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Thread: I keep learning the hard way...

  1. #1
    Fit's Avatar
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    I keep learning the hard way...

    I spent some time shooting at a friends party this weekend. I knew going in that it would challenge my almost-nonexistant skills in shooting hand-held candids:

    • space (old warehouse) is not attractive/noisy backgrounds and clutter
    • brick walls painted bright and shiny white
    • matte black ceilings
    • brightly lit with low-hung bright fluorescents
    • and everybody moving


    Against novice me and my D90 w/kit lens

    So yup... my stills turned out nice, some very nice for me.
    But 95% percent of shots with people were blurry, streaked etc.

    I go into to things like this to challenge myself and end up forgetting some detail that kills the shots. This time, I kept the ISO way, way too low for indoors... I knew better but got caught up in all else and didn't keep an eye on it.

    Gah!

    I feel like I need crib notes for combos of ISO, Aperture and Shutter that at least get me headed in the right direction when shooting particular scenes until I do it so much that it becomes habit. Any leads on such a matrix? For example:
    Combo: Indoors, low light, moving subjects, no flash, handheld etc... Despite having the LCD for reference, I still goof up.

    Just a wee bit of a rant... my expectations far exceed my skill set.


    I did like a couple shots not involving human faces :P

    I keep learning the hard way...
    I keep learning the hard way...

  2. #2

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    Re: I keep learning the hard way...

    Sometimes, Chris, you just know you are onto a loser as soon as you see the scene; so all you can do is try your best and hope, but without any real expectations.

    For me, my first thoughts on arriving at a location are to decide whether shutter speed or aperture are going to be the most critical. And if either the subjects and/or me are likely to be moving I choose shutter priority (Tv) and let the aperture take care of itself.

    Then keep adjusting the ISO to try and obtain a reasonable aperture, but that always takes second place to shutter speed. Some adjustment of the Exposure Compensation also helps to create better results on individual difficult scenes. But too often I forget to reset to the normal setting and end up spoiling more than I gained.

    Too low a shutter speed has ruined more of my shots than any other single cause.

    And I find that too much reliance on the review screen can cause me problems. Often, particularly with insects etc, I take a quick look at the screen, under imperfect lighting and readjust my shooting settings based on that. But too late I realise my own intuition was actually correct and the changes spoilt my photos.

    Sometimes I find it's difficult to trust my own ability.

    Ideally, under the conditions you describe, I would like to use a decent external flash and shoot direct, without bouncing the light etc, but using a little flash output compensation as required. But the trouble with that, I find, is people tend to become self conscious when they see a large flash and I just don't get the relaxed looks.

  3. #3
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    Re: I keep learning the hard way...

    Quote Originally Posted by Geoff F View Post

    Too low a shutter speed has ruined more of my shots than any other single cause.

    And I find that too much reliance on the review screen can cause me problems. Often, particularly with insects etc, I take a quick look at the screen, under imperfect lighting and readjust my shooting settings based on that. But too late I realise my own intuition was actually correct and the changes spoilt my photos.

    Sometimes I find it's difficult to trust my own ability.
    Excellent feedback- and the points I quoted are especially true with me. I have to just get better.

    This fellow's walkthroughs seem helpful? http://mansurovs.com/low-light-digital-photography-tips

    I think I really do need to keep a little notebook with "basic settings" and what I learn from them so I can at least stare at them while setting up. A "checklist" if you were.

  4. #4

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    Re: I keep learning the hard way...

    That first shot is really nice and the second is nice as well.

    I think it's a very good idea to become familiar with light levels and the aperture/shutter/ISO combinations that are usable in such lighting. When you have a good sense of lighting, you can step into a space and pretty much know exactly what your challenges are going to be.

    You should learn about Exposure Value. EV is important because it drives metering. It's also the unit of measure of Exposure Compensation. It provides a reference point for relating various levels of light and for understanding just how far apart those levels are.

    Learning about EV will also demystify several of your camera's specifications and operations. Your D90 has a metering range of 0-20EV. When you're trying to meter in low light and the camera says "Lo" or the meter starts flashing, it's because the light level as dropped below 0EV. People think Program mode uses some unknown complex algorithm to select aperture and shutter, but it's actually driven by EV and the "program" is laid out in a chart on page 263 of your D90 manual. And all your EC, bracketing, and AF ranges are given in EV in the camera specifications.

    Exposure Value has two meanings. First, it is a combination of aperture and shutter. There's a formula that you plug in your aperture and shutter and you get back a number. Second, it is a level of luminance, or brightness, of a scene. Again there a formula and you plug in the light level and ISO value and you get back a number. Here's the important thing...when the EV of the aperture/shutter equals the EV of the scene, you have standard exposure (that's when your meter indicator is centered.) That's the relationship that makes EV useful.

    An EV always relates to a specfic ISO value (e.g. 12 EV:400.) If no ISO value is given then assume ISO 100.

    Here is a table of exposure values and their related aperture/shutter combinations at ISO 100...
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exposur...amera_settings

    Here is a table of lighting conditions and their related exposure values...
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exposur...xposure_values

    You can take an EV for a given lighting condition, and then review the EV table to see what combinations of aperture and shutter will work for that level of light. As I said, the chart is for ISO 100...for other ISO values just move down a row for every doubling of ISO. So ISO 200 is one row down, ISO 400 is two rows down, etc.

    It's not necessary to memorize any of these values. Far more important is to simply understand that there's a system at work here, roughly how that system works, and to appreciate the difference in lighting levels of various lighting conditions. A change of one EV equals a doubling or halving of the amount of light. So you can see that there's quite a huge difference in lighting between the 5-7EV of a home interior and the 12EV of open shade on the clear day. Even though, to our eyes, that shaded area may look dark, its got 3200% more light than a home interior.

    So read up on EV and see what you think. At some point we also need to address your use of M mode, which is typically the wrong mode for just about any situation where the meter is working. At the very least, Auto-ISO should be enabled under such conditions.

  5. #5
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    Re: I keep learning the hard way...

    Thanks Graystar, I'll do that. Much appreciated!

  6. #6
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    Re: I keep learning the hard way...

    Just me, but start saving up for an 50/1.8 or 35/1.8, or a flash. A lot of it wasn't necessarily you. Your equipment was also slightly hampered by the fact that the kit lens has a max. aperture of f/3.5-5.6. With lower light shooting like that, adding light with a flash to a slow lens, or using a faster lens can make a big difference in attainable shutter speeds.

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    Re: I keep learning the hard way...

    Hi Chris,

    For moving people you will need a shutter of 1/60 or 1/125. Sacrifice everything else to get that speed. If this means high ISO and wide open aperture then so be it. These things are usually associated with lower quality. However if your action is frozen then you can look past the softness and noise to see a nice photo. If your shot is blurred then it is probably for the trash bin. It is better to compromise a bit than miss the shot.

    A speedlight will work wonders for providing more light.

    Keep trying. Practice makes perfect.

    Alex

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    Re: I keep learning the hard way...

    Don't be afraid to use high level ISO. When I shoot indoors at night time, I normally set my ISO between 800 to 3200 and have a shutter speed around 25 - 60. Of course this is with a flash/Speedlite. When an image is properly expose, the less noise you'll see.

  9. #9
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    Re: I keep learning the hard way...

    Quote Originally Posted by inkista View Post
    Just me, but start saving up for an 50/1.8 or 35/1.8, or a flash. A lot of it wasn't necessarily you. Your equipment was also slightly hampered by the fact that the kit lens has a max. aperture of f/3.5-5.6. With lower light shooting like that, adding light with a flash to a slow lens, or using a faster lens can make a big difference in attainable shutter speeds.

    Someday

  10. #10
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    Re: I keep learning the hard way...

    Quote Originally Posted by herbert View Post
    Hi Chris,

    For moving people you will need a shutter of 1/60 or 1/125. Sacrifice everything else to get that speed. If this means high ISO and wide open aperture then so be it. These things are usually associated with lower quality. However if your action is frozen then you can look past the softness and noise to see a nice photo. If your shot is blurred then it is probably for the trash bin. It is better to compromise a bit than miss the shot.

    A speedlight will work wonders for providing more light.

    Keep trying. Practice makes perfect.

    Alex
    Thanks for the tips, Alex

  11. #11
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    Re: I keep learning the hard way...

    Quote Originally Posted by Crovean View Post
    Don't be afraid to use high level ISO. When I shoot indoors at night time, I normally set my ISO between 800 to 3200 and have a shutter speed around 25 - 60. Of course this is with a flash/Speedlite. When an image is properly expose, the less noise you'll see.

    Thanks!

  12. #12
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    Re: I keep learning the hard way...

    I situations like you describe, if I'm not gonna use flash, I set the ISO to automatic and the shutter to 1/60 minimum and let the camera worry about the rest. BTW, I shoot a D90 also. Why try to second guess settings that the camera can figure out for you. Also, unless DOF is a requirement I set it to Programmed auto mode, otherwise Aperture priority. As suggested, a 50mm 1.8 lens is a good investment.

  13. #13

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    Re: I keep learning the hard way...

    I'm not sure exactly which lens you have, Chris, or what amount of zoom you were using but for me, if your subjects were moving around, I would ideally like a faster shutter speed than what has been mentioned.

    You may be able to avoid camera shake at 1/60 but for subject movement I would prefer something more like 1/250. And even that may be too slow for people who are moving quickly, like dancing etc.
    Last edited by Geoff F; 19th January 2012 at 06:17 PM. Reason: spelling

  14. #14
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    Re: I keep learning the hard way...

    Thanks for the thoughts, Jeff.

    I was practicing last night around the house... couldn't get the combo of details just right but just correcting my stupid ISO error helped.

    I love CiC!

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    Re: I keep learning the hard way...

    Chris, don't be hard on yourself! Those shots are fine in their composition. You've got the ideas, that's the important thing. You can learn the rest over time just like the rest of us are (or have already done)

    As for crib notes- well, YES! I have about four little notebooks around the house. If I am going to a new type of setting, I will definitely make some notes for myself and take those along. Who cares if someone sees us using them? I also make notes while I'm shooting sometimes. We all learn differently, and for me, I need the hands on plus the written format. The charts that the folks above have recommended you can just copy and stick in your pocket or camera bag.

    Thumbs up to what Alex said: "Keep trying. Practice makes perfect."

    Myra
    (Loving the practicing!)

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