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Wow... Night/low light photography is hard
Posted By: MrApollinax, 06-25-2008, 05:52 AM

Work sends me all around the US and the world at times and with my new camera I had been eagerly awaiting my next trip to New Orleans. So armed with only my kit lens and my A50 1:2 I went out to try to take some pictures. Lessons learned? The kit lens is nearly useless in the dark while shooting hand held. It was readily apparent that my A50 was performing better than my kit lens. Also, capturing moving objects without a flash... very difficult with low light (though I knew this already now I really know this now). Last but not least, if the subject is not moving and has a little light on it I can take a passable shot of it. So here are some that I am okay with but wish I could have done better. Please comment and critique. I'm sure I will have at least a few more chances to do similar shooting.

First two are in a dark smoky jazz club on frenchmen street:





Then a few out walking in the street:





And the last one from the same club after I had returned. The band had just finished their set (around midnight or so):




I had some pictures of people dancing as well... however those turned out to be a blurry mess. I'm still going to try to figure out what I can do with my kit before I break down and buy a faster 50 to compensate for my lack of understanding.

Last edited by MrApollinax; 04-18-2010 at 06:10 AM. Reason: fixed links
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06-25-2008, 06:40 AM   #2
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Yep, a faster 50 is your answer here. Aside from that, being creative with support for your camera when shooting like this can be helpful. But if anything is moving in your image, even a support is not going to help avoid blur. Then again, creative blur can be quite powerful.
06-25-2008, 06:48 AM   #3
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What ISO did you shoot with? I feel pretty comfortable at 800 or even 1600 in a real pinch.
06-25-2008, 06:55 AM   #4
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I like these shots and yep user440 tip on bumping ISO will be your best bet next time (or more lighting haha)

06-25-2008, 08:09 AM   #5
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Doh, I had used Auto ISO on all these shots. *slaps forehead* I should have just set it at 800. It looks like the shots of the musicians were at 800 ISO but the shots of the street and trumpet were done at 200 ISO. I'm guessing the trade off with the higher ISO is going to be noise correct?
06-25-2008, 08:15 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by MrApollinax Quote
Doh, I had used Auto ISO on all these shots. *slaps forehead* I should have just set it at 800. It looks like the shots of the musicians were at 800 ISO but the shots of the street and trumpet were done at 200 ISO. I'm guessing the trade off with the higher ISO is going to be noise correct?
Yes more noise most agree ISO 800 is resonable - 1600 would be ok if depending on the shot (nosie adds something to some shots) and if you are going to print and what size. There are several thrid party applcaitions for noise removal - some work beter than others - you can search the Post Processing and Software - PentaxForums.com processing section for some ideas cost range from free to $100+.
06-25-2008, 08:35 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by MrApollinax Quote
Doh, I had used Auto ISO on all these shots. *slaps forehead* I should have just set it at 800. It looks like the shots of the musicians were at 800 ISO but the shots of the street and trumpet were done at 200 ISO. I'm guessing the trade off with the higher ISO is going to be noise correct?
Only in the last 6 months have I done away with the Auto ISO. I keep it at ISO200 for pretty much all outside work and only move it up if necessary for indoor shots. That said, I rely on changing ISO much more than using a flash.
06-25-2008, 08:40 AM   #8
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Are you using automatic white balance? From what I see, I think the wb is a bit off.. The noise levels are acceptable at iso 1600 with the k100d super, at least on mine.

06-25-2008, 08:51 AM   #9
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i shoot low light all the time. you can get roughly 2 stops of push from your body before you're degrading the image, so underexpose -1ev in av mode with the iso at something that yields shutter speeds you can work with.

when processing the raw, push that slider 1-2 stops to get what you need.

profit.

i should note, this doesn't work well above iso 800 because the noise is already so bad it just gets worse. fantastic at 400-640.
06-25-2008, 08:51 AM   #10
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I had it set for Tungsten WB. It was really too dark in the club for me to do any manual WB. There were however a couple of par lights with yellow and red filters on the musicians so that may have thrown things a bit. I am far from ready to buy a faster lens but I was wondering if which 1.4 or 1.7 will show the most value for performance improvement over my f/2 lens. I see 1.4 and 1.7 on ebay/keh quite often and the FA 1.4 is still readily available. I'm thinking I will keep working my skills and get myself a nice christmas present.
06-25-2008, 09:01 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by attack11 Quote
i shoot low light all the time. you can get roughly 2 stops of push from your body before you're degrading the image, so underexpose -1ev in av mode with the iso at something that yields shutter speeds you can work with.

when processing the raw, push that slider 1-2 stops to get what you need.

profit.

i should note, this doesn't work well above iso 800 because the noise is already so bad it just gets worse. fantastic at 400-640.
Would this also be true in Manual mode? Focus on a point and watch the viewfinder EV meter and take the shot at -1.5/-1? I had shot everything in the club in Manual mode at f/2-4. Out of the 90 or so shots that night these are the only ones I feel partly good about.
06-25-2008, 09:05 AM   #12
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If you shoot in low light on a regular basis, then every little bit will help, so just save up for the FA 1.4. It really is a bargain.
06-25-2008, 09:55 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by MrApollinax Quote
Would this also be true in Manual mode? Focus on a point and watch the viewfinder EV meter and take the shot at -1.5/-1? I had shot everything in the club in Manual mode at f/2-4. Out of the 90 or so shots that night these are the only ones I feel partly good about.
yeah, av mode just stops you from having to spin a dial to get that exposure set. i tend to use it the majority of the time 'cause i work all the other variables of the camera to setup a shot.

metering is also key. center and spot are your friend depending on the lights in frame.

link your ae and af points in your camera menu.

also, shoot raw. if you're not already, it's essential for low-light work. just set the camera to awb and correct it afterwards.
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