Low light problem - lens, or inexperience??

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by annk, Sep 17, 2006.

  1. annk Administrator

    annk

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    #1
    I've been enjoying and getting to know my used 350D for a few months now. After getting advice here (thanks!!), I bought a camera with a Sigma 18-125 3.5-5.6. I find this to be a good all-around lens for most of my purposes. I've also bought a Canon EF 50mm 1:1.8 II, which I'm getting to know.

    I need some advice as to whether what I'm trying to do needs a better low-light lens, or if it's just a matter of me not know how to set my camera. Maybe both??

    A concrete example of what I want to do: My son plays in a band. I tried to take images at a gig he did at his school Friday, without flash. With the Sigma, they all turned out with an orange cast, and it was of course pretty tough to capture something that was not completely blurry (a bit of blur under these circumstances can of course add atmosphere, but then it needs to be intentional, not hit-and-miss :p ). The shots with the Canon were somewhat better, but I missed not being able to zoom. In the kind of thing I want to be able to do, using a tripod and adjusting lighting is not possible.

    Here's a typical example of how things turned out:

    IMG_2396.jpg

    1/60@ f 5.0
    44mm
    ISO 400


    Because I'm still not terribly experienced, I do realise some of my problems can come from the way I adjust the camera. The ISO speed was a miss - - I thought I had set it to 800. But I'm assuming it was more than this. I can't give you exact settings for everything I tried, but I did try to vary the settings using aperture priority and shutter priority, up and down the scales. I'm not advanced enough to be able to go completely manual yet.

    What do those of you who use really good glass recommend for shooting in low light without flash? It'll be several months before I can afford a new lens, but I'd like to know what I'm shooting for, so I can keep my eye out for used lenses along the way.

    If this boils down to a n00b question about camera settings, fire away with suggestions for what I should have tried, and I'll practice.

    Thanks!
     
  2. Gee macrumors 65816

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    #2
    Hey I'm no expert either, so you probably know all this already. The 50mm should be pretty good in low light. In order to make your iso selection stick, you need to be on the P setting - fully auto will change it to what the camera thinks will work. You can go up to 1600, so you could give that a go. And obviously, the bigger the aperture, the more light gets in and the faster the shutter can be, so try doing aperture priority and opening your 50mm lens up towards f1.8. I know the non-zoom thing is limited, but with 8 megapixels there's the opportunity to crop afterwards.

    I often try shooting in b/w as well - I'm not sure whether this makes a difference, but b/w shots at iso 1600 look very cool - grainy and with blurry motion (could well make your son look like a real rock star).

    The orange cast might be something to do with the indoor lighting - you can change the white balance setting for fluorescent lighting somewhere.
     
  3. Abstract macrumors Penryn

    Abstract

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    #3
    I've shot photos of a few bands using a 350D and a 50 mm f/1.8, and they turned out well. ;)

    Maybe the reason you don't like the shots is because you generally try to get their entire body into the shot or something. I don't mind taking close up shots. to be afraid of zooming in too close, a lot of photos look great when you're only taking shots of their guitar, or from their thighs, and up. That photo you took of your son at 44 mm f/2.8 could have been taken quite a bit closer, and it may have been even better that way. ;)

    If you want to zoom, I think you're going to need a new lens. And just looking at your lenses, I realize that you likely have a family budget. :)

    I have a Sigma 24-70 mm f/2.8 that I'd always recommend. However, the Tamron 28-75 mm f/2.8 is even better, but feels much cheaper in comparison (but much lighter and smaller). You do run the risk of getting a bad copy, though, because quality control at their factory isn't very good.
    Or I'd recommend a Sigma, Tamron, or Tokina 18-55 mm/18-50 mm/17-55 mm f/2.8, or whatever lens they sell that's similar to those focal lengths. I know the Sigma and Tamron versions of these lenses are great, but Tokina is generally good too (too much CA from their lenses, though).

    For comparisonm, the Canon 24-70 mm f/2.8L is $1130, 17-40 mm f/4 is $660, 17-55 mm f/2.8 is around $1050, and other zoom lenses like this wouldn't be fast enough. :eek: These prices are from B&H.

    The Tamron 17-50 mm f/2.8 is $450, Sigma 18-50 mm f/2.8 is $409, Sigma 24-70 f/2.8 DG macro is $450 (I have this one). :)

    Also, check to see which ones are digital only, and which can be used for film and digital. I'd generally go for lenses that can be used on both digital and film, just in case all DSLRs use full frame sensors in the future. :)
     
  4. atari1356 macrumors 68000

    atari1356

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    #4
    The Canon 350d takes decent pictures even at ISO 1600 - so trying that should help since it will allow for a faster shutter speed (which will stop motion in your images).

    And as Abstract has stated, you could get a "faster" zoom lens that has a constant f/2.8 aperture. Since the f/2.8 aperture is larger than the one in your Sigma lens, it will let more light into the camera and result in faster shutter speeds.
     
  5. annk thread starter Administrator

    annk

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    #5
    Thanks guys. :)

    I can't believe I didn't double check the ISO, I know I would've been a lot more satisfied if I'd cranked it up. Next time, I won't assume I know what it's set on. :eek:

    And yes, I'm on a family budget, but now that I've got two usable lenses, I'm willing to save for one for this kind of thing, in a different price class. Thanks for the suggestions Abstract.
     
  6. hana macrumors regular

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    #6
    Okay, I know nearly nothing about photography, but I also have my low light no flash situations...and a 350xt.

    Perhaps others can elaborate on the how and why.....but do you shoot in RAW or JPEG?

    I've had better results shooting in RAW mode, playing with the Digital Photo Professional (I don't know much about that, but treat it like those old time television color controls...fiddling with the dials to get it better - there's also a good tutorial online by the Canon folks) That might help your orangy and yellowy stuff....
     
  7. annk thread starter Administrator

    annk

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    #7
    So far only jpg - I didn't want this particular event to be the first time I tried RAW. :p

    My camera got passed between me and another parent that evening - I was video filming the actual playing. I think between the two of us, we managed to have the worst possible settings for light and ISO. Most of my problems, I suspect now, were just plain n00bish settings. :eek:

    I'm going to try to find a similar situation - maybe even just have my son play and move around in a darkish room - then try better settings. I do plan on getting a more suitable lens for this kind of thing, but in the meantime, I need to learn how to use the camera correctly in low light.
     
  8. Abstract macrumors Penryn

    Abstract

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    #8
    The only thing you did wrong was not use ISO 1600. Don't let the camera choose. Just stick with it. Chances are, if you put it on Aperture priority (is it called "TV" on Canons, or is it the other one? Sorry, but Canon's top setting dial has the worst naming convention ever, so it's hard for me to remember it....). Anyway, I think if you leave it on "TV", and then choose f1.4 using your 50 mm lens, you'll get lots of sharp photos. :) Shutter speed will be automatic and take care of itself.
     
  9. annk thread starter Administrator

    annk

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    #9
    Av is aperture priority, Tv is shutter on Canon. It took me forever to remember which was which. :eek: My lens only goes to 1.8, but I'll try tonight with the combination you suggest in low light and see what happens.

    Thanks!
     
  10. beavo451 macrumors 6502

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    Jun 22, 2006
    #10
    Judging from the specs, if you bump your ISO to 1600, you should be able to get 1/125 and f5.6. With the 50mm at 1.8, you can get a shutter speed of around 1/500. Then you can lower your ISO back down to around 400 while maintaining a 1/125 and f/1.8 to f/2 to get the best image quality.

    The orange cast is due to incorrect white balance. Either set a custom white balance with a gray card, or shoot RAW and correct it later. Do not be afraid to try RAW at any event, if you shoot like you normally shoot, the pictures can only be better than if you had shot jpg.
     
  11. annk thread starter Administrator

    annk

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    #11
    I can't believe what a n00b I was. I changed the ISO to 1600, chose Av and 1.8, and spent several minutes this evening taking pictures of things in low light, both moving and stationary. A huge difference from Friday's gig.

    Thanks all.
     
  12. CipherMe macrumors newbie

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    Sep 9, 2006
    #12
    Av = aperture value

    Tv = Time value

    The color cast is due to the type of lighting in the scene. Use RAW and you can correct the white balance in post production and make it appear as you saw it. The eye/brain process in humans corrects for color lighting in most cases. Digital sensors do not. Tungsten lighting produces the yellowish cast. Fluorescents will produce a greenish cast. White balance is how digital cameras correct for the type of lighting. Not unlike buying the proper type film or using filters on film cameras.
     
  13. hana macrumors regular

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    #13
    Good to hear that you've been able to make improvements!

    Here's the link to the Digital Photo Professional tutorials Canon has online - very helpful stuff on software that should have come with your camera. It will show you how to adjust to make the RAW files look better.

    http://www.photoworkshop.com/canon/dpp2/index.html

    :) Just keep on shooting those pictures! It's capturing your family history!
     
  14. bousozoku Moderator emeritus

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    #14
    You might also be able to use a monopod in that circumstance when a tripod would be too much of a pain, just to be sure that you get steady shots without pushing too much.
     
  15. Mike Teezie macrumors 68020

    Mike Teezie

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    #15
    In the shot above, it looks like tungsten lighting in the room.

    Set your White Balance to Tungsten, and that should help out with the orange and yellow cast.
     
  16. cgratti macrumors 6502a

    cgratti

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    #16
    Use the 50mm @ f/1.8 for shots like this. ISO at least 1000.
    This will help you brighten it up.

    The orange lighting is from the tungsten lights, this can be easily fixed if you shoot in RAW.
     
  17. annk thread starter Administrator

    annk

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    #17
    Yeah, I've read a lot of those, and find them very easy to understand. My problem was not checking the camera's settings occasionally throughout the evening. I was sure I had the ISO set differently. Part of the problem was that we were two people using the camera - I handed it off to another parent occasionally in order to film some video. Neither of us thought to double check the basic settings. And when I checked the images via the screen, I just assumed something else was wrong - either my general lack of knowledge of more advanced settings, or that I just didn't have an appropriate lens.

    Also, things were pretty hectic and exciting, and I was so thrilled at how great my son's band sounded (proud mother speak - the kids are only 14 :p ) that I wasn't staying calm enough to think clearly about my camera. Sheesh...

    Posting here and then realising what I did wrong was embarrassing, hehe, but on the other hand, everyone's fast and kind responses helped me figure it out fast. Next time, next time....:eek:
     
  18. -hh macrumors 68020

    -hh

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    #18
    A lot of it can be simple experimentation of what works and what doesn't, as well as learning a couple of "new tricks". Others have already mentioned how to make high ISO stick in the controls, etc.


    On the orange cast, this is due to "color temperature". You were clearly indoors and because it was orange and not green, I know that you were shooting under incandescant lights, not flourescents. Lightbulbs are rarely the same temperature as the sun, and the human eye adjusts very quickly to this, so we don't really notice it.

    What you can do to in this case (after the fact) is to effectively adjust your color-temp during digital post-processing:

    Before ..................... and After:
    [​IMG][​IMG]

    Note: I did this change as a crude adjustment in Photoshop ... I don't know of a way to directly change 'color temperature' (see RAW converter comment below) so went to through the menu's "Image/Adjustments/Levels..." control, then moved from RGB to just the Red channel, and then manually moved the middle (grey) slider to the right. Perhaps a little too far? I'm sure that there's other ways to do this, but this approach will work. :)

    Raw Converter: I find it a lot easier to alter color temperature when importing a RAW ... there's a direct slider control for it on the converter I use. IIRC, your 350D does have the option of letting you shoot in "RAW+JPEG" mode, which means that you store copies of both for each photo taken. This is worth experimenting with to see how useful it is for you.

    FWIW, film has always had this same problem of "white balance"...its where "Tungsteon / Outdoor Film" types of statements originate from. For many of us, when we get back our prints from the lab, the lab has already made this adjustment, so their work was invisible to our workflow.


    Gotta run,

    -hh
     
  19. beavo451 macrumors 6502

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    #19
    A simpler and easier way of correcting color casts.
    Image -> Adjustments -> Curves

    In the bottom right of the dialog are three eyedropper tools.

    Use the far left eyedropper to select the darkest part of the photo (what you want to show up as black).
    Use the far right eyedropper to select the lightest part of the photo (what you want to show up as white).
    Use the middle dropper if there is a gray color in the scene to add more precision to the correction. If there is no gray, then don't worry about it.
     
  20. annk thread starter Administrator

    annk

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    #20
    I really appreciate all the patient, detailed answers. :) Thanks guys.
     

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