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10-25-2012, 09:21 AM   #1
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Help with photography inside dark theater

Hello Guys & Gals!

I've been invited to shoot at this year's Halloween party which will be taking place in a theater.

The shots that I will be taking are primarily attendees in costume and possibly group shots as well.

I've shot ring side before and other fast paced sports but never have I been in such a dark setting before.

After speaking with the organizers, it seems that the theater will be like your typical nightclub setting (dark, flashing lights and lasers maybe?)

So far I've armed myself with the following:
Pentax K5
AF360FGZ (First time using it! P-TTL is a must or so I've heard)

Now I'm still not sure what type of lens I should be carrying but I am leaning towards a zoom lens just in case due to the flexibility it offers.
So far, I've got the following:
Pentax DA 16 - 45 F4
Sigma 28 - 70
Possibly picking up a Sigma 18 - 125

I do not own any prime lenses at the moment but can borrow from a friend if needed.

I guess my questions here is:
  • Since I will be shooting with a flash, do I still need a "fast" aperture lens?
  • I am thinking a crowded and packed atmosphere (Last year they had over 2000 attendees) and since I'm assuming that most of my shots will be full body to half body portaits. Should I be looking for wide angle instead?
  • Assuming that it will be dark as a cave, will I need to manually focus my subjects before the shot?
  • Should I rely on my flash to do the job at all times?
  • Using flash, do I still need to shoot at a high ISO?

I've never shot in this setting before, so any tips or advice from those who have done so will be much appreciated!!

10-25-2012, 09:42 AM   #2
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Direct flash is going to look pretty ugly, but unfortunately with the 360 that's what you'll be limited to. You could get a TTL cord I guess, but then you'll be left with one hand to operate the camera, so maybe a flippy flash bracket as well. I would get a diffuser, a stofen or a GF lightsphere will work if you plan on being close to a white wall or two, but in the middle of a large room they won't do much. I like my Lumiquest softboxes.

Leave any lenses slower than 2.8 at home, primes are better in this case. Shoot wide open, or close to it. Use a slow shutter speed, maybe 1/60th, and the lowest ISO that will get the job done, 400~800 maybe. If the photos look a little too "flashy" bump the ISO up a stop and dial in -1 EV on the flash. You should be able to autofocus using the K5's assist lamp, or the red grid from the flash.

[Edit: Oh, shoot in manual, and practice ahead of time.]
10-25-2012, 09:54 AM   #3
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my 2 cents...

QuoteOriginally posted by neeko Quote
Since I will be shooting with a flash, do I still need a "fast" aperture lens?
QuoteOriginally posted by neeko Quote
Assuming that it will be dark as a cave, will I need to manually focus my subjects before the shot?
AF360FGZ... "auto focus assist" ... have you tried it out to know how it will work?

QuoteOriginally posted by neeko Quote
I am thinking a crowded and packed atmosphere (Last year they had over 2000 attendees) and since I'm assuming that most of my shots will be full body to half body portaits. Should I be looking for wide angle instead?
I've shot indoors and large area and depending on situations... distance, access, height/vantage... tended to go more tele to isolate things of interest.

QuoteOriginally posted by neeko Quote
Should I rely on my flash to do the job at all times?
I had a "no flash" situation and a K20D with distances of 80 to 200 feet and it was honestly a good thing I didn't use a flash or my shoots would have looked flatter... in my situation.
Consider a few key extra lenses to cover a no flash need.

QuoteOriginally posted by neeko Quote
Using flash, do I still need to shoot at a high ISO?
Lens Sharpness vs. Distance vs. Reproduction Needs




...well that was my 2 cents.
10-25-2012, 10:15 AM   #4
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I was thinking of getting this diffuser:
Sto-Fen OC-MZSET Gold & Green Omni Bounce Set OC-MZSET B&H

Would it make more sense to just pick up a Pentax M 50mm F1.4?

I was assuming that since the flash will be in use to substitute lighting, I could get away with a higher F stop. Was my assumption wrong?

Thanks for the informative responses!

10-25-2012, 10:17 AM   #5
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mark out a space, set up a backdrop and studio lights and shoot the scene on manual....
10-25-2012, 10:23 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by neeko Quote
I was thinking of getting this diffuser:
Sto-Fen OC-MZSET Gold & Green Omni Bounce Set OC-MZSET B&H

Would it make more sense to just pick up a Pentax M 50mm F1.4?

I was assuming that since the flash will be in use to substitute lighting, I could get away with a higher F stop. Was my assumption wrong?

Thanks for the informative responses!
Yes you can use a higher f-stop since you are using a flash.
10-25-2012, 11:04 AM   #7
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Watch this and related. Good tips.
10-25-2012, 11:26 AM   #8
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If you would like to use bounce flash, and the ceiling of the theater enables this, then I suggest doing some experimentation in advance with the K-5, AF360, and whatever lenses you intend to use.

Some people report bounce flash works fine on the K-5, but it doesn't for me. It overexposes a lot, but it can be mitigated a bit by dialing in -1 to -2 EV flash compensation, on the flash. It varies, unfortunately.

It might be worth doing this, despite the inconsistent behavior, because on-camera direct flash is awfully harsh.

10-25-2012, 01:19 PM   #9
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The DA16-45/4 is a pretty good lens - I'd recommend having it with you. It will go nice and wide when you need to.

If you can afford it, I'd add either a DA*50-135 or FA77 (used prices, hopefully). Both are usable wide-open - especially the FA77, which makes it nearly as flexible as the zoom overall. Both take very nice portraits of individuals or small groups and will work for candids as well.

And yes, since the AF360 flash has no swivel, you can't bounce the light off to the side or behind, as you often would. So at the least you'll want a diffuser and/or flexible light-shaping reflector, especially if you can't get an AF540, Metz, or similar flash with swivel. The Bracket may be a good idea too, or even this: Custom Solutions "The Shell" TSS Flash Attachment
10-25-2012, 02:00 PM   #10
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Thank you so much everyone!!

I'm still loaded with work atm but will start experimenting once I get home. Hopefully will post results and observations from testing
11-25-2012, 09:35 PM   #11
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Sorry to update the thread so late!

The theater had super high ceilings so it was impossible to bounce the flash off of them. I ended up shooting in TAV mode with JinDesu's DA 35mm f2.4 lens, AF.C, with select point focus. If I could do it all over again, I would definitely leave the AF to 11 point auto. Place was jam packed so it was impossible to fiddle with the camera and still manage to squeeze off a good shot

Photo's came out pretty decent with alot of keepers

Thanks to everybody for the tips!
Attached Images
   
11-26-2012, 06:14 AM   #12
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they look very nice, neeko........

so how was the flash setup? did you use a diffuser on the flash?
11-26-2012, 03:48 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by GDRoth Quote
they look very nice, neeko........

so how was the flash setup? did you use a diffuser on the flash?
Thanks

Couldn't get a diffuser in time so I just ended up pointing the flash up in the air with the catch light panel deployed.

Everyone else (Canikon) were using diffusers pointed towards the guests, but most of their shots came out over exposed :\
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