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11-09-2012, 11:49 AM   #1
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Good setting for concert/night scenes WITHOUT flash

I recently acquired a Pentax ist DS and have had a little time to play around with it. I am used to a manual Canon film camera but I write for an online weekly site, so I wanted to be able to take digital pictures when I went on events. Of course, most of these events are at night or are concerts, some with low lighting. My issue is that I really don't like to use the flash if I don't have to - I'm sure it's annoying for the performer and usually just doesn't produce a good image to me. Looking through the manual last night, I discovered the "P" setting which will give an auto-exposure, which works, but of course with it being so dark, it's a really long exposure and at these events I won't have a tripod. And the manual settings I've tried give it under exposure. I have, in the past, seen some photographers at such events taking pictures without the flash and without the long exposure, but I don't know what setting they had or what type of camera. Any ideas? Would changing the ISO in the manual mode help?

Also, I am used to a light meter to determine the appropriate shutter speed and f/stop - is there a way to do this with the DSLR I have, or do I now have to memorize that kind of stuff?

11-09-2012, 12:25 PM   #2
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They probably have camera's with high ISO capabilities (like the Pentax K5) plus fast high can you set the ISO on your camera?
11-09-2012, 01:15 PM   #3
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Reading your post it seems like you first need to go a bit deeper into studying all things about how exposure works: how does shutter speed inter reacts with aperture, and, ISO settings which determine sensitivity. It's hard to tell you how to do it if you don't have the basics already set in your mind. If you want to set your camera in manual mode you could use the following settings that have been used time and time again but we will be hard pressed to help you if you don't master the basics first. So give this a try in the mean time: set the camera to manual with ISO setting to 800 but not lower than 600 or 400 and use the following recommendations:

Good luck
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11-09-2012, 05:40 PM   #4
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I'd say to set your Auto ISO upper limit to as high as you can tolerate, get a good wide aperture telephoto zoom (70-200 2.8 or something like that). Shoot in RAW, Av mode while deliberately trying to underexpose for 1 stop (more or less, depending on the lighting and shadows). I would even say that one should always underexpose a bit (if you got the time and patience to post process).

Modern cameras (even my 2006 bridge camera) happen to have a lot more dynamic range in the shadow regions...I've found that even while underexposing you can still pull out a lot of detail out the RAW and some PP. Also, some pure black in the photo looks a lot better than spots of pure white.

11-17-2012, 12:55 PM   #5
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I used my K10d for a few shows and the TAv mode is perfect. Set the shutter and aperture how you would like them, let the camera use the ISO to correct exposure. Still requires a fair bit of manual intervention and monitoring, but once you find the sweet spot for the venue and lighting you can let the ISO deviation do its thing.

As noted, shoot RAW.

11-19-2012, 08:33 PM   #6
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Aperture, shutter, and ISO

You probably already know, if you're coming from the film world, about how shutter and aperture play off each other for a given film speed. Same deal here -- for a given number of photons, you can
  1. Increase photons (supplemental light)
  2. Let them through for a longer time (shutter)
  3. Turn up the sensor gain (ISO)
  4. Let more of them through (aperture)

If you don't want to annoy your subjects with (1), can't abide the blur for (2), and have cranked the sensor up as high as you can stand it for (3)...well then! As it happens, since 50mm "normal" lenses were ubiquitous in the 35mm days, the mfrs worked on fast ones. And you can mount every Pentax lens ever made, so you might find some real bargains on eBay. I'm very partial to my 50mm f1.7, which is a pretty usable short-tele focal length for music work on an APS-C sensor like yours or mine. For well under a hundred bucks you can get a stunningly sharp optic that will let you get images down into the Pretty Dang Dark range. Remember that (absent image stabilization) you can only hand-hold down to 1/50 or so, though.
11-19-2012, 09:05 PM   #7

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Check my blog. You'll see LOTS of good and marginal pics of concerts in there. Everything from well-lit, to ISO 12,800, 3 red light, smoke machine on full-tilt disasters.

I leave the EXIF data in so you can study what settings I used.

Typically, I'm shooting metal concerts, where the subjects are extremely fast in their movements. Auto ISO is set to fast and an upper range of 6400, unless I deem 8000 necessary. 10000-12,800 are on a case by case basis, and usually accessed by switching off the auto ISO, then green buttoning it back to the next shot.

I also use TAv. You're looking at, for fast moving people, even as high as 1/160 not getting rid of the blur. But look up and down from there. for the speed. You can shoot with lower shutter speeds, naturally, if the situation allows, but it's individual. Again, look through my blog for more examples.

There are further pics taken during night situations, such as festivals, again, with EXIF.

This is all based on the K5.
11-19-2012, 09:43 PM - 1 Like   #8

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I've shot about 70 shows over the past couple of years. I use my K200D and my KX with either my Sigma 24-60mm F2.8 or my DA* 50-135mm F2.8.

I use manual and shutter priority with a shutter speed of at least 1/125 and try to get achieve 1/200. For big shows, ISO 1600 is usually the highest that I'll go. Small venues might require ISO 8000.

Collection: Concert Photography (and performances)

I have used my point and shoot in a pinch. I got called to shoot KISS and recently I attended Red Hot Chili Peppers, both shot with my Sony point and shoot.

Rob Halford with Judas Priest
KX 1/320 F2.8 ISO 2500 DA* 50-135mm F2.8

Billy Corgan with Smashing Pumpkins
Pentax K200D 1/125 F2.8 ISO 1600 DA* 50-135mm F2.8

Boyd Tinsley with Dave Matthews Band
Pentax KX 1/250 F2.8 ISO 2500 DA* 50-135mm F2.8

Flee with Red Hot Chili Peppers
Sony HX30V 1/125 F5.8 ISO 400

Last edited by john5100; 11-19-2012 at 09:58 PM.
11-20-2012, 05:39 AM   #9
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Faster Glass?

Hello Minderbinder, Welcome to the Forum!
Since I'm not familiar with the Ist DS camera, I looked on the camera reviews here. A few of the specs that are relevant to your questions are;
ISO Range; 200-3200
Modes- P, Av, Tv, M, B (No TAv mode).
Exposure Compensation- +/- 2 Ev.
Shutter Speed Range- 30s-1/4000s.
No Shake Reduction.
Meter Patterns- M (16 segment) C, S.
Based upon these facts, you're probably going to have to shoot concerts in Av mode with the lens wide open, ISO set manually to either 1600 or 3200 and hope for a reasonable shutter speed. Also, I'd suggest shooting in RAW and use an exposure compensation of - 1/2 to 1 ev ( one-half to one stop too "dark").
Metering should be on "S" (spot) and focusing on the subject you want to be exposed properly. This will take a little practice, as the stage lights can fool most meters.
You didn't mention which lenses you own, but generally, the faster the glass, the better off you will be. Anything slower than f/2.8 will probably yield a shutter speed too slow to stop motion blur. Fast glass is usually expensive, but there are a few bargains out there. The first choice (and easily available) has been mentioned by fewayne, the 50mm f/1.7. Either an "M" or "A" series Pentax would be a great all-around lens.
Another great lens for what you're doing is the DA 35mm f/2.4 AL. Small, fast and very good AF. About $200 new, slightly less used.
I've had good luck with the Kiron 28mm f/2.0, usually less than $150 used. There's also a Kiron 24mm f/2.0, but these are harder to find and command a higher price.
For 24mm, another suggestion is the Miranda 24mm f/2.8. Decent I.Q. and color rendition, about $100-125.
For close-ups and head shots, a short telephoto is very useful. Any of the 80-200mm (or 70-210mm, etc) f/2.8's are great, but expensive - $700 and upwards- bulky and usually require a monopod or tripod.
A "budget" choice would be the "M" or "A" 100mm f/2.8 or 135mm f/2.8. Somewhere between $100-300.
The Pentax "M" 85mm f/2.0 will cost about $250-300, depending upon condition. My single favorite M lens, sometimes hard-to-find.
The 24mm, 28mm, 50mm, 85mm, 100mm and 135mm can all be obtained in AF versions, but even a used copy will be double or triple the price.
Although you said you didn't want to use a tripod, I'd still suggest a monopod with good ball head and a cable release. Lacking shake reduction, this will help with shutter speeds below 1/60s. You still may get subject blur on some shots, but others will be OK. The timing of the shot at concerts is very critical, you have to develop a feel for the tempo of the show, the music and the artist.
Hope this helps!

Last edited by rbefly; 11-20-2012 at 05:52 AM.
11-20-2012, 06:14 AM   #10

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Here are a select few, varying ISO levels, varying light, obviously:

11-20-2012, 08:24 AM   #11
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nice work, snake..............I especially like the 2nd one...
11-20-2012, 10:21 AM   #12

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QuoteOriginally posted by GDRoth Quote
nice work, snake..............I especially like the 2nd one...
Thanks a bunch. That came from the band Kalmah, from Finland. That band went up before the band I intended on shooting, so I was relaxed taking those test shots. The intended band, I wasn't so relaxed for, but regardless, here is the gallery:

Triptykon Multimedia - Meh Suff! Metal Festival 2012 Gallery

They didn't pick the best shots, but I'm ok with their vision, regardless. It's not about me, it's about them. I would definitely have processed differently and picked a few different pics, but it's ok.

Almost all shots are with the FA35.

By comparison, here is the work of a pro that was there, and a super, super guy:

Christian Baeriswyl, freelance photographer for concerts, sports and editorials based in Switzerland | Metal Festival 2012 @ Hüttikon, September 2012

He was on two holstered 5DIIIs and L-zoom lenses.
11-20-2012, 09:55 PM   #13
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I use Av mode, set ISO to a setting where the camera still gives me decent quality and I open the aperture to ensure a fast enough shutter speed. At a recent event I used ISO 800 and f/2 to get shutter speeds around 1/125. Lighting was pretty uniform throughout so I didn't have to change the settings much - the shutter speed would occasionally drop to 1/80, but that was still fine.
11-22-2012, 12:07 PM   #14

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AV isn't reliable. TV is much better.
11-22-2012, 12:35 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by john5100 Quote
AV isn't reliable. TV is much better.
It depends on whether you care more about fixing the shutter speed or the other parameters, which in the case of using manual lenses would be ISO. I use manual lenses and I don't care that much about freezing motion, hence my choice. YMMV.

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