D300 f/2.8 high ISO shots: why so mediocre?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Shacklebolt, Mar 24, 2009.

  1. Shacklebolt macrumors 6502a

    Shacklebolt

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2004
    #1
    If there's one thing I learned from covering SXSW, it's that there are far better photographers out there than me (also far worse). Specifically, I feel like I have the glass/equipment to shoot well in low light conditions, but my stuff always feels very mediocre/I see stuff that is better. Namely, sharper, with better colors.

    Can anyone tell me what I'm doing wrong/if this is the best I can do? FWIW, minimal photo editing: no photoshopping, just adjustments in Aperture. And to be fair, the lighting in each scenario ranged from "fair" to "very bad"

    So yeah, how to fix?

    First:

    Nikon D300
    Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8
    Focal Length: 70mm
    ISO: 1000
    Shutter Speed: 1/160
    Noise Reduction: Low
    Aperture: f/2.8

    [​IMG]

    Second:
    Nikon D300
    Nikor 24-70mm f/2.8
    Focal Length: 24mm
    ISO: 800
    Shutter Speed: 1/25
    Noise Reduction: Low
    Aperture: f/2.8

    [​IMG]

    Third:
    Nikon D300
    Nikkor 24-70 mm f/2.8
    Focal Length: 29mm
    Noise reduction: low
    ISO: 800
    Shutter Speed: 1/30
    Aperture: f/2.8

    Note: Check out the back of her right leg in this shot. What's with that.

    [​IMG]

    EDIT: Also, what photoshopping could be done to fix? I have precious little photoshop knowledge, and only some in Gimp.
     
  2. taintedwheat macrumors member

    taintedwheat

    Joined:
    Oct 29, 2007
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA
    #2
    Your pictures look good to me. I don't understand what exactly you think is wrong with them, you say better color but what is "better"? Also the subjects seem fairly sharp to me.
     
  3. Phrasikleia macrumors 601

    Phrasikleia

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2008
    Location:
    Over there------->
    #3
    You might want to improve the white balance on those with a strong magenta cast. That might give you the better color you're after. The images at the resolution you've provided seem fairly sharp, so I'm not sure what it is you think they're lacking in that department. If they're not sharp at the print size you want, then maybe f/2.8 is just too slow for that kind of light. Also, the lens is wide open at that aperture, so you're not getting optimal sharpness out of it.
     
  4. FX120 macrumors 65816

    FX120

    Joined:
    May 18, 2007
    #4
    Your photos look fine to me, although it is kind of hard to judge because they are so small, but they look fairly sharp.

    If you're complaining about the colors, club/ concert lighting is really tricky to photograph well. The lights are always changing in color, moving, going on and off, ect.

    A big problem I have run into is that most the auto white balance programs on most cameras are easily fooled by stage lighting, and can yeild some weird results while trying to correct a blue-cast light back to white, when in reality it is actually blue. The fix is to just turn off auto WB and lock it into a preset, or set it manually.
     
  5. Shacklebolt thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Shacklebolt

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2004
    #5
    Okay, this one might be a better example. As with a bunch of relatively high ISO shots I shoot, it doesn't look like a photograph so much as like a painting. It's a little yellower than the real light, and the right side of his body just looks unnatural. Like his right arm, for example... it's kind of devoid of detail where the light hits it.

    Nikon D300
    Nikkor 24/70mm f/2.8
    Focal Length: 70mm
    Shutter Speed: 1/60
    Noise Reduction: Low
    Aperture: f/2.8
    ISO: 1000

    [​IMG]
     
  6. FX120 macrumors 65816

    FX120

    Joined:
    May 18, 2007
    #6
    Well, for one, he is out of focus, it looks like AF locked on the microphone and not his face. Selecting AF points manually can solve this.

    Secondly, the reason there is no detail on his arm is because it is "clipped", or overexposed. Backing off say 1/3 of a stop or so would fix this. Also if you shot in RAW, in post you could bring down the highlights that same 1/3 of a stop or so, and probably recover the detail on his arm.

    Thirdly, the colors look odd because your white balance is off, probably because auto WB tried to do something stupid. Lock down your WB to a setting that looks correct on site, or if you're shooting RAW, fix it in post.
     
  7. Shacklebolt thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Shacklebolt

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2004
    #7
    Okay -

    I've been using Aperture for _some_ post editing (in RAW), but, for example, I always have trouble seeing _any_ change in sharpness when I use the sharpness correction, and I'm no expert at adjusting highlights. Is there an online guide you can suggest?

    And thanks for the WB tip. Helps a lot.
     
  8. FX120 macrumors 65816

    FX120

    Joined:
    May 18, 2007
    #8
    Sharpness adjustments won't fix an out of focus image, so you've really got to nail the focus when you take the shot, low light makes this hard, and even harder on cropped bodies with tiny viewfinders. Sharpness filters work on the small scale fine detail, and is only realy obvious in high-contrast situations, like black lines on a white background.

    The best advice I can give you is to select a single AF point, and line up your subject's face with that. Even in low light, a good lens will be able to nail AF if you tell it what point to use. With good focus on that lens, all your images will come out of the camera tack-sharp, and you shouldn't need to do any further PP to get it sharper.

    This article does a pretty good job showing how to restore highlight detail from a RAW image using curves in ACR, but Aperature should be pretty much the same:
    http://www.nickrains.com/article8.html

    Good luck!
     
  9. neutrino23 macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Feb 14, 2003
    Location:
    SF Bay area
    #9
    Two things I'd suggest are white balance and shoot RAW but watch the histogram.

    Take a white piece of paper shoot it in the light you expect to use and then tell the camera to set a custom white balance from that image. It won't be perfect because the lights are not uniform but it will be close. You can get into trouble with strange WB settings that are so far off you can't correct it later.

    Shoot RAW and watch the histogram. As long as you have the full histogram visible with no clipping then you can fix the image later. If the histogram clips off at the high end then nothing can be done to fix that picture. I wouldn't worry about it too much at the black end. Some deep blacks in this setting are normal.

    It is difficult to do this well when the lighting is harsh. Some items, a white shirt or colored fabric, will reflect very brightly and everything else is dark. In that case you just have to sacrifice one or the other.

    If the histogram is good then in Aperture push the exposure up to make the photo look mostly good then push the Recover slider to get back the bright highlights.

    Look at using a flash. Put a few around the stage and trigger them as slaves. Talk to the guy doing the lighting. As part of the cycle of light changes he could put in five seconds or so of whiter light with few shadows so you can get a nice photograph.
     
  10. FX120 macrumors 65816

    FX120

    Joined:
    May 18, 2007
    #10
    Do not do this. It will only get you very unpopular with the performers and audience. Part of event photography is making your photos look like it actually looked durring the event, and you do this by adapting to the lighting, not changing it.
     
  11. wheelhot macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2007
    #11
    Well I dont see anything wrong with ur photos except the last one which is like someone said Out of Focus, if your concern is the magenta color, that is cause Nikon dSLR output color is biased towards magenta, I dunno, sometime It make the photo look more 'pop' but sometime it just ruins the color like red appearing as orange as such, you can fix (if I'm correct) this problem by turning down one of the magenta slider (not sure which one) in Aperture color panel, that should bring down the magenta color, be careful though, if there is other photo element in your photo that is magenta in color or relates to it, doing this WILL affect that element.

    Also from my latest experience at taking basketball shots, I realize, sometime if the camera kept focusing the wrong thing, better reduce the number of AF points to prevent a batch of images appeared out of focus, like mine did (pity though, the images look better then my last attempt but most of it is out of focus :( )
     
  12. SimD macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2008
    #12
    Focus is vital. I recommend you get your lens and camera calibrated by Nikon.

    Also, f/2.8 might not be fast enough sometimes. I mean it works, but try something faster. I'm not sure about the d300, but ISO 1000 isn't very high. I'd recommend bumping the ISO a little higher (if camera and IQ permits) and shooting 1/200 or faster.

    I personally like to use a prime for indoor low light photography. Take a look at an 85mm f/1.8 or something similar.

    Then again I shoot fast rock concerts with crazy lights flying around which might explain my choice.

    To be honest though, your photos look fine. You might need to expose a little more ( +1 EV ) to bring out some more detail in shadowy areas, and under expose in shots like the last one you posted where his arm is burnt out.

    Concerts are pretty difficult places to shoot because of the drastic changes in lighting, so know your settings well. Also suggested is white balance. Use a card and set your WB before the concert so your camera isn't always switching WBs.
     
  13. AlaskaMoose macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2008
    Location:
    Alaska
    #13
    Just use a faster lens. Some high ISO noise is normal, and you can clean it with one of the numerous noise-reducing software talked about in this forum.

    Not much you can do about the magenta and other colors unless you use flash, which may not be a good idea at a concert (I don't really know).
     
  14. phrehdd macrumors 68040

    phrehdd

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2008
    #14
    There are a few things you need to consider -

    Gel on lights is a typical situation and often while our eyes adjust for it the sensor cannot. Given this, expect "tinted" images as a norm at concerts. Magenta and Amber being most common on performers.

    The lens you mention doesn't fair as well as one would hope wide open (F2.8).
    Stopping down the lens to at least f4 would be helpful. The trick is finding the right ratio of ISO to fstop that provides the best compromise for output.

    Just an opinion here - I would shoot RAW only and avoid in camera adjustments. Files worked on a computer often yield better results when using the correct software. Remember, the adjustments in your camera are akin to image manipulation. In turn, it is rather limited and often doesn't yield the best results.

    When shooting live shows, its less about "isolating" the performers and more about focus/light gathering where fast lenses are concerned. You can always soften backgrounds in post work on a computer.

    The alternative would be to get a lens that remains sharper wide open and also realize that stage lighting is more often than not, greater in range than most cameras can handle (digital or film). Most often for film there are blown out highlights and for digital, both types of noise. - Again, best to correct on the computer.

    Btw, I think your photos look (at least what was presented) pretty damn nice. Also, there are some things you could do to make your photos seem "better." These are partially about correction and partially about manipulation. Sharpness, noise reduction, isolated changes in contrast etc.

    Just my two cents...

    - Phrehdd
     
  15. pcypert macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2006
    Location:
    Bangkok
    #15
    Shoot Raw.

    Move. You just weren't in great/dynamic spot in lots of the pictures. In some I can see where someone at a diff angle would have had a more dynamic shot naturally lit by the stage just a few feet over from you.

    Boost ISO MORE! That way you pull even more of the ambient light. Not for everyone but if you know how to work it you get less of a feel of a person with in a cave and more hues in the background as well.

    Not the best image I have just a quick grab to illustrate: I was able to bump contrast and control color casts quickly in raw, moved to side for more "dramatic lighting", controlled ISO to get the feel of the venue.
     

    Attached Files:

  16. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2006
    Location:
    Redondo Beach, California
    #16
    the image is over exposed. You need to shoot so as not to blow out the highlights.

    The white balance is wrong. Fix it in post processing.

    Th focus is wrong, but it is hard to see in a small size image.

    What to do??

    Shoot RAW

    Focus on the subjects eyes, not hands or a nearby object. The Eyes. This does matter when you are shooting at f/2.8 or faster

    In Aperture find a whiite, not clipped areas and balance on that.

    The lighting is not ideal for photography so some of these problems are unaviodable unless you are willing to use flash. If you do decide to use flash use it ONLY for fill and not as the main light source. In other words keep the flash set to about 1.5 stop under ambient.

    If there was ever a case for using a hand held meter you found it. But if you lack a meter shoot a grey card and use your camera's histogram display

    BTW, the shot of the girl with the red Fender bass is great. Well composed although I'd crop it almost square. But that's just me. The other girl,... well shots looking up never work, mic over the face and so on....
     
  17. Abstract macrumors Penryn

    Abstract

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2002
    Location:
    Location Location Location
    #17
    You've clearly never shot a concert. ;)

    I wouldn't shoot RAW unless you're taking these photos for yourself, and if you don't need more than a few hundred shots. If you're shooting for a magazine or website, sometimes you'll get 500 shots in the 2 or 3 song limit some bands give photographers to shoot photos (a lot of small bands, or easy-going bands(?), let you shoot for the entire concert), and you need to hand them over the next morning. Shooting JPEG can actually turn out a lot better since the camera does a decent job with most of the basic settings.

    WB at a concert? I say "just shoot" and hope you get lucky. Sorry, but with the number of flashing lights and multipe colours hitting the stage, your WB and exposure will be thrown off sometimes. It doesn't matter what you do. Sorry. If you were going to take a photo when the lights were red, and then they suddenly turn yellow while you're taking the photo, the photo's WB will be too slow to catch up. You can sit and think about the WB, or you can just shoot lots and lots of photos and hope the WB catches up with the lights.



    Other than perhaps the focus on that one photo, I don't see anything wrong with the photos. I'd compose them differently, but other than that, the photo quality itself is OK. Well, there's the composition, and perhaps the cropping. I'd shoot a bit tighter sometimes just to mix things up, or crop it so it's like that.

    If you didn't shoot tighter because you didn't have long enough lenses, then a lens such as the 105 mm f/2, or the 135 mm f/2 (both Nikons) will be of good value to you. It really depends on how far away you're situated.

    Also, your ISO. Use Auto ISO and set max ISO of 3200, or ISO 1600 if the lights in the venue are bright enough. Heck, use Shutter priority and set the camera to 1/60 seconds for slow-moving acts or 1/120 seconds for really crazy fast bands, and let the camera set both the ISO and aperture on its own. I know it sounds crazy, but using Aperture priority doesn't work for concerts all the time, even if it may get you photos at lower noise (at lower ISO) than using shutter priority.

    If you're desperate to get decent exposure due to crazy lighting, then use spot metering on the face. ;)
     
  18. toxic macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2008
    #18
    three pieces of advice for you:
    1) don't bother with intermediate ISOs (125, 640, etc.). ISO125 is just 100 pushed a third, 160 is 200 pulled back a third. you can do this yourself in post without losing dynamic range.

    2) your shutter is too slow in everything but the first shot. use ISO 1600 or 3200 and try to keep the shutter at 1/125 or faster. definitely not below 1/60.

    3) invest in a faster lens. even one stop will be a big help.
     
  19. Davey87 macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2009
    #19
    The worst thing is definitely your positioning, lighting, noise and levels can all be salvaged on photoshop but the angle of the shot has to be right otherwise you may as well not have turned up. Also some editing would be good, the first photo needs cropping and would probably turn out better with the contrast dialed up. You have no idea how much i'd have loved to shoot SXSW :(

    May as well plug one of mine while i'm here :p

    [​IMG]
     
  20. wheelhot macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2007
    #20
    Well here is some of my concert shots, first time I took concert shots :)

    Photos taken from my blog post : Party in da House!
     

    Attached Files:

  21. mariahlullaby macrumors 6502a

    mariahlullaby

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2005
    Location:
    NYC
    #21
    You guys all took beautiful shots. It makes me really want to get the funds together for a DSLR...I just got a Sony H50 to do some concert photography. I'd go DSLR if I could but that'll have to wait.

    Great job guys!
     
  22. pcypert macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2006
    Location:
    Bangkok
    #22
    Woah! Raw is super fast and speedy if you know what you're doing. And I don't know many people who wouldn't want control over WB and ISO and anything else they can have control over.

    The 2-3 window is exactly WHY you'd shoot RAW. Shoot fast in the moment and have the most control over things later. Since the concert lights are all the same temp (with diff gels) more or less you can easily do a batch and output in less than 15 minutes. I regularly shoot events and clubs. 2-3 a night most nights and about 2-400 images per event. I shoot RAW and find that jpeg actually takes me more time. Love the dual output in LR and other programs now...batch for web and print at the same time...
     
  23. SLC Flyfishing macrumors 65816

    SLC Flyfishing

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2007
    Location:
    Portland, OR
    #23
    My suggestion (and I'm surprised nobody's mentioned it yet) is to avoid the extreme ends of your zoom lenses. No matter how expensive or good they are reputed to be, the ends are always the softest spots on a zoom. Your shots look fairly sharp to me, but if they are just a little fuzzy to the point where we can't percieve it on the low-res samples then it's almost certainly because of the use of the extreme ends of your lenses. I see only one shot that was shot with your 24-70 that wasn't taken at 24mm or 70mm.

    SLC
     
  24. neutrino23 macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Feb 14, 2003
    Location:
    SF Bay area
    #24
    Abstract:
    My point about white balance is not that you will get it right but that you will avoid getting it wrong. Sometimes, especially in dim, artificial lighting, the auto WB is so far off there is little room for adjusting it properly later on. If you can at least get somewhere close to the actual situation you have the headroom to manipulate it later.

    I'll second what many others have said about RAW. It is a huge improvement over camera jpgs. You do need a speedy computer and significant disk space to handle a few hundred 10MB or so images. But it doesn't take that long to select all and export.

    Mr. Flyfishing has a good point, with a few exceptions, the performance of a zoom lens will fall off at the extremes. The Canon 24-105mm L lens comes to mind. Find the charts for your lens online and have a look.
     
  25. Regis27 macrumors member

    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2006
    #25
    I think you're disappointed by the results because you're trying to capture a wider range of exposures than is really possible with current sensors. If you look at the histograms for these photo's, you'll probably see a peak on the left and a peak on the right, with little in between. (or maybe a fairly constant range, but still with significant values running off both ends.)

    This is a common difficulty, though people usually encounter it on sunny days with subjects in the shadows, or sunsets. Somehow you have to bring those two extremes a little closer. Commonly suggested solutions for these two situations are using a fill-flash and using ND grad filters, respectively.

    In your case, I would say you have a couple of options (although none are really great):

    1. Expose for the subject and leave the background completely underexposed. This will prevent those parts of the photo that are blown out (in all or just a single channel).

    2. Lighten the background or darken the subject. You've got to get these two regions a little less extreme. You'd have to use a flash somehow or maybe some kind of filter. Frankly, I'm not sure how it would work, but I don't have a lot of experience with these kind of shots. If possible, you might also want to position yourself such that the shots have a lighter background.

    3. Do an artificial HDR. Shoot RAW then expose one layer for the highlights and another for the shadows, then meld the two layers into a single HDR.

    These are tough exposures, and I don't think I really solved your problem about how to fix them. But I hoped I helped you define that certain "something" that you thought they were lacking.
     

Share This Page