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Thread: Night street shot

  1. #1

    Night street shot

    I took this photo during a street bazaar in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I had a 50mm f/1.8 on a Canon 550d and shot at f/2, 1/60, ISO 1000. I've not taken many photos at night, so I'm still trying to figure out how best to do so with the lens I have (50mm f/1.8, 10-22mm f/3.5 aside from the kit lens). I have issues properly focusing with the 50mm, but I also wonder about the WB. I couldn't figure out how best to adjust the WB for appropriate color at night among the competing lighting. I thought about black & white, but that sacrifices the multiple colors of her outfit.

    I have a couple others I was able to take (1 or 2 more a little sharper) before a downpour which put a quick end to the festivities.

    Your C&C are welcome and appreciated.
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  2. #2
    Shadowman's Avatar
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    Re: Night street shot

    Many options for handling WB: shoot RAW and modify later in pp, shoot AUTO ISO, and if possible shoot when shooting jpeg-shoot multiple variations.

    Regarding shooting setup for lowlight, I keep a little cheat sheet that has suggested settings for various conditions, but they would have to be modified for quality of image, movement of subject, changing light patterns. My sheet suggests ISO 400 for most shots, but profressionals such as Joe McNally suggest using ISO 100-200 unless you really need to bump up the ISO.
    Last edited by Shadowman; 1st March 2013 at 09:40 AM. Reason: added text

  3. #3
    RustBeltRaw's Avatar
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    Re: Night street shot

    I second John's raw-shooting recommendation. It's not a substitute for "correct" white balance before hitting the shutter, but it gives you the freedom to change your mind about the balance that works best for the mood you're after. Generally, night shots are balanced more blue (higher Kelvin temperature, which is counterintuitively called "cool" light).

    Aesthetically, while I'm normally a color nut, I prefer this in black and white. Without color, the dancer's face as the focal point is much clearer. Your very wide aperture left the background nicely unfocused. Great capture!

    Quote Originally Posted by Shadowman
    My sheet suggests ISO 400 for most shots, but profressionals such as Joe McNally suggest using ISO 100-200 unless you really need to bump up the ISO.
    This seems like an excessively general statement. Shutter speed demands frequently dictate your ISO at night. For monkeymind's dancer, 1/60sec seems like the minimum speed required for sharpness. ISO100 at f2.0 for the same shout would have required a shutter speed around 1/8-1/15sec - too slow to capture her motion, and nearly impossible to hand-hold. For a long-exposure night shot, low ISO becomes appropriate. Bear in mind that Joe McNally (one of my favorite photogs) usually sets his exposure based on how he wants the background to look, then brings in light after light until the foreground and/or middleground are exposed the way he wants. When you have access to that much artificial light, you're playing a different game.

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    rpcrowe's Avatar
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    Re: Night street shot

    I have had problems in the past using the 50mm f/1.8 Mk-I (virtually same optical performance as the Mk-II model) when shooting in lower light levels. The lens tends to hunt a bit so is not always great for quick people shooting.

    It is difficult for me to really critique your small image regarding sharpness. However, what I would like to mention is that the two female tourists (?) in the background are quite distracting to me. Of course, it is always easier to critique an image from my chair in front of my monitor but, it you had been able to move a bit to the left when shooting you might have avoided the tourists. OTOH, since you have the image, you might be able to work in post processing to be able to reduce the impact of the the background women on your subject.

    I am also guessing that if you shot from a position more to the left, the light might have been a bit brighter on the subject which would have allowed a bit faster shutter speed, lower ISO or smalller f/stop. As is, the subject seems almost back lit and you are exposing for the shadows.

    In actuality, using a flash bounced off a reflector (like the Joe Demb Flash Diffuser Pro) could have added to ths image. Here is an image shot in an open air market in Yangshuo China using a 550EX flash bounced into the DFD Pro as fill for the candy vendor who is backlit by the light. There was no ceiling off which to bounce.

    Night street shot

    I am using this image as an example of the value of shooting RAW. I shot this with a Canon 40D using RAW capture. Shooting in RAW is a great way to work. Since it is non-destructive; you can always return to the original RAW file for reprocessing with no loss. You can also take advantage of any new improvements in Adobe Camera RAW that come along.

    Looking at the image now, I think that closer cropping of the subject all around might improve it. It would eliminate some of the distraction from the light to the subject rear and the distraction of the open glass door to the image left. Since I need to recrop; I am going to go back and reprocess the image in Adobe Camera RAW-7 which I think will provide better results than the ACR-6 with which I first processed the image. I also hope that I have better PP skills than I had several years ago when I processed this image...
    Last edited by rpcrowe; 1st March 2013 at 03:00 PM.

  5. #5
    dubaiphil's Avatar
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    Re: Night street shot

    Ah Chiang Mai - great place to visit. There's a watershed in my travel vacations - pre and post DSLR - and I'd like to return some day with a camera - northern Thailand was BN (Before Nikon)!

    No if this were me shooting markets at night, I'd have a 35mm or 50mm on my full frame. I'd have Auto ISO set on, and depending on what I was shooting I'd have the minimum shutter speed set on 1/100th. Why? Subject movement. 1/100th would freeze all but the most violent movement in a market like this. If the subject was stationary and aware/posing for the shot, then I might flip to a different custome bank quickly which would have Auto ISO set at 1/50th or even 1/30th if the light was pretty low to get the shot without too much noise creeping in.

    As with Richard, I can't comment on the sharpness of your photos, and sharpness isn't the be all and end all, but I'd like to have as crisp a shot as possible. 1/60th at 50mm on a crop sensor is pushing it a little bit. You'd be doing well to regularly get sharp shots.

    50mm for me was a problem on a crop sensor body. I didn't get along with it. I personally preferred wider to get the environment into the background, or slightly longer to remove it. You're in a bit of a halfway house with your shot here. The best way of isolating your subject may have been to get down lower if the backgrounds/tops of stalls weren't too distracting. You were vacationing in a place where people aren't tall - maybe better to get to their level or slightly lower.

    As for WB - I'd have the camera set in Auto WB and shoot RAW, amending later. Different stalls and their lights, along with the hawker stalls, lanterns and other light sources by the temples in the area would all affect each shot differently. Auto WB would definitely be the easier route.

  6. #6
    Shadowman's Avatar
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    Re: Night street shot

    Quote Originally Posted by RustBeltRaw View Post
    I second John's raw-shooting recommendation. It's not a substitute for "correct" white balance before hitting the shutter, but it gives you the freedom to change your mind about the balance that works best for the mood you're after. Generally, night shots are balanced more blue (higher Kelvin temperature, which is counterintuitively called "cool" light).

    Aesthetically, while I'm normally a color nut, I prefer this in black and white. Without color, the dancer's face as the focal point is much clearer. Your very wide aperture left the background nicely unfocused. Great capture!


    This seems like an excessively general statement. Shutter speed demands frequently dictate your ISO at night. For monkeymind's dancer, 1/60sec seems like the minimum speed required for sharpness. ISO100 at f2.0 for the same shout would have required a shutter speed around 1/8-1/15sec - too slow to capture her motion, and nearly impossible to hand-hold. For a long-exposure night shot, low ISO becomes appropriate. Bear in mind that Joe McNally (one of my favorite photogs) usually sets his exposure based on how he wants the background to look, then brings in light after light until the foreground and/or middleground are exposed the way he wants. When you have access to that much artificial light, you're playing a different game.
    How is the statement excessive when it allows for variation?

  7. #7

    Re: Night street shot

    Thank you for the very helpful feedback! Next time I'll figure out how to post larger photographs within the message so they're easier to see. I did shoot RAW but I wasn't satisfied with post-my processing adjustments (e.g. I'd be satisfied with the skin color on face, but still have a bright yellow hand), but I'm using Lightroom (don't know yet how to use Photoshop).

    I think 1/60 was probably too slow for my handheld shot. Thank you for the recommended camera settings. I need to create a preset.

    RPCrowe - does the diffuser work for the built-in flash on the Canon 550d? I haven't purchased a good flash.

  8. #8
    RustBeltRaw's Avatar
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    Re: Night street shot

    Quote Originally Posted by Shadowman
    ...but they would have to be modified for quality of image, movement of subject, changing light patterns.
    Your statement does allow for variation, but beginning photographers tend to look for absolutes - hard rules that are supposed to result in good shots, period. My response was aimed at expanding the quoted part above, the point being that a tool like your cheat sheet (easy to interpret as a hard rule) is unlikely to cover all cases. If monkeymind's shot was at ISO100 to 400, they would have had to compromise exposure or sharpness. If you're working with artificial light (which monkeymind wasn't), then ISO100-400 becomes very feasible.

    Didn't mean to ruffle any feathers, but rules are made to be broken.

  9. #9
    mikejduk's Avatar
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    Re: Night street shot

    Quote Originally Posted by monkeymind View Post
    I took this photo during a street bazaar in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I had a 50mm f/1.8 on a Canon 550d and shot at f/2, 1/60, ISO 1000. I've not taken many photos at night, so I'm still trying to figure out how best to do so with the lens I have (50mm f/1.8, 10-22mm f/3.5 aside from the kit lens). I have issues properly focusing with the 50mm, but I also wonder about the WB. I couldn't figure out how best to adjust the WB for appropriate color at night among the competing lighting. I thought about black & white, but that sacrifices the multiple colors of her outfit.

    I have a couple others I was able to take (1 or 2 more a little sharper) before a downpour which put a quick end to the festivities.

    Your C&C are welcome and appreciated.
    I'm still a novice at this myself but I am slowly getting to grips with what is needed. I have numerous judges at our club monthly competitions putting me right!

    Your subject is good and having this colourful lady at the forefront of your frame is great. That's the good news

    The 50mm F/1.8 is a great Prime lens for indoor portrait shots but in my experience, and having used the same camera as you have here, you will find it difficult taking night shots with this lens. You have the blurring in the background but unfortunately it spills into the front. To get your subject really sharp for the distance you are from her I would have used the 18-55mm kit lens, if that is your limit, with a f/5.6 stop. If you wanted the background to be in focus as well then a f/22 stop.

    Personally I'm hopeless in live situations because I tend to panic about having my settings right I was walking in the countryside one sunny day and a deer appeared from out of nowhere. We stopped dead in our tracks weighing each other up and by the time I fumbled with my settings the darn deer disappeared

    Just don't give up trying.

    Regards
    Mike D

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