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12-14-2012, 09:25 PM   #1
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Please Critique - I don't know how to do this properly.
Lens: DA L 18-55 Camera: K-x Photo Location: Indoor ISO: 6400 Shutter Speed: 1/45s Aperture: F4 

Hi there. Having had my K-x for about two years now, I still suck at photographing people - particularly indoors and in low light situations. I have attached some examples from a Christmas party I attended last night. I absolutely hate using the flash (perhaps because I'm really not quite sure how to use it properly), mostly because I hate how people's faces look when using it - they're usually too bright for my liking. The photos taken last night were all set to ISO 6400, with my shutter speeds usually somewhere between 1/40 - 1/60. I really would like to know how to take reasonably decent photos in these kinds of situations, with my kit lens. There must be a way. Some may suggest that I get a fast prime. I do have one, but it's a 50mm F1.4 - and with that focal length, I can never get enough of what I want in the frame. The angle is not wide enough, and/or I have to stand too far back. If you look at the attached examples, notice how the subjects are never quite in perfect focus, and the photos are very noisy (I realize this is probably mostly due to the high ISO setting). Is there a way to take better photos in these kinds of situations with my kit 18-55 lens? How do I do it? If I need to experiment more with the flash, then please give me some tips / suggestions. Do I have to compensate and lower my ISO setting when using a flash? How do I meter this, and confirm with my EV meter? There is no way to meter the light with using my flash (built-in) is there?

This has been an ever frustrating area of photography for me, and I would deeply love to improve in this one area.

Thanks


Last edited by slr_neophyte; 07-21-2013 at 12:13 PM.
12-14-2012, 09:51 PM   #2
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In the first few shots, those windows in the background were kicking your white balance's backside.
The kit lens isn't very good for indoor/low light stuff. Your best bet for that would be to grab a fastish prime of some sort (or a fastish zoom, but those are pricey).

Even 1/40-1/60 is kind of fast for that lens in that situation, even with the ISO cranked. If 50mm is too narrow, try getting a cheap 28mm f/2.8 - they're common enough and inexpensive enough that you should get an idea if it works for you or not without a huge outlay of cash. Its probably the closest you'll get to a 'normal' lens on APS-C for cheap. With a 28mm, those shutter speeds you're using will be a lot less ugly blur-wise unless the subject is moving a lot.

I poked through my own kit lens portraits, and most were taken at even lower shutter speeds and a lower ISO - but also were largely 'not good' unless sized way down.
12-14-2012, 10:15 PM   #3
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Diffuse the flash. It will take some experimenting to get a feel for what works best, but there are several cheap diffusers on the market for the built in flash. I almost always use one even on my AF540. In a pinch I once used a piece of a white t-shirt, they were some of the best flash shots I had ever taken.
12-15-2012, 03:08 AM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by slr_neophyte Quote
I absolutely hate using the flash (perhaps because I'm really not quite sure how to use it properly), mostly because I hate how people's faces look when using it - they're usually too bright for my liking.
I agree completely...

Big problem to my eyes is color balance is off - cold outdoor light with warm indoor light. Difficult for camera to accommodate.
Otherwise given your gear they are decent shots.

BTW at an ISO of 6400 I think your Kx is doing just fine.

In a shots like these skin tone is everything. Try this for a slightly more natural color balance:


Last edited by wildman; 12-28-2012 at 10:42 PM.
12-15-2012, 03:33 AM   #5
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How did you fix the photo? What was done to it? I notice the skin tones look a little more natural, but the faces also appear to be sharper and less blurry.

QuoteOriginally posted by wildman Quote
I agree completely...

Big problem to my eyes is color balance is off - cold outdoor light with warm indoor light. Difficult for camera to accommodate.
Otherwise given your gear they are decent shots.

BTW at an ISO of 6400 I think your Kx is doing just fine.

In a shots like these skin tone is everything. Try this for a slightly more natural color balance:
12-15-2012, 05:50 AM   #6
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More Light?

Hello sir_neophyte,
First off, there's only a few ways to shoot in low, mixed lighting. The first, simplest and (IMO) best way is....faster glass.
Looking at the EXIF data, the focal lengths used are (roughly) 37mm, 40mm, 42mm and 55mm, pretty typical "close" or portrait photography.
Based on that, I second Sagitta's comment, get a faster prime lens. In manual focus, an "A" 28mm f/2.8 or 35mm f/2.8 (or DA 35mm f/2.4, a great A/F option) could have been used for all the shots you posted. The difference? 1-1/2 to 2 stops.
I don't think any of your shots are out-of-focus. They all suffer from camera shake, the 1/40s shutter speed being the culprit. Notice the areas behind and in front of the main subjects. Everything's slightly blurry. If the subject wasn't in focus, what is?
More proof; Wildman sharpened (and color-corrected) the photo of two women. Now they're sharper, but so are the beads on the window. Everything's sharper.
So, with an f/2.8 lens, you gain 2 stops over f/5.6. One can be used to increase the shutter speed to 1/80, greatly reducing the chance of camera shake (plus, the lens itself is smaller, lighter and probably, sharper!)
The other stop could be used to lower the ISO to 3200.
The lenses I mentioned will run about $75-$150 USD for the used "A" series, the DA 35mm f/2.4 is about $220 new, $160-$180 used, but adds A/F.
If you look hard enough, you can find a Kiron 28mm f/2.0 in PK-A mount for around $100, a great deal!
Money spent on fast primes is never wasted. A lifetime investment.
2nd, I love to spend other people's money (don't we all?), so a great investment is a hot-shoe flash. The best way to learn proper flash use is, get one and use it.
I'm not speaking about the built-in flash. A guide # of 12 isn't going to get you where you want to go. My advice is to never use that little demon again. Well, maybe in a pinch. Hardly ever.
A Pentax AF360fgz will cost about $200 USD new, $130-$160 used. Once you try it, there's no going back. Oh, it's not perfect, the battery door is weak and it doesn't have swivel, but these can be overcome. It DOES have tilt, great for bounce flash and an off-camera cord allows any angle of light you can think of.
Yes, it's more money spent, but in this case, well spent.
JMO,
Ron

Last edited by rbefly; 12-15-2012 at 11:11 AM.
12-15-2012, 08:11 PM   #7
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Another option, if you can find a good one that's used, is a Pentax AF 280 T flash.
12-16-2012, 01:29 PM   #8
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Hello
Lots of ways to spend money. An old 28mm lens would be faster but it's fixed and maybe not wide enough. The kit zoom lens can go wider and you already have it. A strobe as mentioned above, you are in China where they make them so you should be able to get one super cheap. Bouncing the flash and diffusing it helps get rid of the harsh flash look. Another option is a LED light. They are again all made in China and should be even cheaper over there than they are over here. Hundreds listed on Ebay. Some examples Macro Ring Photography Continuous LED Light For Canon Nikon Sigma YONGNUO WJ-60 | eBay
CN-LUX480 48 LED Video Light Lamp for Canon Nikon Camera DV Camcorder | eBay
</title><meta name="description" content="W260 260pcs Led Video Light For Canon Nikon Sony Camera DV Camcorder 2100Lux in Cameras Photo , Camera Photo Accessories , Camera Camcorder Lights |eBay"><meta name="keywords" content="W260 260pcs Led Video L
They come in different sizes and abilities. Some have coloured filters to help match the light, some have adjustable colour. Just check out Ebay for flashes and LED's under photography and get an idea of what is available.

Depending how much you do this sort of thing and your finances will determine what you want to get or spend. A no cost solution is to make a little diffuser to fit on your pop up flash. An example of this can be found here Diffuser for a pop-up flash . Another spot for DIY photo stuff can be found here http://www.diyphotography.net/The softness of the light from any source is dependant on the distance of the light from the subject, and the size of the light source. For example the sun is really large but at the distance it is from the earth it's a small point source of light and so you get harsh shadows, if you have clouds in the way you have a large surface area and diffuse or no shadows depending on how much the clouds are diffusing the light. Same thing applies to a flash. The small on camera flash is a tiny point source of light and gives hard shadows, put a diffuser on it and stay close to the subject and you get more diffused light. Another thing that might help in addition to diffusing the flash is go into the menu and reduce the output of the flash so it is just acting as a fill light rather than trying to illuminate the scene.
Cheers
Greg

12-21-2012, 03:28 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by smf Quote
Another option, if you can find a good one that's used, is a Pentax AF 280 T flash.
Seconded! You should be able to find one on ebay for $60 or so. Mount it on your camera, point the flash head towards the ceiling, and put the flash into Auto mode. This will easily make the biggest single improvement to these sort of indoor low-light photos, even more than a fast lens.
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