Low light and older dslrs

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by alvinyap, Mar 15, 2010.

  1. Dear pnetters,
    Hopefully gig photography is a social event and this would be a correct place to post :)
    My first time shooting at a club last week, however lighting levels were very low. I had my 24/2.8 and 50/1.8 as my key lenses (Recced the place days before so I knew what focal lengths would work for me). I was up to iso 3200 and iso6400 (hi-1) for most of the evening. Even so, my shutter speeds were as low as 1/15, 1/30. And this is on my d300.
    Here's my question: If I only had my D200 which goes only up to 3200 equiv, how would one approach exposing such shots correctly, given that only available light was available (pun). I'm not looking for equipment upgrades btw, I'm not a pro, just want to work the best with what I got.
    Some shots are here:

  2. Nothing for it but a bit of off-camera flash in a situation like that. With a small stage like that, I'd consider gelling (say, with an amber, tungsten-flavored bit of gel) an SB-600/800/900 and using something like a super clamp to get the strobe up on a fixture or pole of some sort, providing some cross lighting (which would be in keeping with the theatrical look of the existing light), and let CLS or some radio triggers tell the strobe to just provide a whiff of light. Not a big blast, just enough to let you work closer to ISO 1600 and to provide some crisp detail, even if you're dragging the shutter.

    Of course doing that requires a bit of coordination with the person running the stage, but aren't the people skills really the hardest part of photography? :)
  3. Ken Rockwell's comparison of high-iso performance of D200 vs D300:
    Another comparison of D3, D90, D300 and D200 at ISO3200.
    It seems that there are bigger differences in the noise reduction algorithms and other software than in the actual light sensitivity between D200 and D300. I suppose one would have to try to do your gig with a D200 and see how much worse the pictures actually look before being able to say much about it. The tricks that come to mind are a monopod and trying to carefully time the shots to the moments where the subject is still enough.
  4. +1 to what Matt wrote about the speedlights. In my previous post I assumed that flashes were strictly verboten.
    A couple of years ago I was an audience member at a club gig that was played in near darkness. There were two pro (?) photographers firing on-camera flashes at full blast and the backdrop behind the tiny stage happened to be white. The flashes were enough to blind the audience and trigger migraine episodes. After a few songs the singer himself told the photographers to get lost.
  5. If a flash solution is out, fast glass, don't underexpose, and use light noise reduction software. You can also brace yourself on found objects (table tops, chair backs), use a monopod creatively, and wait for the pauses (much like a wedding photographer). You can also treat motion blur artistically when unavoidable.
  6. I just did shots at two coffee houses for some friends, I used the D200s, one with old 50 1.8 manual focus Ais and the other body with older 85 1.8 AF both wide open, ISO 800 NR on best quality, no flash, all OK no problems. Sometimes I'll mix some flash if it's the right environment, but I try to avoid it. In my past life I would shoot all this on Tri-X pushed a bit to 600 and medium format often f2.8, sometimes Fujicolor 1600 in the Nikons. So I don't think you need all this high ISO, but it's nice to have.
  7. Hey everyone, thanks for the advice.
    Matt, I'm fine with dragging the shutter + flash + triggers and gelling strobes for indoor events is something I do fairly often. However, while I had permission to use flash, I made a concious choice not to use flash as it is a small crowded place and as I was only shooting for fun, I didn't want to disturb the rest of the audience. I'll see if I can get over this hangup :)
    Mike, sorry if I don't visit KRW's website as I don't really trust the dude :) He's got some interesting thoughts, but I trust what my cameras produce. But my question is not about noise, but any techniques to use since I have one stop more shutter speed on my d300; 1/30 @6400 and 1/15 @3200 could make the difference in getting the shot. Thankfully last night at a charity concert I could get usable shutter speeds at 1600 :) With regards to flash, yup that was what I was hoping to avoid. This place was *really* dark, and the preflash alone is killer.
    Nadine: THanks for the links and advice. I've read the article prior yes, and I do wait for pauses, and I also try my best to release the shutter in tempo with the beat of the music. Not sure if it's worth it though. The monopod is something I never considered - it's usually mated to my 300/4 :p What kind of head to allow quick portrait/landscape orientations?
    Dave: I think you have had a reasonable amount of light then. I was at 6400, F1.8... 1/30 kind of lighting situation.
    Thanks! Will see if I can get over my flash hang-ups and use a monopod.
  8. The most obvious thing is faster glass. An F1.4 lens would have given you 1/25th where you had 1/15th, and 1/50th where you had 1/30th. The other possibility is to manually expose so as to keep consistency.
    Oddly enough, the ISO of the D300 does better with 6400 slightly over exposed and then pulled back in post, than if you had shot at iso 4000 in the first place. So if you shot using 6400 1.4 and at 1/40th, then pulled your exposures by 1/3 in post, you would get better looking exposures.
    Beyond this, you can always grab a D3s and shoot F2.8; 1/60th; ISO 25,600. Or thereabouts.
  9. Thanks Nadine, that's exactly what I have supporting my 300/4... cheers!
  10. Alvin--I forgot to mention shooting multiples in succession--like 3 shots in a row--when shooting at a questionably slow speed for the lens/focal length. One of them should be sharper than the rest. You probably know this already.

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