Bad/low light shooting . . .

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by JMphotographyweddings, Nov 4, 2017.

  1. Hi all
    First off let me say that our first year of shooting weddings has been memorable. We have done about 14 weddings and nearly all of them have been very enjoyable, I am at present editing the last one of our season. My post typically refers to shooting in very bad /low light, and by this I mean dimly lit churches, hotels and registry offices. Everywhere we go in the UK its bloody DARK ! hotels are especially bad. Now I know from doing my research that when the light falls we have a couple of choices; add some light, up the ISO, open the aperture or slow down the shutter speed. (yeah tripod as well)
    Most places forbid the use of flash during a ceremony - increasing the ISO adds horrible noise - opening the aperture decreases the focal plane - we are shooting handheld so we use a shutter speed that operates just above getting blurred shots.
    While I was editing a particularly bad ceremony situation where we were forced to work at F2 at around 1600/2000 ISO the thought occurred to me of having to explain why the shots look the way they do, they are not bad as ive done a fair amount of work on them (lightroom).
    My point is this ; we have very decent glass
    canon . . 135 L series - 1/8 85mm - 1/4 35mm L - 70/200 F2-8 L - 50mm 1/4 - 24/70 L - 24/105 L - is there just a point where with all this glass and decent cameras - we have Canon 5D Mk2's and a 6D we just have to concede that this is what we have to work with and this is what to expect . . .is there something here im missing / what do you guys do when faced with abysmal lighting conditions and restraints on what you can and cannot do ?
    I frequently look at others work in similar conditions and try to work out what they are doing and although my shots look pretty good what if the client zooms in ? and see's that ugly noisy look ?
    I have used my 5D Mk 2 outside and have gotten great shots at 2500 that needed little processing but take it inside and its a very different story . .
    I am looking forward to the replies here
    thank in advance from the uk
  2. The narrow depth of field is something you'll have to live with in those situations, because it's just the way to get your balance of ISO/aperture/shutter speed into a manageable range to deliver a good product. I use Mark III cameras which have improved in the ISO graininess a bit over the Mark II. When I used Mark II cameras I felt the limit on my ISO was 800, or 1600 in extreme situations. If you're shooting in RAW you can at least decrease the noise in the RAW Editor during post-production. That does help a bit (and can even smooth the skin) but if overused can make people look like dolls instead of people. So, you have to be careful with its use.

    Your best bet is to make sure you're using a slightly faster shutter speed and meter for a darker environment. That way the shadows are maintained and you can bring the exposure up a bit in post. Underexpose a little if you have to and correct the grain with the noise reduction tool. Stay away from angles where there is back light as well. In a worst-case scenario, it's better to have a higher ISO and grain, than motion blur. I can tell you that the Mark III is better in that area, and I've been able to safely use 1600 ISO when things get really desperate.
  3. I don't think there is any particularly good answer to this. Bad light is bad light and churches are notorious for this problem. You can boost ISO more these days than a few years ago and fast lenses help but it cuts depth of field quite a bit. As for slow shutter speeds, set up on a tripod. I am not a big fan of those but sometimes you have to go with it. I would get a more current body and the ISO problems won't be as bad.

    Rick H.
  4. How about a portable continuous light, and someone to hold it?
    Not at a church but registrar's office and similar.

    One option is to tell the client that due to lack of light, the photos in the DARK locations are limited to X x Y print size.
    And if they WANT large prints/images, they NEED to have the event in a place that is lighted enough or will allow the use of flash.

    In a similar situation, my comment has been, after FAST glass, you either raise the ISO, and accept the noise, or you don't get the picture.

    I shot my nieces wedding in a DIM church with a Nikon D70, which has a reputation of poor high ISO quality. I shot at 1600, the max ISO, with the lens wide open. The parents and couple were pleased with the pictures. They did not make 11x14 prints, rather album size prints which were 4x6 inches, so they did not see the high ISO noise. Even a 8x10 at normal viewing distance of several feet, one would not see the noise. You would see the noise if you stuck your face up to the print or used a magnifier, but people don't look at an 8x10 that close.

    Similarly, I would not worry about the client zooming into to see the contacts in the brides eye.
    Because, everything will break down under HIGH enough magnification.

    Equipment wise, after FAST glass, all you can do is to get a late model camera with better high ISO performance.
    But be aware that you will be chasing technology, with each new model having better high ISO performance. So you will end up buying cameras more often than you otherwise would. And that extra cost has to be figured into your pricing model.
  5. Although it (fortunately, as I don't like shooting hem despite having a knack for it) is a while since I shot a wedding, I do have quite a bit of experience with them, both back in the film days (no AF, primitive A or somewhat more avance TTL flash, max ISO 400 film - above that,eg with the 3M 640T slide, the result would be too 'artistic - ) and digital (fast AF max IS0 6400, sophisticated TTL flash)

    On the other hand I nowadays regularly shoot catwalk, sometimes at well / professional level lit venues, and sometimes at venues where the light level appears to allow shooting without flash, but only at SIO3200 and (well) above ( and unfortunately sometimes in near dungeons where using flash is inevitable)

    Based on those experiences, IMO having fast glass is only part of the equation.
    Just like in the film shooting days, when the choice of film eg fast = grainy, no grain = slow flm, was a determining factor, similarly nowadays in the digital age so is the sensor

    At the risk of starting a 'brand war' I, to put it bluntly, think that a big part of the noise problems you have can be blamed on the current camera's you use

    Only since the 80D and 5DIV has Canon reportely started to overcome the problems with high ISO noise and excessive chroma noise especially in shadows and shadow recovery of underexposed areas that plagued 'older' models and really was flawed compared to Sony and later model (D3 and up) Nikon sensors
    I eg recommend scrolling down to the bottom of this wedding photographer's test of the Nikon D750,
    Nikon D750 Review | Destination Wedding Photographer
    where he compares (and shows) the results of under exposed files of the D750 and 5DIII and difference in chroma noise in under exposed areas

    While the 6D reportedly has, especially in JPEG, much improved compared to older Canon models, the 5DII in comparison is 'old' and accordingly the high ISO performance/noise is by nowadays standards pretty dismal for low light use

    So although I don't want to start a discussion over switching brands, I do recommend considering getting a later model (Canon/Nikon/Sony) body.
    For an amateur shooter that may be a too big a hurdle, but for a pro wedding shooter getting that, as far as high ISO (and low light AF) is concerned, should be a no brainer

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