14 AM

Let's start out trusting P-mode in at least this: if it thought that 1/60 at f/5.6 at iso 400 would work, AND the images came out well exposed, that should certainly be your starting point, noise or no noise. If the 18-105 is like other Nikon zooms then the minimum aperture is reached in the vicinity of 50mm. Even with the VR, you need to worry about subject motion blur. You will need to exercise care if you shoot substantially slower than 1/60, so the only escape routes to higher shutter speed you have left are either the iso setting or a faster lens.

What you don't mention is whether the test shots you have taken represent the lighting that will be used. If there will be no theatrical lighting and you will be relying on the ambient gym lighting then, unless they have more light up their sleeve, what you've seen is likely to be what you'll get. If there will be some additional lighting and a corresponding dimming of the ambient, then things might be more hopeful but can get more challenging.

In any case, consider using center-weight or spot metering - especially with theatrical lighting. You don't care about the background, you want the dancers to be correctly exposed. If they are correctly exposed then they won't be noisy, it really is as simple as that. At 50 feet and f/5.6 your 105mm lens will have a depth of field of about 15 feet, so, as long as your focus point does not leave your daughter (or the dancer of current interest), you should only need to worry about blur. 1/60 sec. may seem a bit dicey for dancers but if you can time your shots to their holds at set poses, even that can work satisfactorily. See the first photo - D300, 50mm 1.4D, 1/15 sec., f/2.8, iso 1600 (not a typo - 1/15 sec.- notice the blur in the hands of the second dancer). Don't get too impressed by the camera's extra zero. Same sensor as a D90 but the D90 possesses the later, more competent implementation. With a D90 I have shot satisfactorily at iso 1600 and above. See the second photo - D90, 35mm 2D, 1/100 sec., f/3.2, iso 3200. Both these photos are uncropped and were taken at rehearsals which allowed me to roam around close in with a short, fast lens. Same church, a few years apart. Some relatively strong spots are on in photo 1, not in photo 2.

Noise starts to be a problem if the image either needs to be severely cropped or its exposure substantially boosted in post. At 50 feet an early teen standing erect should just about fit into a frame in landscape orientation shot with a focal length of 105 - even shorter if her arms are stretched over her head. This suggests that the tradeoff between the 18-105 and a faster, shorter prime might be close to a wash - with a short prime at 50 feet you'll be cropping more.

Best,

Hendrik

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Attachment #1, (jpg file)
Attachment #2, (jpg file)

PAStime

Kingston, CA
2670 posts

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#7. "RE: Getting the best shot in low light" | In response to Reply # 0

PAStime Silver Member Nikonian since 10th Feb 2009
Sat 09-Jun-12 12:31 PM

>Any tips for the best quality, low-noise pics are greatly
>appreciated. Thanks!

>I was using P-mode today, and most of the shots were 1/60,
>f/5.6, iso400 @105mm.

You shouldn't be seeing any significant noise at ISO 400. Increase it up to 1600 if necessary. Peter

clayolmstead

Austin, US
197 posts

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#8. "RE: Getting the best shot in low light" | In response to Reply # 6

clayolmstead Registered since 21st Jul 2010
Wed 27-Jun-12 03:44 AM

Great shots and excellent advice. The only thing I would add is that with the 105, 1/15 is pretty slow even with VR. A monopod or tripod would be a valuable tool.

Clay
Austin, TX USA

G