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11-14-2010, 08:54 AM   #1
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What could I have done Better?

I am completely new to DSLR's. Really never done any photography except snapshots here and there but for some reason got interested in photography a month or so back and did a little research and went out and got me a new camera. I received my K-x a couple of weeks ago and last night took some pics at the horse show. Seemed to be very difficult for the camera, ok, ok....... me, to figure out how to get the lighting? exposure? correct while still getting the horses in focus and not blurry.

I did read the manual and understand the absolute basics I think but that is about it..

So here is what I had to work with:

Indoor stadium, not very well light, fast moving horses.

Using my 55-300 kit lens.

I set it on Automatic first and the lighting was great but the horses were a blur.... so set it on manual and found that anything less than 200 shutter speed gave me blurry horses.

so set shutter on 1/200

1600 ISO was WAY too dark, so set it on 3200

and went with

F8


Still not the greatest pictures, too dark. I don't have any editing software, except the free google picasso in which I hit "I'm feeling lucky" and it brightened up the pictures a bit for me. I also cropped most of them.

So, next weekend there is another Grand Prix event here in town and I would like to improve my shots some. What advice can you give me..... thanks!!

Here are some of the pictures I took:

Picasa Web Albums - Tammy - 2010-11-13 du...

11-14-2010, 09:15 AM   #2
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Yeah, f8 in that environment is going to leave your images way too dark.
The 55-300 is a great lens, but just cannot open wide enough for low light events.

If you're stuck with needing the shutter speed being 1/200 or faster, you need to up the ISO or buy a more expensive lens that will open up to f4.0, f2.8 or even lower. (at 300mm, we're talking some dollars)
Going above ISO 1600 might cause lower quality image than you'd like, but it is really your only option.

The images look great with regard to shutter speed. Just slight amount of motion blur on the legs and hoofs to make it look real. (i.e well done).

The images are grainy and a program better capable of handling noise might actually fix these up quite well. Be sure you shoot in RAW to get the most out of any adjustment, whether they be for brightness or noise reduction. (if your exposure is spot-on, shooting JPEG should be fine... but it sounds like in this case you needed to make significant adjustments -- RAW will help)
LightRoom3 is my favorite for noise but expensive. Noiseaware, NoiseNija and others do great jobs as well for less money, but they are pretty much one-trick-ponies.

Shooting the Grand prix should not be so much of an issue if you're shooting during the day.
I do not shoot cars, so I don't have any suggestions for shutter speed (i'm guessing around 1/250 second). But keeping shutter speed low enough to get some blur in the tires or background might be a problem if there is the sun is very bright. You might need neutral density filter. (someone here will be able to give definitive answers on that subject)
11-14-2010, 09:18 AM   #3
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you have three adjustments you can make:
1) ISO
2) Shutter speed
3) f stop

I'm not familiar with the Kx, but my K10D has a meter on the top that shows correct exposure. Your best bet (if you want to do it all manual) would be to mess with settings until that shows even exposure. It is essentially there to replace a light meter. Either that, or you can use the sunny 16 rule. I find those get me close then I dial into what I want.

Otherwise, set it to shutter priority and let the camera determine exposure settings. You might have to bump on ISO depending on how your camera is set up.

What you need is dependent on what you want. If you want action simply frozen with no blur, crank your shutter speed up as high as you can get it while still getting good pictures. It looks like you did a decent job of this in the pics you took, but I see the blurriness you described. There's also noise in some photos most likely due to the high ISO you had. My K10D does poorly with high ISO/noise, so I usually do the following when I arrive where I'm shooting action:

1) Set the camera up with either manual or shutter priority mode. The intent is to freeze action with no blur (I've been on a duck shooting spree this summer and normally anything under 1500 won't freeze the action for them). With your lens, I'd go with shutter priority.
2) Drop the ISO down as far as I possibly can. Lower ISO means better shots as higher ISO loses detail.
3) Set up my desired shots. For example, one place I shoot ducks has 4-5 spots where the ducks move. As such, I ensure I have clear visibility to each. If I'm using manual focus lenses that day, I practice the focus for each shot so I can react more quickly.
4) Make sure I have shake reduction on.
5) Take several practice shots to ensure everything I have set up is getting the desired results (frozen action, bokeh, blur, colors/scene, etc)

This takes about 10 minutes to set up and has really allowed me to get better shots.

The other item you can do with the existing pictures is a noise reduction program. That'll take the graininess out of them.
11-14-2010, 09:20 AM   #4
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I have only about 20 months experience with a DSLR but these are the option I see.

1. Instead of freezing the action with a high shutter speed follow the horses with your camera (panning). Don't forget to disable shake reduction because that doesn't work with panning.

2. Don't stop down the lens to F8, try to open up your lens a bit more which makes a higher shutter speed possible. This lens is quite good and if your focus is spot on you probably get a pretty sharp image.

3. Get some software to get some of the noise out of the photo's.

I hope this helps! And if my advice isn't sound I hope the more experienced forum members will correct me.

11-14-2010, 09:20 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by amoringello Quote

Shooting the Grand prix should not be so much of an issue if you're shooting during the day.
I do not shoot cars, so I don't have any suggestions for shutter speed (i'm guessing around 1/250 second). But keeping shutter speed low enough to get some blur in the tires or background might be a problem if there is the sun is very bright. You might need neutral density filter. (someone here will be able to give definitive answers on that subject)

Unfortunately, the Grand Prix is again in the evening in the same stadium. I have some super outdoor soccer pictures, it is these indoor sports pictures which seem to be killing me
11-14-2010, 09:22 AM   #6
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Those pics are not bad being the lens you are using is better for outdoor shots. You really need something with a larger aperture like a DA*200 f2.8. You do have editing software that came with the camera why aren't you using it?
11-14-2010, 09:25 AM   #7
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Thanks for all the advice, I am not sure I understand it all, but I am trying....

I actually did try to set the set the shutter priority to 1/200 and it chose 3200 and F4 but then the horses were all pretty much out of focus for some reason. I am not sure about panning, I will have to read up more on that.

So, I need a better lens? Anything I can get in the next week in the less than $250 range? or am I looking at spending a great deal more than that for what I need in this situation?


*********

I don't think the camera came with any editing software?
11-14-2010, 09:27 AM   #8
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I'm gonna guess that the white wall in the background is part of the reason your pics came out dark. That much white in a picture can sometimes fool the light meter. But the good news is that you've already done enough experimentation to know about what settings you'll need for the next event. It's highly unlikely that the lighting inside the arena will change. And you already know that shooting at ASA3200 at 1/200th at f8 gives pics that are too dark. If I were you, I'd start out by changing your f-stop to f5.6 (or whatever the widest is on your 55-300) and leave the ASA and shutter speed alone. Then, if the pics are too bright, I'd bump up the shutter speed until you're getting shots that are exposed right. The faster shutter speed will help increase the sharpness by stopping the action a little better.

11-14-2010, 09:27 AM   #9
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Yeah, sorry... photography is a unrelenting battle of give and take.
Take some shutter speed, give some exposure compensation perhaps via ISO which takes away image quality. ergh! :-)

I would get trial versions of a couple of noise programs and see how they do on these images.
If you're shooting higher ISO, be sure to use RAW -- it helps a LOT over jpeg originals.

Panning is great advice. It takes a lot of practice (I do not have the skill nor patience to gain that skill) but some people do amazing things with terribly long shutter speeds when they're good.
11-14-2010, 09:49 AM   #10
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Tell us about your interest in photography. There are many directions it can go, and people will give you recommendations based on where they want to go which might be different from your priorities.

For instance: what do you want to do with your pictures? Some people want to make wall-sized prints, some people wall-hanging prints, and some people want 3x5s to fill an album with. Some people want complete strangers to buy images, some people want to show off their images to friends and family, and some people want to construct a personal memory lane.

As a general recommendation, you should learn about exposure. There's lots of good (and lots of not-so-good) explanations around the web on that. There are three basic things you'll need to understand if you want to get the most out of your camera: shutter, aperture, and sensitivity (aka ISO). These are the building blocks of exposure, which is what photography is all about.

Basically, if the image is too dark, you have three options: decrease shutter speed, open up the aperture, or increase sensitivity. Decreasing shutter speed (e.g., using 1/125s instead of 1/250s) allows more light to fall on the sensor because it is open longer, but moving things like horses tend to blur because they're in multiple places during the time the shutter is open. Opening up the aperture (e.g., using f/5.6 instead of f/8) will similarly allow more light to fall on the sensor, this time because the lens allows more light through; the trade-off here is that anything out of focus will be even more out of focus. (By the way, when things other than the intended are out of focus, this can be a good thing; for instance, if the horse, rider, and obstacle are in focus, but the crowd behind them is not.) Increasing sensitivity (e.g., using ISO 6400 instead of 3200) will produce a brighter image despite less light falling on the lens, although to do this the image typically will have less sharpness and more noise.

The best way to learn about these things is to use them. Set the camera to manual mode and go take pictures. Take pictures indoors, outdoors during the day, outdoors during the night; take pictures of slow subjects, of fast subjects, large and small subjects. Vary shutter, aperture, and ISO. Most pictures won't be any good, but if you think about what you tried to do when you captured an image and compare that to the image that was captured, you can learn to anticipate how the camera will record a picture--which will help you control the camera to record the image you want.

Of course, if you don't want to get into that sort of thing, you can set your Auto mode to Action, which should be able to produce less blurry images with moving subjects. But an intelligent photographer will be able to capture better images than even the best automatic system.
11-14-2010, 10:23 AM   #11
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Some things worth trying:

- Smaller aperture numbers / bigger openings for more light allow shorter shutter times and/or lower ISO (less noise). The flip side is that you get a shallower depth of field (DOF), that is, the depth of the zone that is in focus gets narrower. This could actually be nice for a blurred background for the horses.

- With smaller aperture numbers / bigger openings, getting the focus spot on is very important so that the horses actually appear sharp. You might try manual focus: turn the body switch on the front side near the lens mount to MF and use the ring farther away from you to set focus. With this you would need to set the focus to be sharp at the obstacle and leave it there to take pictures when the horse is in the frame. Focus confirmation beep and the little hexagon in the viewfinder helps with this as long as you keep the shutter button half-pressed.

- Try ISO values between 1600-3200 for less noise (Menu / C1 / Sensitivity steps = As EV steps).

- Try tweaking the shutter time, 1/160s might work (or might not), if it does, you can go for smaller ISO (less noise) or smaller aperture opening (more DOF, increased sharpness).

With aperture, shutter speed and ISO it boils down to finding the combination that results in the best compromise in freezing motion, DOF and noise; this is where using manual settings comes in as the camera cannot make the compromise for you as this is a subjective matter.

Getting a faster (=bigger max. aperture / smaller number) would help (or maybe not as you might find the DOF at max. aperture (=small number) too narrow). Luckily it seems that you have mostly used focal lengths under 100mm for these shots and such a lens would not be quite as expensive as a longer focal length one (e.g. a 300mm). In any case, be sure to try going to an aperture as small as you can manage with the 55-300 first and see how that works.
11-14-2010, 10:59 AM   #12
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Actually, the photos you show, as you show them, aren't too terrible. If you want to invest in something to help improve things however, a different lens isn't going to do it. Not for $250. Not unless you want to go full manual focus. Faster primes can be had but of course you lose your ability to zoom in and out. If this is something you intend to do often, save your coins and lay your hands on a Tamron or Sigma 70-200 f2.8. I see them used quite often for around $600. You'll probably also want a monopod or tripod to use it with. In a venue like that, the monopod would probably be the Allowable option.

I think in the interim however, a decent editing software package would take you miles further than a different lens (in the next week).

Set your camera to shoot RAW+.
Set your camera to use M mode.
If ISO 3200 is working for you (can't tell in the small photos), leave it there.
I would leave the camera set at f8 or f5.6 to maintain constant aperture. Change it if need be but in my experience, most consumer zooms are a touch soft wide open at their extreme ends.
Adjust shutter speed as needed to get a decent shot. Panning (following the action with the camera) can help once you learn how to do it but definitely keep the shutter speed at 1/200 or faster.

Here's a tip, when you have a lit white wall as you do in the arena. Set your camera to Spot meter. Aim the camera at an evenly lit portion of the wall. Set your shutter speed for that (use a distant area to keep things constant) and Slow it down by 1 stop or leave the shutter speed and Open the aperture one stop (f8 - f5.6). That will get you pretty close to proper exposure for the environment.

After you've taken your photos, head over to Adobe.com and download the trial (30 day) of Photoshop Elements, whatever the latest version is. For your money on a pay to use program, that's probably the least expensive and best for you. Load your RAW files (either PEF or DNG depending on how your camera is set) and from there you can adjust exposure, white balance, sharpness, etc. You will get a much cleaner result that way than editing a JPG (especially with Picasa - I'm Feeling Lucky ..

11-14-2010, 10:59 AM - 1 Like   #13
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For a first attempt, these are some great shots, but there are many little adjustments you can make to life easier.

For one, although you shot at ISO 3200, with the exposure change done by picasa (brightening up the pictures), your effective ISO is probably more like 6400, so that's why your images look more noisy than you might expect with ISO 3200 with the K-x.

As others have said, don't be afraid to shoot wide open.

Your timing is good, but you can work on filling the frame with more with your subject. Although this may make getting the horse in focus more difficult, a benefit I see with shooting this type of event is that you have plenty of time to prefocus on exactly where you want to take the shot.
11-14-2010, 11:08 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by wshi Quote
For a first attempt, these are some great shots, but there are many little adjustments you can make to life easier.

For one, although you shot at ISO 3200, with the exposure change done by picasa (brightening up the pictures), your effective ISO is probably more like 6400, so that's why your images look more noisy than you might expect with ISO 3200 with the K-x.

As others have said, don't be afraid to shoot wide open.

Your timing is good, but you can work on filling the frame with more with your subject. Although this may make getting the horse in focus more difficult, a benefit I see with shooting this type of event is that you have plenty of time to prefocus on exactly where you want to take the shot.
Excellent Point and tip..

11-14-2010, 04:05 PM   #15
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Thanks so much everyone for all the helpful advice. I will come back and read and try to understand it all... :-) there seems to be so much to learn!!
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