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Thread: Need Help with taking photos in low light situations . . . PLease help!

  1. #1

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    Need Help with taking photos in low light situations . . . PLease help!

    I am really struggling with getting good photos in low light situations such as wedding receptions. I am trying not to use the auto setting but seem to be failing miserably! Here is an example photo from this past weekend. I have a feeling it might have to do with my ISO setting being to low, but it seem as though if I go higher with the ISO the photo gets a lot of noise in it. I have lightroom software so I can improve the photo but I would like the photo to look better before I do any enhancing in the lightroom. PLease let me know how I can improve. Thanks for your help.


    Camera: Nikon D5000
    f/5.3
    1/60 sec
    44mm
    ISO 200
    flash on my camera was used
    I am shooting in RAW

    Need Help with taking photos in low light situations  . . . PLease help!
    Last edited by Kathy O; 2nd January 2013 at 07:02 PM.

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    Re: Need Help with taking photos in low light situations . . . PLease help!

    First suggestion from me is to not be afraid of higher ISO. The D5000 should give you some useable results up to ISO 800 for sure, and probably higher. Higher ISO noise is just something to be aware of, it doesn't make the higher ISOs useless.
    Controlling noise is far more related to editing than to your particular camera.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wFHJfc_N6NM
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B9AQs0Fc864

    Second suggestion is a little more expensive, but a good TTL flash makes a huge difference. Something like the SB 800 or SB 700 makes a great difference. All you do is put the flash on and point it at the ceiling slightly behind you. In these situations I'm usually at ISO 800 so that my flash can cycle faster and I won't eat batteries. Since I've started using flashes, I always make sure to have my trusty SB 700 in my bag anytime I have my camera. I do use the flash in automatic in a situation like a wedding reception, but that's because it simply takes too long to adjust the flash power every time (since things happens so fast).

  3. #3

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    Re: Need Help with taking photos in low light situations . . . PLease help!

    Flash is your only alternative, Kathy.

    For scenes like this, I set the flash controls manually to suit the scene (eg 1/125 F5 Iso 200) then let the auto flash control find it's own output level. Plus or minus a little flash compensation.

    If you don't want to use flash I'm afraid higher Iso is the only alternative. Iso 800 is usually reasonable successful but you may need double that to get suitable shutter speeds. 1/60 is a bit on the borderline if there is an real action subject movement.

    However, you should be able to recover quite a bit more from that image with careful editing.

    With difficult edits, I often do two Raw conversions with different settings then combine them as layers with masks. But they relies on you being able to edit in this manner.

  4. #4

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    Re: Need Help with taking photos in low light situations . . . PLease help!

    Quote Originally Posted by blakemcguire View Post
    First suggestion from me is to not be afraid of higher ISO. The D5000 should give you some useable results up to ISO 800 for sure, and probably higher. Higher ISO noise is just something to be aware of, it doesn't make the higher ISOs useless.
    Controlling noise is far more related to editing than to your particular camera.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wFHJfc_N6NM
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B9AQs0Fc864

    Second suggestion is a little more expensive, but a good TTL flash makes a huge difference. Something like the SB 800 or SB 700 makes a great difference. All you do is put the flash on and point it at the ceiling slightly behind you. In these situations I'm usually at ISO 800 so that my flash can cycle faster and I won't eat batteries. Since I've started using flashes, I always make sure to have my trusty SB 700 in my bag anytime I have my camera. I do use the flash in automatic in a situation like a wedding reception, but that's because it simply takes too long to adjust the flash power every time (since things happens so fast).
    Thanks for responding to my post. I used the flash on my camera for this photo, do you think if I would have pushed up the ISO to 800 and used my flash the photo would have turned out better??

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    Re: Need Help with taking photos in low light situations . . . PLease help!

    Quote Originally Posted by Kathy O View Post
    Thanks for responding to my post. I used the flash on my camera for this photo, do you think if I would have pushed up the ISO to 800 and used my flash the photo would have turned out better??

    I'm certain it would have. A dedicated flash unit would help more though. By turning the flash so that it hits the ceiling behind you, you get a nice, natural looking light, even though it's from the flash. This eliminates the "moon face" look.

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    Re: Need Help with taking photos in low light situations . . . PLease help!

    Sorry to double post, but to help my argument that high ISO is indeed useful:

    Need Help with taking photos in low light situations  . . . PLease help!

    This was taken at ISO 3200 on my D90. The D90 is an older camera than the D5000, and to my understanding they should have comparable high ISO characteristics. But in this image, there is no significant noise.

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    Loose Canon's Avatar
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    Re: Need Help with taking photos in low light situations . . . PLease help!

    Quote Originally Posted by Kathy O View Post
    Thanks for responding to my post. I used the flash on my camera for this photo, do you think if I would have pushed up the ISO to 800 and used my flash the photo would have turned out better??
    Yes I do. A higher ISO should have increased the effectiveness of your flash.

    There is some red-eye going on caused by your on-board light, but that is not what you are asking about.

    There is a lot of information on this forum dealing with high ISO shooting. And a lot of it gets really technical. So I wonít repeat all that.

    I just did a high ISO shoot where no flash was allowed and here is basically what I did. I set my lens wide open with the camera using Av. I see you shot using Av as well. At lower ISOís I was getting a painfully slow shutter speed so I started upping the ISO value (ended up with 3200) until I got the meter zeroed and a shutter speed I could live with. As you increase the ISO, your shutter should speed up provided the aperture stays the same. I would have liked to get a smaller aperture (larger number) but I wasnít sure what my camera would do at a higher ISO. I didnít want to go any higher than I absolutely had to.

    The critical part is not to under-expose. By doing so you help to keep the noise under control. So I increased the exposure compensation as much as I dared, which in Av simply means the shutter slows down to let in more light. Checked my histogram with the idea of getting everything over to the right. Thatís pretty much the procedure I used for the camera settings. I donít know much about Nikon cameras but you could still keep the flash in the mix Iím guessing. Just practice up on your red-eye removal because you are going to get a lot of it with your on-board light.

    Now, you need to know what ISO your camera will shoot that you find the noise acceptable. I have one camera that I donít like to go over 1600. I have another one that Iím not really sure of yet. I know it will do 3200 very nicely so I havenít found the ceiling on what it will do comfortably. The only way I know of to get this info is just shoot in low light, review your results and decide what you can live with.

    Other solutions (read: more expensive) would also include some noise removal software and a hot shoe flash gun with a tilting/revolving head. To get away from your camerís on-board and so you could use bounced light. If I were going to be doing a lot of this type of shooting, I would try a flash bracket/aforementioned flash gun and I like the Fong Lightsphere. Other folks use different types of reflectors/diffusers.

  8. #8

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    Re: Need Help with taking photos in low light situations . . . PLease help!

    Quote Originally Posted by Loose Canon View Post
    Yes I do. A higher ISO should have increased the effectiveness of your flash.

    There is some red-eye going on caused by your on-board light, but that is not what you are asking about.

    There is a lot of information on this forum dealing with high ISO shooting. And a lot of it gets really technical. So I won’t repeat all that.

    I just did a high ISO shoot where no flash was allowed and here is basically what I did. I set my lens wide open with the camera using Av. I see you shot using Av as well. At lower ISO’s I was getting a painfully slow shutter speed so I started upping the ISO value (ended up with 3200) until I got the meter zeroed and a shutter speed I could live with. As you increase the ISO, your shutter should speed up provided the aperture stays the same. I would have liked to get a smaller aperture (larger number) but I wasn’t sure what my camera would do at a higher ISO. I didn’t want to go any higher than I absolutely had to.

    The critical part is not to under-expose. By doing so you help to keep the noise under control. So I increased the exposure compensation as much as I dared, which in Av simply means the shutter slows down to let in more light. Checked my histogram with the idea of getting everything over to the right. That’s pretty much the procedure I used for the camera settings. I don’t know much about Nikon cameras but you could still keep the flash in the mix I’m guessing. Just practice up on your red-eye removal because you are going to get a lot of it with your on-board light.

    Now, you need to know what ISO your camera will shoot that you find the noise acceptable. I have one camera that I don’t like to go over 1600. I have another one that I’m not really sure of yet. I know it will do 3200 very nicely so I haven’t found the ceiling on what it will do comfortably. The only way I know of to get this info is just shoot in low light, review your results and decide what you can live with.

    Other solutions (read: more expensive) would also include some noise removal software and a hot shoe flash gun with a tilting/revolving head. To get away from your camer’s on-board and so you could use bounced light. If I were going to be doing a lot of this type of shooting, I would try a flash bracket/aforementioned flash gun and I like the Fong Lightsphere. Other folks use different types of reflectors/diffusers.
    Thank you Terry your post is very helpful!! I would just like to be an amateur photographer that doesn't have to use the auto setting all the time. Thanks again!

  9. #9

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    Re: Need Help with taking photos in low light situations . . . PLease help!

    Quote Originally Posted by Kathy O View Post
    Thanks for responding to my post. I used the flash on my camera for this photo, do you think if I would have pushed up the ISO to 800 and used my flash the photo would have turned out better??
    You should be able to get better results with flash, Kathy. What actual camera settings did you use?

    When I first got a modern flash unit I was shooting in the same way as my old film cameras and getting poor results.

    Using any of the auto or semi auto camera settings also gave poor and erratic shots. It was only after I started thinking about how cameras and modern flash units work that I began to get controllable photos.

    You don't need high Iso with flash under average conditions. Increasing the Iso simply lowers the flash output so you are no better off. Any of the auto camera controls have similar problems as the camera tends to auto select a very low shutter speed and/or a wide open aperture.

    Using manual camera controls enables you to adjust the flash output to directly match the scene. Some exposure compensation is usually necessary and this is something which has to be learned by experimentation.

  10. #10
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    Re: Need Help with taking photos in low light situations . . . PLease help!

    Quote Originally Posted by Kathy O View Post
    Thank you Terry your post is very helpful!! I would just like to be an amateur photographer that doesn't have to use the auto setting all the time. Thanks again!
    Glad it could be of help, Kathy.

    While I'm at it, I should have mentioned that if you crop heavily, that is also going to increase your noise visibility.

    I'd say you are well on the way to achieving that goal!

  11. #11
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    Re: Need Help with taking photos in low light situations . . . PLease help!

    Kathy,

    There is a vast difference between the camera's on-board flash and a detachable hotshoe flash.

    First off, the hotshoe flash is always a lot more powerful than the camera's built-in flash.

    But that is certainly not the only advantage to using a detachable hotshoe flash. if you get a hotshoe flash which will both tilt and rotate, it is easy to bounce the flash off the ceiling. If there is no ceiling or the ceiling is too high or too dark, you can bounce off a wall or use a Flash Diffuser Pro (more later). Bouncing a flash will result in much more natural looking images.

    I usually recommend getting a flash unit made by the manufacturer of your camera (in your case Nikon). However, there are flash units made by third party manufacturers such as Metz which are quite relliable and, in the case of the Metz 50AF-1 are less expensive, yet have almost all the bells and whistles of the OEM flash units. There are also units of Chnese manufacture which are less expensive but often do not have the capabilities of the OEM flashes. I cannot confirm nor deny the reliability of these Chinese flash unts.

    My criteria for a flash would be:
    1. I would want it to work automatically with my camera
    2. I would want it to both tilt and rotate but, I would also want manual capability
    3. I would want to be able to use the flash with shutter speeds higher than the camera's maximum sync speed. I don't know what Nikon calls this capability but in Canon-talk it is High Speed Sync or HSS.

    Finally, a good hotshoe flash will allow for flash fill in outdoor shots, especially images of people from relatively close. Fill flash drastically improves images in many lighting situations.

    I modify my bounced flash with a Joe Demb Flash Diffuser Pro www.dembflashproducts.com

  12. #12
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    Re: Need Help with taking photos in low light situations . . . PLease help!

    Even for experienced photographers, nighttime and or low light photography can be a tricky situation. Photos often look unfocused, blurry, or lacking crucial details, and many may not come out at all. There are some tricks, though, to taking spectacular nighttime and or low light photos with your digital camera, tricks that can be explained yet only completely learned through practice. I also have found that sometime you have to make do with what light you have to work with and go from there. In time you will get better I'm sure. Here a photo I did using no flash and show what you can do.

    Need Help with taking photos in low light situations  . . . PLease help!

    This is a good read. http://digital-photography-school.co...al-photography
    Last edited by Melkus; 2nd January 2013 at 08:33 PM.

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