Any general tips and rules of thumb for shooting indoor events?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by jojoba, Dec 20, 2014.

  1. jojoba macrumors 68000

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    Dec 9, 2011
    #1
    I'm an amateur and it's not that long since I bought a DSLR and started getting serious about developing my photography skills. 95% of the photos I've taken to date are landscape, nature, architecture and the occasional abstract and macro - in short, stuff that's outside and that doesn't move (except water and light trails). I'm starting to feel comfortable about taking these kinds of photos, in that I feel I'm getting my head around the main parameters and when my shots don't work out I have a general idea about what went wrong.

    Over the past six months, friends, family and colleagues have started asking me to take photos of events in their lives or to just take photos of their kids. I like it because it gives me a low stress opportunity to practice and develop my skills. I make it clear that I can't promise they'll get any good photos out of it, and because most of them are used to point and shoot or iPhones they usually get at least some shots they're happy with, so it's a win-win situation.

    However, as I'm doing more indoor event shooting I'm realising that I have no idea how to do events in low light. Some of the things are down to me not being as trained with my camera as I should be. For example, at a semi formal dinner yesterday I simply forgot to set the white balance manually (which would have saved me a lot of work in post), and I don't always intuitively know how to reach the right combo of aperture, iso, metering modes and exposure compensation settings fast enough to get the shots I want. It's a long time since I ventured out of auto-mode, but I'm still not good at using using manual in contexts where I don't have unlimited amounts of time to play around with my settings, so then I tend to just stick to aperture mode (or shutter speed when needed). I also don't have a proper flash.

    So, I was wondering if anyone had some rule of thumb tips for dealing with these kind of indoor situations. As an example, yesterday I was at a semi formal dinner for about 25 people at an office canteen. The room was quite dark and lit with dim lights and candles, but there was a kitchen on the one side with bright lights. The lamps and some of the wall decorations in the room were green, so there was a general green light to deal with. Different guests made speeches, some with their back against that really bright light from the kitchen, while others were standing in that more generally dim, green light and then I took pictures with the kitchen lights behind me.

    What's the best ways of approaching those kind of situations?

    I shoot with a Nikon D600 and a 24-70mm 2.8. I also have 50mm and 150mm primes and a tripod. I don't own an external flash.
     
  2. Miltz macrumors 6502a

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    #2
    Sounds like you have some pretty good gear. You'll need to get an external flash ASAP. The mid-level one is fine. Shooting Keep your F stop at 2.8 when you can. Shoot RAW to correct for indoor lighting, and don't be afraid to get close to people. Wide angle is your friend. Learn your camera's auto focus system completely because it can mean the difference between getting a shot and not get it.
     
  3. b0fh666 macrumors 6502a

    b0fh666

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    #3
    buy a good external flash and master its use!

    cheers
     
  4. Apple fanboy macrumors Core

    Apple fanboy

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    #4
    Buy a flash and bounce it off ceilings when indoors.
    You mentioned issues with WB taking ages to correct after shooting. What software are you using? Should be relatively simple and quick to fix.
     
  5. jojoba thread starter macrumors 68000

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    Dec 9, 2011
    #5
    Thanks everybody! Looks like I'm going flash shopping in the new year. Does anyone have specific recommendations? I was looking at the Phottix Mitros +. What are the key criteria to look out for?

    @ Miltz, that's a lot of helpful tips, thank you.

    @AppleFanboy - I use LR and of course it's just a few clicks and some adjustment - but that weird, green light coupled with dim light somehow may it more challenging this time, with the photos needing more fine tuning, and in hindsight I just thought that manually setting it would have been much smarter.
     
  6. Meister Suspended

    Meister

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    #6
    Keep in mind that people might not react favourably to flashing, even if you bounce it of the walls. Sometimes it is better to stay more hidden and just work with the light you have. Depends on the situation. Good luck :)

    On the D600 auto white balance goes out the window in lower light situations.
     
  7. Apple fanboy macrumors Core

    Apple fanboy

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    #7
    I use Nikon SB900's. A bit overkill for what I need but I got them real cheap!
     
  8. tcphoto macrumors 6502a

    tcphoto

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    #8
    Don't be afraid of using higher ISO, it's better to get a usable exposure than to miss a shot. You can push the exposure up to two stops but you cannot fix an out of focus shot. You'll find the 50mm more useful than the zoom since the faster lens is easier to focus. A 35/2 would be a smart lens to buy if you are into shooting events. That is the main reason I bought my Canon 35/1.4.
     
  9. jojoba thread starter macrumors 68000

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    Yes, i was thinking about that on Friday. I did use the built in flash at times (even though it's not much use), but felt better leaving it off as I was already attracting attention being the only one with a camera and taking a lot of shots. But there were times I think I'd have gotten much better pictures with a proper flash. I guess you have to kind of assess the atmosphere as you go along. Thanks, Meister :)

    Thanks! Keep the suggestions coming.

    I pushed the ISO up to 6400 last Friday. Some of that's too noisy especially where I had to crop, but some of it's usable. The people I took photos for will be comparing them to iPhone shots, so I don't think they'll care too much. I hadn't thought about a fast wide angle prime, that's a good point.
     
  10. Meister Suspended

    Meister

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    #10
    If you don't mind the post processing then don't be afraid to underexpose. The D600 has pretty much the best DR ever in a dslr. You can easily push two stops in post. You can also get dxomarks app to clean out noise. With fast lenses, underexposing and noise reduction in post you can easily shot in near darkness.
     
  11. jojoba thread starter macrumors 68000

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    #11
    Great, so I'm going to experiment with that more systematically from now.

    When I google dxomarks I get a phone app, is that right? :confused:
     
  12. Apple fanboy macrumors Core

    Apple fanboy

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    #12
    DXO optics Pro is what he means. It's photo editing software that's great at noise reduction especially.
     
  13. jojoba thread starter macrumors 68000

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    Found it! Cheers :)
     
  14. Meister Suspended

    Meister

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    #14
    That's what I meant, but if the OP has Lr already, he can also just do a bit of noise reduction there. I know that I can shoot peoples gatherings in extremely low light venues and never go below iso2000. For iso6400 it has to be pitch dark.
     
  15. jojoba thread starter macrumors 68000

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    Wow, you do? I really need to get my head around manual :eek:
     
  16. Meister Suspended

    Meister

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    #16
    It's nothing special. Fast lens, 1.8 should do, at a social gathering people don't move much if they know they are photgraphed. So let's say you use the 50mm 1.8g (excellent lens!) You can get down to 1/40 if you work on your handholding. Underexpose by a stop, shoot wide open and you don't have to go past iso2000. Try it!
     
  17. jojoba thread starter macrumors 68000

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    #17
    Awesome. Thanks so much :)
     
  18. Meister Suspended

    Meister

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    #18
    You are welcome, but that isn't really special advice. :)

    I recommend you play around with your camera, see what works for you and try to stay away from high isos. ;)
     
  19. tcphoto macrumors 6502a

    tcphoto

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    #19
    ISO 6400? You must be shooting in a cave. The only thing that I'd suggest is to buy an external flash and drag the shutter to give it a little personality. How can you focus with so little light? You might as well use an iPhone.
     
  20. flynz4 macrumors 68040

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    #20
    Furthermore, there is really no penalty to adjusting WB in post if you are shooting RAW.

    /Jim
     
  21. mofunk macrumors 68000

    mofunk

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    #21
    Shoot - RAW

    ISO 800 is plenty

    Flash - Nikon SB Flash is perfect. Use it with the flash pointing upwards.


    Mode - Shoot Aperture Mode so that you can adjust according to how many people. I tend to stay around f/4 up to f/8 depending on the light and number of people. If its more than 6 people standing staggered, lock your Focus Point on the person that's midway to your camera so that you can get most of them in focus. If those on the end are slightly out of focus, you can fix it in post editing. Practice at home with stuff on a desk or with family. Remember this is digital, shoot away! lol

    If you are going from a lit room to a slightly darker room, set your Shutter Mode to the well lit room and Aperture mode to the darker room.

    Check - Look at your Histogram to make sure your photos are good. Shooting in low light can be deceiving.

    good luck
     
  22. jojoba thread starter macrumors 68000

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    #22
    Thanks so much, everyone. I ventured out of aperture mode to manual and under exposed like someone recommended upthread, and now the ISO is way down with quite acceptable results after post processing. Still don't have a flash as my mother's laptop broke down and I decided to replace it (leaving no cash for flash right now), but I'm aiming to buy one in the early spring. Keeping my eyes out for good second hand deals.
     

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