I am going to photograph my daughter's Christmas concert Thursday night in a church. Last year, I did not have my Nikon D50, only a Canon P&S, and the shots were awful. I am looking forward to getting nice shots this time.
I have the 18-55 kit lens and in-camera flash. I am having trouble figuring out the camera settings in difficult lighting. I find it hard to balance all the different possibilities (WB, ISO, focus, metering, mode, aperture, shutter speed etc...) in one photo setting.
I can look at the histogram and see that one end is off, but then I have troubling remembering whether I need to add exposure or subtract. I realize that that is an I.Q. issue.
Can someone give me a tip on settings that can get me started for a low light concert? The stage will have some light on the kids but the church is dark. I can get fairly close but probably not enough to use my in-camera flash.
I have not yet done a custom WB setting, so I would probably use auto, unless you recommend otherwise.
I will get there early and fiddle with the settings. But I am not sure how to set ISO in combination with other settings. (I have read every page of the manual and 2 books, and I surf this forum all the time -- still find it confusing.)
You may need to bump up the ISO setting to 800 or 1600 in order to maintain acceptable shutter speed. Moving subjects require higher shutter speeds (1/60s+) while stationary targets dont require that much(1/10s+) Some kind of camera support helps a lot, especially when dealing with low shutterspeeds.
Keep the apereture as bright as you can, in the kit lens case that is 3.5 in wide and 5.6 in tele. If ISO 1600 and 5.6 is not enough you just have to get closer and stick in the brighter wide end.
Try one of the preset WB setting or set WB manually, shooting in RAW removes the WB problem but requires post processing.
On board flash may help a bit and results are good if it is used as a fill flash, of course flash usability depends on how close to the stage you manege to get.
I just did the same thing in very low light conditions. I had to get the Iso out to 800 as I was some way away from the action. I used the built in flash and the flash compensation thing set to plus one stop over. The results I have to say were not brilliant and if I had to do it again I would have coupled my Metz 45 up to the D50. The biggest problem is the grain/noise at anything over ISO 400. The long and the short of it is, I would get hold of the most powerfull flash you can, regardless of brand so as to keep the ISO down.
I think the sb600 is probably the best way to go with the D50. It has a guide number of 98ft at ISO 100 for an 85mm lens (I think) So that should be good enough to toast eyeballs. I get the feeling from when I picked up the 800 it was going to make the camera top heavy (real shame there is no vertical grip for the D50). I found I had to use manual focus when the lighting was real dark which is not easy with the kit lens.
D50 noise at ISO 800 or 1600 is not a problem unless you are going to do huge prints. For normal 10x15 Cm (4x6 in.) prints the noise wont bother and if images are resized for web viewing the noise almost disappears. Check out the band pictures in this gallery to see web sized ISO1600 shots (taken with D50 kit).
Direct flash is quite harsh way to illuminate the subject, strong shadows and burn out highlights usually spoil the picture. Fill flash will do better images but the shutter times stay still quite low, bounced or bounced and diffused flash does the best pictures and enables shorter shutter times.
1. If I set the ISO at, say, 800, and I use no on-camera flash, would I use "A" (aperture priority) mode to set the f-stop where you recommend? And shutter speed would be adjusted automatically within that mode?
2. What do you recommend for metering (matrix)?
3. What do you recommend for auto-focus mode (I do not use the manual yet)?
Apereture mode will do fine, just set the apereture to 3.5 in the wide end and the camera will keep lowest possible apereture after that (even while zooming). Just keep eye on what shutter speeds camera recommends and compensate with ISO speed if necessary.
"ISO Auto" at 1/30 or suitable low limit may be worth considering too. This enables camera to use ISO values that user cant set, for example ISO 900 or ISO 1200.
Matrix metering works well but center wightened may be better. I usually shoot in Matrix mode as it has given results i want.
AF-S is tad faster but AF-A works well too and thats what i usually use.
I'm sure that you manage to capture some great shots.
Ps. Ultimately no one can say what will be the optimal settings, you just have to experiment and see what gives the best results.
Auto ISO and matrix shooting in P is probably the safest unless you know what you are doing.
Accessories that will help -- trying to keep price down.
Rent any f2.8 zoom lens for letting more light in. or any 50 mm or 85 mm f1.8 or 1.4 lens -- a lot more light. The 50 f1.8 lets in 4 times more light than the kit lens and sells for about $100. May also be a lot sharper especially in low light.
Try to keep your shutter speed above 1/125 to stop subject movement.
Rent or buy a Nikon or Sigma flash (SB 800 would be my clear choice) that is iTTL compatable.
Of course if you have a unlimited budget -- 70-200 vr or 17-55 f2.8 or Tamrons 28-75 f2.8.
Based on my wedding and Indian Pow wow experience with the D70 and its kit lens == High ISO and the kit lens just will not work - unless the stage is better lighted than any I have worked with.
Just to point out why I did not like the grain at ISO 800/1600. Your point is valid about there being no problem printing to 5" X 4" at high ISOs but as I said, I was some distance from the subjects. This means that to maintain a half reasonable composition with the kit lens cropping was involved. As noise/grain follows the inverse square rule, so, any cropping and re-sizing exacerbates the effects of sensor noise. True, in some instances grain is desirable but does not look good on children in nativity plays.
Report: I took the photos last night. I got there early so I could test the settings. I had the settings at mode "A," f/5.6, ISO 1600, shutter was 1/30. If I lowered the ISO, the shutter speed was too slow and photo was blurry. At 1/30 the photos looked good.
Then, when the kids took the stage, they completely blocked the bright white altar -- which turned out to be a strong source of light for my original settings. I could not get a photo once they blocked that light source. The shutter speed was too slow and the photos were blurry.
I quickly turned it to "auto" mode, used the built-in flash, and the photos were really nice. (I was more than 10 feet away from the stage.) Much, much better than any P&S camera I have used.
Thanks for all your help. I learned a lot just trying.
What its worth from a newbie. Based on threads found in sports photography, for low light with motion, I purchased a faster (f2.8) lense. I bought a Tamron 28-75mm XR DI SP AF for $360 after rebate. I am thrilled.