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06-18-2011, 01:28 PM   #1
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K200D Black photos in low light

Hi - please be gentle with me as this is my first post...I have owned my K200D for almost a year now and am very pleased with various portraits and in particular macro shots I have taken. However, I really struggle to take indoor shots with the standard 18-55 lens. for example today I have tried to take some "snapshots" of some kittens we are fostering.....problem is they are black and move about a lot! Using manual focus, ISO of 800/1600..most of my photos came out pure black! I shot in AV mode, at f5.6 (shutter speed 60-125) with and without built in flash. when i used a shutter speed of 0.6s I managed to get a lighter shot...but very blurred. I have tried spot metering as I had read through some other threads regarding similar issues...but I still seem to be doing something majorly wrong. Can someone please help me....if possible in laymans terms? I really am a beginner and feeling pretty disillusioned with my camera and photography "skills" at the moment, as the kids seem able to take the same shot perfectly with their compacts! many thanks in advance

06-18-2011, 01:32 PM   #2
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Posting a picture with the EXIF information would be a great help! Have you checked your exposure compensation?
06-18-2011, 02:49 PM   #3
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To get more detail in the black cats you may want to overexpose. Try +0.5 or +1 EV compensation.

To avoid blurred pictures you need a fast shutter speed that can stop the motion of the cats. Try Tv mode and use 1/125s or higher depending on how fast the cats move (1/180s if you use flash). Since you are shooting indoors and still want the lens to stop down somewhat for depth of field you'll have to crank up the ISO to 1600 and accept some noise in the pictures.

The shutter speed is the most critical since your subjects move. Hence my recommendation to use Tv mode so that you can fix the speed at the required level.
06-18-2011, 07:10 PM   #4
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It sounds like you are just out of light. You need more light to expose black fur and show detail, plus more light to freeze motion. Start by adding room light - open shades, move near a window, etc. You might see some white balance issues if you have many light sources with different color temperatures, such as a tungsten lamp and a northern window, but otherwise, more light is good.

Using the flash will freeze motion, since the flash burst takes only 1/1000 sec. or less. Then your shutter speed is not so important for stopping motion, but a slow shutter will let in more ambient light.

If you get in closer, you can zoom less, which allows a wider lens aperture. Your lens can open to f4 at around 30mm. While it's not going to impress anyone with an FA31/1.8, it's one stop better than f5.6.

Using those two tips will give the camera more light to work with. Your subject is going to be tricky because if you don't set exposure high enough, you'll see noise (color speckles) in the fur. Use exposure compensation to make sure the fur doesn't get lost in the shadows.

It's not the easiest problem to solve, so don't give up on trying. Here's one of my dogs. In bright sun like this, I can measure a six-stop difference between the light and dark fur. It's very hard to show detail in both. In this shot, I managed to get under- and over-exposure.

If you need to spend some money on yourself, a shoe-mount flash with enough power to bounce light off the ceiling will help a lot. A faster lens is nice but way more costly.

06-18-2011, 09:53 PM   #5
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Post some shots with the exif intact as suggested (resize them before posting so the upload doesn't resize and trash the exif). You'd expect a black object to be overexposed and require underexposure to render it black if there is enough avaialble light.
06-19-2011, 08:07 AM   #6
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Hi - thanks for your comments. As requested I hope I have attached two examples of my poor photos. Does this help to see what I am doing wrong? Many thanks again
Attached Images
06-19-2011, 09:24 AM   #7
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If I'm taking photos of my black dog, I will either pre-meter him with the spot meter and speed the shutter 1.3 - 2 stops (in manual mode) or stop the aperture down by the same amount (but not both) or some Combo of the two. I'll adjust ISO until I can get a shutter speed that will catch him if he's moving full pace.

Manual mode.

-OR- I will use one of the semi auto modes (Av or Tv) with Auto ISO, Spot meter, and EV comp at -1.3 to -2 or so. Sometimes it will come out a little dark but nothing that is unrecoverable.

-OR- again, in one of the semi-auto modes, I will fix the ISO at some number to insure I get enough DOF and a fast enough shutter speed with the same type of EV compensation.

If you're hound or kitty happen to be predominantly White, then you would go the other direction with the compensation. This is all going to work best with Spot Metering.

Lastly, you could also use a gray card to set your exposure if you are in unchanging light and forget it. Just shoot. Bottom line, your problem is one of exposure. I realize none of these are indoor shots but it doesn't matter. The only time it will is if your camera cannot get the exposure parameters you need at which point, you'll want to use a flash (and deal with the animal demon eye).

06-19-2011, 05:43 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by freshshoots Quote
Hi - thanks for your comments. As requested I hope I have attached two examples of my poor photos. Does this help to see what I am doing wrong? Many thanks again
Helps a bit but would help more if we could see the settings you used via the EXIF info. To include the EXIF with the photos make sure you resize them before you post them - the resize done here strips the EXIF. PDCU4 can be used to resize via File > Save As ...

JeffJS advice is appropriate. You would underexpose a black object a bit because a typical exposure would try and make it lighter (grey). Just be careful if you use spot metering that the "spot" (centre) is on the cat. If you happened to have it on part of the scene that was bright then the exposure would try to darken everything.

Can't be sure specifically what has caused you to underexpose so much. It shouldn't be showing a "correct" exposure for that first shot. I'd start by making sure you know how to get a "neutral" exposure and then deal with compensating for dark or light objects.

06-19-2011, 08:14 PM   #9
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Which one of those shots were done in AV mode? I am going to guess the lighter one, because metering a black cat in a black environment would get you a slow shutter speed. If your camera gives you a shutter speed of 60 or 125 when doing AV mode, that means you are probably metering the whole scene as opposed to just the cat.

Here is a quick non-scientific fix for you :

Set your camera to MANUAL.
Set your camera to ISO 1600. Set shutter speed to 1/30. Set lens at 18mm. Set aperture to 3.5. Point at cat, shoot.
- If it comes bright and sharp, or too bright, you can reduce ISO to 800. Increase shutter speed to 1/60. etc.
- If it comes out DARK, then your room is too dark for your combination of equipment. Turn the flash on.

Dont be discouraged by the way, some of those compacts have higher specification than a K200D, when you use K200D as is. For example, the Canon powershots has a wider aperture than a kit lens by several stops, and can go to higher ISO than a K200D.

A DSLR only becomes better than a compact when you use it with other accessories, as it becomes more than the sum of its parts.

Extra note if interested : take a Powershot G12:
its built in lens is equivalent to 28-140mm, at 2.8 to 4.5 aperture.
Your K200D kit lens is equivalent to ..27-80mm or so, at 3.5 to 5.6 aperture.

Just to match the lens of that compact alone means you need 1 more lens above the kit lens to cover the 80-140 range, at acceptable aperture. That means, the default lens on a kit lens will already lose out on the battle for light.

Then, a K200D can only go to ...ISO 3200? meanwhile a Powershot can go to 12800. It can probably take your cat's picture at night with all the lights turned off without flash.
06-22-2011, 11:42 AM   #10
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Hi - thank you for your thoughts...I'm going to look into all of the thinsg suggested. Thank you for the example photographs of the black dog...I will play around and see if I can get some better results based on the advice you have given me.

Im sorry I didnt manage to download the EXIF data (I thought I did resize the images before downloading, so not sure what I did wrong)...but if it is the info....

the darker picture:

ISO 1600
Exp time 1/80th of a second
F-stop f5.6
focal length 55mm
Flash - fired, compulsory

the picture of the cat with the red collar:

ISO 1600
exp time 1 second
Fstop 5.6
Focal length - 38mm
Flash - did not fire

I note that I should probably be learning hwo to meter properly!....any other thoughts appreciated

Many thanks again for taking the time to help me
06-22-2011, 12:16 PM   #11
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In your first shot one of 3 things may have happened.

1. The flash did not actually fire or you have it on trailing curtain sync or similar. Make sure it is set to just take the photo (the first option in the flash menu).

2. The flash did fire but you are too far away for it to be effective.

3. The flash did fire but something blocked the light.

Your second photo is just a matter of too slow of a shutter speed although for the most part, it looks properly 'exposed'. Why the flash is missing the mark in the first shot, I don't know for certain. You also have a white balance problem (improperly set, use AWB for most situations) in the second photo.

That's what it looks like to me anyway.

06-22-2011, 01:38 PM   #12
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it is possible on the first shot if you were further away then 10 feet the pop up flash just didn't reach it. I have a different camera but try the next flash shot with the "P" set on the dial.
second shot was 1 second.... way to long to hand hold. I think that if you take your photos outside you might have better luck. remember the less light, the longer the shutter (hole in the lens for lack of better term) has to stay open, so it won't be sharp. Until you get used to the settings and camera try window light indoors. I don't mean bright light, just more light (like in the shade outdoors or a window indoors)

hope this helps

06-22-2011, 06:47 PM   #13
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I'd say your shutter speed was too low to synch with the flash if it went off. You'd be pushed to get a properly exposed photo with decent shutter speed in that light without flash.
It's either an issue with flash operation or, somehow, you have fixed the shutter speed low. Not a clue how/why.

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