Flash settings for Disco/Party

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by jason_copeland|1, Feb 19, 2010.

  1. Hi,
    I need some advice please on ballpark flash settings to take photos in a darkened room with disco lights etc.
    The party is tonight (19/02/10)and starts in 7 hours : (
    My photography hasn't involved any flash photography apart from the odd casual snap using a bounced flash, but I have now been thrown in at the deep end and need to have a baptism of fire!
    Heres my available kit:
    50mm f1.8 (maybe good for some shots without flash?)
    18-200 VR
    70-200 VR (not going to be much use I think?)
    Any quick pointers or advice is greatly appreciated!
  2. Assuming the party is indoors without a really high ceiling, use the bounce flash. It should do fine. The 18-200 will be the most flexible lens. Use ISO 400 on the D200. It is about as high as you can go before you have to use noise reduction in postprocessing. ISO 800 will work without too much noise reduction. ISO 1600 requires serious noise reduction, although reducing picture size in post will help a lot.
    If the bounce flash isn't hacking it, try making a large reflector for the flash. I made one out of a sheet of white card stock. http://www.flickr.com/photos/photofarmer/2968551437/
    Getting the flash as far away from the lens as possible will reduce red eye significantly. Using the largest reflector you can will soften shadows, although the rig shown below will still produce some shadows.
    The flash should be enough to stop motion, although if there is a lot of ambient light you might get a few streaks.
  3. Magic!
    Thanks for the advice Dwight.
    I will let you know how it goes!
  4. Jason, I'm interested in seeing a photo or two to see how the SB-400 performed
  5. You have to be careful about cranking your ISO too high or you can end up getting two images in the same picture--one available light and the other from the flash. I suspect the SB 400 may be a little underpowered for what you are doing.
  6. If you bounce the flash, you will lose the ambiance of the disco lights.
    Try this instead -
    Manual exposure 1/30" at f/5.6 or wider. ISO 1600. Direct flash set to TTL-BL if that is an option on the SB-400. Distance to subject should be 5-10 feet. You might need to use the 50mm and f/2.8. If the background is coming out too bright, stop down the aperture or increase the shutter speed. If the background is coming out too dark, open the aperture or slow the shutter even more.
    When checking your exposure, go by the histogram.
    Another option is to try the Slow Sync Flash option on your camera and let it worry about the settings. But I always got better results when I manually set the camera.
    I'll try to find an example I can post.
  7. with this type of shooting, you may find that bounce flash doesn't give you enough light--your main subject might be illuminated but you want ambient backgrounds. also, the flash may look too static-y and fail to capture the energy or movement.
    using Rear-sync curtain setting on your camera will fire the flash at the end of the exposure will give you more ambient light and more of a sense of subject movement. if you want some cool effects from the disco lights, use a slower shutter with rear-sync and pan the camera a bit while the shutter is open after focusing on your main subject. be careful, it takes a lot of practice to nail the exposure correctly. but done correctly, you can get shutter speeds as low as 1/5--though i would start with something more conventional, like 1/60.
    with an 18-200, the slow variable aperture will come into play--you will want to shoot wide open at wider focal lengths to get the largest aperture possible. 5.6 is kind of pushing it in a dark club/disco.
    unfortunately, you dont have a wide fast lens. if you can get far enough away (like a balcony), to use the 70-200, that 2.8 may come in handy (though an sb-400 is not going to be of much use). ditto with the 50, although a wide zoom is generally better than a fix-focal, especially a 50mm.
    maybe you can rent an sb-600 or 900? that would give you much more latitude as far as flash settings. witht he 400 you have to go into menus in-camera to change settings.
    here's a shot from two nights ago at yoshis SF.
  8. using Rear-sync curtain setting on your camera will fire the flash at the end of the exposure will give you more ambient light and more of a sense of subject movement.​
    That's a fallacy. And one that I've heard before. Rear-sync does not collect any more ambient light than front curtain sync. The slow shutter speed is what creates the sense of movement. When the shutter is open, the sensor collects light. It doesn't matter whether the flash fires at the beginning or end of the exposure.
    Some cameras have a slow-sync setting which might also activate rear-curtain sync so maybe that's why people think rear curtain sync collects more light. I'm not sure how my D300 does it without looking because I always manually select shutter, aperture, and ISO. By the way, 1/60 sec would typically be way too fast to get this effect.
    I think Erik would get even better results by boosting the ISO to 1600 and switching the flash to TTL-BL. The main subjects might not be as sharp but it will capture the energy more effectively. It is a disco after all.
  9. Using rear-curtain sync has the significant disadvantage that the main flash exposure is delayed. You'd especially notice it if you drag the shutter as slowly as 1/5". Press the button and it will feel like an eternity before the flash fires. This is a problem if the timing of the moment is important.
  10. However, rear-sync can be useful when the direction of the motion is important. One example where I wish I had rear-curtain on is below. There are some other good examples in the SB-800 user guide. The SB-800 guide - http://www.nikonusa.com/pdf/SB800_techniques.pdf - has a good example on page 23. (See page 14 and 15 for what they have to say about slow-sync.)
  11. An early season snowstorm last fall gave me an opportunity to get some shots to demonstrate this effect.
  12. thanks for the suggestion, tom, but the tamron 17-50 has a known issue with overexposure in TTL-BL, so i avoid that setting. if i used that at ISO 1600, all i'd see would be white light
    i don't know, rear-curtain works for me...
  13. the point is, there's not just one all-purpose flash setting that does everything. a lot of it depends on the quality of background light and what you want to expose. you just have to experiment until you are comfortable witht he results.
    here's plain old front-sync shot at 1/25. boosting the ISO past 200 might have made the background more visible, but may also have overexposed the foreground.
  14. Regarding rear vs. front curtain sync - the point I was trying to make is that the choice of one or the otherdoesn't affect the exposure.
    In your shot of the peacock lady above, if the flash system is working correctly, the flash should put out less light when you increase the ISO. Main foreground subject stays exposed correctly. The background becomes brighter.
    That's too bad about the problem with the Tamron lens. Seems the Tamron mis-reports its focusing distance to the camera and the flash then puts out more power for the "distant" subject. Similar to what happens with Nikon lenses if the focus is on the background.
  15. That shot of the peacock lady would have been a good composition for zooming or spinning the lens.
  16. thanks tom, i'll have to try that next time.
  17. I crank my D700 up to ISO 6400 and drag the shutter. I use a Sto-Fen Omni Bounce on the flash.
  18. I usually avoid rear curtain sync for the same reason Tom gave - timing is very tricky. But here's an example of where front curtain sync fails. It looks like the flower petal girl is summoning the petals to rise from the floor.
  19. Did anyone ever use a Metz 54 or Metz 58 with a small frontal secondary flash?
    Just wondering about the effect it would have... I'm considering this type of flash.
  20. It's been over four days Jason. Let's see some of your party pics!
    I just saw a cool photo by Kai Pfaffenbach for Reuters using a technique similar to what we were talking about above. It's a photo of a ski jump in midair with everything around him blurring by. Instead of panning blur though, looks like the photographer was able to zoom the lens to keep the ski jumper a constant size in the frame even though the jumper was moving away.
    One link here works for now. Or you can a hit here for the photo by googling kai pfaffenbach (the photographer) and akito watabe (the jumper)
  21. Hi everyone, thanks for all the advice.
    Unfortunately I only managed to fire off 2 practice shots before my D200 batteries seemed to die : (
    I tried my second battery and the same things happened!
    Both batteries where fully charged and the heath status was showing 100% healthy... I can only assume that my body has developed a fault (I've not had time to get it into service yet)
    Gutted : (
    Thanks again!
  22. I take night photos at a bar and my nikon d70 and sb-600 wont sync for some reason. they always did before, but lately they wont. sometimes the flash on ttl bl blinks -3.0 for the exposure after i take a picture, usually when it does that the flash wont fire. my camera is always on manual, typicaly a low shutter 1/3 and 4.5 f stop. someone help.

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