I am a new photographer. I am confused. I shoot a lot in the morning and the light is not always so good. I read articles and listen to people on this site, but I just can't figure out how to get my shutter speed high enough without raising my ISO too high.. I am using the 300mm 2.8 with teleconverters. I am now down to th 1.4. Even at 800 ISO I am still only at 1/125 in some cases. I use a monopod or hand hold. The result is not good. Is there another trick or method I am missing? I don't want to go to auto ISO. I want to try and learn the basics. I know this is probably very basic and rudimentary for this site. I have a lot of enthusiasm with very little skill at this point.. I could use some help.. Thanks in Advance.
#1. "RE: Confused" In response to Reply # 0 Sun 25-Nov-12 02:00 AM by LMMiller9
Not sure what your subject is, but what you probably should try is a tripod rather than a monopod. Particularly since you are shooting with the 300mm lens plus a teleconverter. That dramatically increases the effect of any motion on either end (the subject or the camera).
You basically have four variables at play: the motion of the camera or subject, ISO, shutter speed, and aperture setting. That's about it.
I would not hesitate to go above ISO 800. Try shooting at ISO 3200 and that will allow you to shoot faster, or with smaller aperture. The D800 does very well at higher ISO settings.
When light it too low, such as in the dawn or dusk hours, you simply cannot handhold a camera and get a sharp picture without raising the ISO to very high levels.
A monopod will help, but with a 300mm lens and a teleconverter, even the smallest of vibrations is highly magnified. In those circumstances you should have your camera/lens on a solid tripod and be using mirror up shutter release. Only then will you get usable images.
You have excellent gear so no problem there. What you mention is that you are shooting at 1/125 and ISO 800 in some cases. What you don't mention is what aperture you are shooting at. Are you shooting wide open? With the 1.4 that would be f4. Or are you shooting with the lens stepped down some like f8. If at f8 you could open up the lens some to reduce the ISO and keep your shutter speeds up. Can you post some examples of the problem images you have? That would help bunches to give better answers.
#4. "RE: Confused" In response to Reply # 3 Sun 25-Nov-12 08:03 AM by jamesvoortman
"results are not good" this is not specific. Would be helpful if you post a sample for us to analyse.
Some tips for low light. Blur in the image can be due to lens shake or subject movement. higher shutter speed is the answer to both. If the lens has VR it will help a lot for camera/lens shake but not for subject movement.
Higher SS means less light comes in so to compensate, you need more sensitivity (ISO) and a larger aperture. you have an excellent lens so no problem to shoot it wide open at f2.8. Largest aperture will be f4 if a 1,4 TC is used and 5.6 if a 2.0 TC is used. If SS is still too slow than ramp up the ISO. the D800 can give acceptable noise up to about 2500 ISO. Even higher settings can be used but then some noise reduction in post processing may be needed.
Camera settings for low light shooting : 1) High ISO NR = ON. you can also adjust whether a strong or weak action is required. 2) Set Auto ISO with practical limits. For long shots, handheld with poor light, Auto ISO is a good tool. Set min shutter speed to auto and adjust this to +1 or +2 response. If you choose normal, the camera adjusts SS to 1/ Focal Length which may not be fast enough. set max allowable ISO to 2500 or 3200. when using Auto ISO in this way, you should be in A (aperture priority) mode so you can set and lock the required aperture. 3) if your subject is close enough - do you have any possibility of using flash. SB910 has a useful range of about 20 metres and even more if you fit a range extender. you can also mount it off-camera, closer to the target area and then shoot from further away. The flash can also give a longer range focus assist beam than the camera if you are struggling to get focus. 4) VR = ON if using a monopod or handheld. Use "active" setting if your subject requires panning 5) Shooting with long lens, early, therefore I assume a moving subject, animal, avian or human. Use centre weighted exposure control. for a moving subject, use AF-C 9 point or 21 point dynamic AF. In your D800 manual it explains which sensors are used, especially when using TC's. for a static subject, try AF-S single point. the centre sensor is the most sensitive.
I don't understand the reluctance to use higher ISO. This is the major advantage that we have now compared to the film days.
On the contrary: you clearly know what you are doing enough to have adjusted all the camera parameters that have the potential to help you achieve a faster shutter speed. Take heart from that.
The only thing you haven't appreciated is that for the time that you are shooting at, the light is so low in brightness that, as you have discovered, nothing you do can make up for it. The obvious solution, as others have pointed out, is a tripod.
With your camera on a tripod you can:
1. Rule out camera shake from your actions. Ideally use Mirror Up and trip the shutter with a remote release. If you do not have the latter, you can use the camera timer;
2. Select the lens aperture that returns the depth of field you desire without being forced to select the maximum aperture in order to increase shutter speed;
3. Select base ISO (or lower, ideally) in order to return effectively noise free images, instead of being forced to select a larger ISO value in order to increase shutter speed;
Joe - stick with the good questions. It will payoff.
I tend to be in the party that places a high priority on adequate shutter speed. You might have sharp images at 1/500 second, but most images look a lot sharper at 1/1000 or so. Slower than that range, a tripod won't do much good with twitchy subjects - it helps but does not make up for fast subject movement. If you are handholding or using a monopod, your shutter speeds will need to be maintained at 1/800 or more for a high percentage of keepers.
One of the other factors to keep in mind is the direction of the light. In low, even light, contrast is minimized and you may not have the detail. What you look for is a little more direction in the light. If the light is directly at your back, it's just as bad since the hard light and the angle remove all contrast. What you are looking for is to be positioned with light at 30-60 degrees angling across your subject. This balances contrast and detail.
When you are looking at great bird photos, look at the angle of the photographer to the light. You'll get some exceptions, but the detail really stands out at an angle.
Also keep in mind that apparent detail depends on the bird a bit. You want the eye to be sharp and a catchlight in the eye. Either sun or flash can be used to create a catchlight. For most images - those two details are minimum requirements.
Many birds have very soft feathers that show little detail. You'll need to learn when the teleconverter prevents those details from being seen. A teleconverter is not a free lunch - you are losing some of the native sharpness of your 300 f/2.8 lens. The only question is where that loss is noticed.
Shooting wildlife in low light forces you to make compromises as pointed out by Rob above.
Slow shutter speeds = more shot shots High ISO = noise & compromised detail (especially with feathers and fur) Tripod = reduced mobility and a tripod does not help with subject motion. Shooting Wide Open = shallow depth of field (I seldom find this a problem and shoot wide open a lot)
Sometimes you just have to accept one or more of these possible problems to get any shot at all.
I also err on the side of faster shutter speeds and will shoot wide open and higher ISO’s. What is acceptable as fare as noise from high ISO depends on the end use of the image. With the un-cropped (or very lightly cropped) D300 image shot at ISO-1600 you can probably make a 10inx15in print but if you try to go up to 16inx24in you will probably run into issues with noise.
One thing that you can try when you just cannot get higher shutter speed is to shoot in CH mode in bursts of 3 -4 shots at a time. This will increase the chance of catching you subject when they are perfectly still in one of the frames.
Look around at the best shots posted here and you will see that very few of them are shot in really low light. Dull flat light often creates dull flat images (especially with birds) with poor color. Sometimes you just have to know when not to take the shot. If you get to the point where your aperture is wide open and you have reached your high ISO limit and your shutter speed is still too low then it is probably time to pack it in until the light is better.
Stick with it and keep asking questions, we were all beginners struggling with the same issues and now we are here to help.
Dave Summers Lowden, Iowa Nikonians Photo Contest Director
Nikonians membership - "My most important photographic investment, after the camera"
#9. "RE: Confused" In response to Reply # 0 Mon 26-Nov-12 07:15 AM by Scotty45
Swan Reach.Vic., AU
Hi Joe. Welcome to the world of the confused. Luckily you are in the right place to get the right advice. dm1dave has given me some very sound advice in the past, & I agree with his above reply 100%. I too, like to shoot early morning with my D300s. 300mm F/4D plus a TC-14E II teleconverter. I also use a Monopod with a Wimberley sidekick attached. (I find a tripod too cumbersome to carry when looking for wildlife subjects). My mode preference is for Shutter Priority (For wildlife), as high as available light will allow. I try to keep the iso below 800 to reduce noise, but noise can be reduced greatly in PP. My main adjustment, (thanks to good Nikonian advice), is exposure compensation. This can be increased up to +5EV. Have a look at my recent post on this forum 'White-faced Heron' #3. This shot was taken, using the monopod, on a clear, early morning with the sun behind me. I used iso320 & +0.7EV. Now, it may have been just a fluke, but it came out pretty sharp I think. Another thing I found very helpful was reading the exposure settings advice given by Thom Hogan in his book 'Complete Guide to the Nikon D300 and D300s'. http://www.bythom.com/nikond300guide.htm (I hope I haven't broken any forum rules by giving Thom a plug. But his book is now my Nikonians bible). Just keep practicing, & asking for advice Joe. The confusion will get better....Scotty. PS. Don't forget to look at the D300/D200/D100 forum. There's good reading there as well.