Low light event photo's

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by kazwiltshire, Oct 27, 2011.

  1. I have been asked to photograph a small high brow fashion event in a restaurant. I have several concerns, firstly to capture the atmoshere i was hoping not to use the flash ( 430ex) but i know my 50D will be hopeless past 800iso.
    I'm not experienced at low light indoors and struggle with using the flash and getting well exposed pics.
    So do i beg/ borrow / buy a 5d2 or a 7d? all my lenses will fit the 7d but only two will fit the 5d2 (50mm 1.4 & 70-200L) I have a 17-55 2.8 which i would probably use in this situation or i could buy the 24-70L and sell the 17-55.
    Will either be any good at low light high iso?...photos will be used for blog pages and other online promos.
    I realise i do need to upgrade at some point soon but this event is bringing it forward.
    My mind is just a sea of indesision! My heart wants the FF but my head cant quite justifiy the need with the 7d being such a good camera.
  2. You dont need a new camera you need more light. I would think either another off camera strobe or some studio lights to really
    light up the place. Search the forums here for ideas.
  3. How long do you have to prepare?
    The cheapest approach would be to buy a 580 and maybe another 430 flash. And then start practicing with the 580 as the master on the camera and the 430s off. If you struggle with using flash, you'll want to allow yourself plenty of time.
    If you really want high quality, low light photos, the 5D2 is the choice. Couple that with a 35/1.4, and you'll truly be set for low light.
  4. Thanks Eric, would my 50mm 1.4 be ok on a 5d2? I like the idea of not using the flash and getting the ambient light.
  5. Yes, the 50/1.4 will be fine on the 5d2.
  6. The 50D is not hopeless past ISO 800. I use it at 1600 all the time. The noise is mostly chroma and ACR from CS5 cleans it up extremely well. Beyond 1600 it has patterns and I haven't tried that with CS5, yet. I won't discourage you from an upgrade, but you can get a little more out of the 50D than you think.
  7. I agree with John Wright. If necessary I'll set the ISO to 3200 and clean up noise in LR 3.5 or ACR 6.5. I shoot amateur ballet dress rehearsals at 3200 RAW with the 50D and don't worry about noise. Just don't under expose.
  8. Just curious - is this an event & location where you have the freedom to use lighting and place it where you see fit? Also, do you have any examples of the type of results you are trying for? The reason I ask the later is that maybe in the examples you want to emulate, additional lighting was used.
    Someone mentioned a 5D2 + 35mm lens being great for this. As a favor, I shot a groom's dinner with a 40D + 35L combo (no lights). It was in a restaurant with a nice warm feel, the backgrounds were very nice, etc. I think they really liked the photos! Now, if I could go back and do it again I definitely would have had a flash (preferably two). It was great capturing the atmosphere, but the same lighting that gave the venue a nice warm feel also lead to shadows under eyes & chins, not enough of the subject(s) in focus, eyes that aren't as interesting, etc.
    Also, for this type of shoot (fashion) wouldn't you want to get some good controlled light onto the clothing to get the colors and textures to pop and allow smaller apertures so that more of their faces and attire will be in focus.
  9. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    I like the idea of not using the flash and getting the ambient light.​
    This is a recipe for photos that people will not be happy with. The expectations with photos from this type of event is that they will be crisp photos with well-lit faces. You need to use the flash, preferably a 580 which can be used with its built-in bounce card, and you can experiment with some without the flash. However, going into a dark restaurant, regardless of the camera's high ISO capability, without a flash, and expecting to come out with photos that meet expectations is a very risky proposition.
  10. Do you get payed for that? Then take a flash with you, learn "dragging the shutter" (see this thread). You may or may not have time to experiment with available light between the flashed shots. If not, feel free to experiment with whatever you like. But then, you don't need to upgrade your camera. Use it like some people above said or get a cheap EOS film body and some high speed B&W film.
  11. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    learn "dragging the shutter"​
    Good advice!
  12. Been there, done that. Learn from my mistakes as a kid: My first gig was shooting a school play in the 8th grade to sell photos to the other kids. I had my recently acquired, heavily beat up Pentax H1 with a semiautomatic 55mm f/2.2 lens. I was ready to roll, because a 35mm camera could do ANYTHING... right? I had just read about how to push my film, so I could just push my Tri-X by a couple of stops and shoot at ASA (ISO) 1600, and there would be PLENTY of light for that. No problem. I preferred this approach because, like you, I really loved available light photography.
    The resulting pics were somewhat underexposed, MUCH more contrasty than I wanted (I did't understand that about pushing), lacking in adequate depth of field, and generally unsatisfactory/unusable all around. It was a disaster. And while I had less camera than you have, I also probably had more light.
    The next time I shot a play, I had a strobe, and I was shooting my more favored Plus-X at its native ASA 125 -- at f/8, as I recall. I was great to have light, and the other kids were thrilled to have good pictures!
  13. For most shooting I prefer the 5DII to the 7D. This is a much debated topic but most people who own both find the 5DII images cleaner and sharper - even at lower ISOs. At high ISO there is a 1.5 to 2 stop improvement with the 5DII over the 7D. In addition the 5DII files are slightly less sensitive to noise if you under or over expose slightly (I am not sure why).
    Of course it depends how dark the scene is - I find the 7D is pretty good at ISo 800, I use it at ISO 1600 for indoor sports (you need to work carefully) and even ISO 3200 although the noise is getting bad at ISO 3200 even in Raw and will probably spoil atmospheric moody shots. The 5DII is remarkably good at ISO 1600 and quite usable at ISo 3200. If the 5DII and your lens selection gives you enough at ISO 1600 (for example ISO 1600 and the 50 F1.4 - I find mine needs to be shot at F2 as it is soft below this) then consider renting one. People's opinion on high ISO capabilities of a body varies so you need to decide what you are comfortable with - personally I tend to be on the conservative end when it comes to pushing ISO but I started off using 25 ISO film! The 50 f1.4 is a very good lens but AF can be tricky especially at wider apertures in low light. Similarly I find mine is quite soft at F1.8 and especially F1.4. Eric's suggestion of renting a 35 L may be a good one depending on where you are shooting from. I grew up shooting primes and generally prefer them for this type of event as they make you more mobile. Other good lenses to consider are the 85 f1.8, 100 F2 and 135 f2.
    Remember the camera is a tool and you need the right one for the job. I would go to the venue and try and check out the likely lighting and set up. Then make your decision on lenses, flash and body once you have seen the venue and evaluated the light. Rent (or buy) what you need to do the job and make sure that you leave a margin of safety. If you find that you are pushing your equipment to the limit with no margin of error than you are likely to get disappointing results. If you want to build your business it is best to have the right tools. If you are not comfortable / experienced with flash in this type of situation then I suggest that you do not put yourself in a position where you must use flash. In general a single flash solution will not produce great results - especially if it is mounted on the camera.
    A good job will result in your business growing, a poor result will probably cost you a lot more than you save in equipment rental. If you do rent / buy new equipment you need to spend time getting used to it (especially if the venue is dark). Similarly if you plan to use flash take a friend and check out the likely results as you play with the flash. I am sure that the restaurant will allow you to come in and practice before the event.
  14. Be sure to gel the flash to the color temperature of the ambient lighting! And use some kind of flash diffuser.
  15. "A good job will result in your business growing, a poor result will probably cost you a lot more than you save in equipment rental."
    Thanks Philip, I think you hit the nail on the head! This is not a paid for assignment but credit on the info for the photographer. I normally shoot Tourism/ and portraits so this type of event is very different for me. I'm uncomfortable with flash and I am so rammed with portraits in the studio i have little time to practice. I may be foolish indeed to even agree to do it, I do need an upgrade though :)
  16. Hi Karen
    there recently was a similar thread on the Lighting Equipment and Techniques form
    in which I posted as I shoot catwalk regularly.
    Only problem is that as I shoot Nikon, I don't know how certain camera settings on a Nikon are called on a Canon, but I hope the text will eplain itself.
    To begin with, from what I have read, the 7D is both with AF and high ISO well superior over the 50D and 5D2, and as these two factors are of major interest when shooting catwalk, I definitely would try to borrow a 7D.
    Secondly, shooting with a studio flash is highly disturbing when shooting a fashion show.
    To begin with, the set-up will highly probably be overly present and draw attention of the show itself as the technical set up will most likely and almost inevitably include umbrellas as you will want to soften the light. Even if theoretically the best technical solution (which it is not, simply because metering will be non TTL and exposure will vary with the model being closer of further away from the flash) check e.g. the videos of fashion shows and see how often you see that kind of set up being shot with.
    Besides the beforementioned, it will also block the view of the the public, not likely the thing the designer will want as the show is organised for them and not for the sake of the pictures. And not least of all, the flash set up probably blind everyone as well, as most likely the monoblocs ( as I think using a generator with cable connected heads will even become more cumbersome) will most likely allow triggering by optical optical signal, and thus every other flash will trigger the studio flash as well
    Shooting with a master and slave speedlight will give a sizewise smaller setup, but again you risk blocking of view, a somewhat overpowering presence and the slave being triggered by another then just your master flash.
    When shooting a presentation like this, so not with a regular catwalk and big lighting set-up, I agree with another poster that shooting with just availible light is not an viable option, as this will most likely result in unevenly lit pictures with much shadows. And as the same time, as you don't know how good (or bad) the light will be, you risk ending up having to shoot with extremely high ISO from which the image quality will surely suffer.
    When using a dedicated Canon speedlight on the hotshoe, things will be easier and more foolproof. I strongly recommend setting the camera on Manual (so you dial in the shutterspeed, aperture and ISO yourself). Also use multi pattern metering ( don't know the correct Canon nomenclature, but I mean the Canon variety of Nikon's Matrix Metering) not Spot, as that usually meters in the center and gives no result weighing in all the possible light differences. Also, and not in the least, set the flash on TTL metering and see if there's an option to weigh in the availble light in the (flash) metering and thus get a better balance between availible light and flash.
    I shoot at a high IS0 like 1600, and have my camera settings as close as possible to the availible light ( with obviously keeping in mind the minimal speed to avoid motion blur).
    Only extra thing I do is that my WB close to Artificial light, and a gel taped on the flashead to get the WB of that close to Artificial light as well. Converting the WB of the flash to Artificial Light as well as the WB on the camera, avoids getting overly yellow pictures which would otherwise show up when shooting with the WB of flash and camera on daylight, and the settings close those of shooting with Availble light with a WB that is Artificial light.
    It works out like this
    Do keep in mind though that the correct setting of the flash/metering and camera settings is only part of the puzzle.
    You will also make decisions on what lens(es) to use, what AF settings etc. Obviously shooting B/W film is not an option as the designer will want pictures that show his creations in all their glory, detail and colour, while B/W will give an (old-fashioned) journalistic view. Also, a 36 exposure film is full very fast, and proccessing and printing will be a lot slower then when shooting digital (I've shot only too many shows on film in my days and am glad those two aspects mentioned are a thing of the past).
    My personal recommendation is to use a mid-range zoom lens, given the 7D cropfactor your 17-55 could do ( becomes 28-88) although a bit longer would be better. Given the size of the venue, the 70-200 will most likely be too long, even on a full frame camera ( I shoot the Nikon variety of Full frame) .
    A prime will be probably be sharper, but a zoom wil allow much more freedom for getting the best picture, as the models will not always be on the same spot when they pose, turn or do something interesting. A wide angle definitely is a no-no as when shooting close up the models will most likely be affected by the optical distortion that comes with a wide angle, while when shooting further away you risk getting ( a lot of) public in the picture when the attention should be on the clothes/models.
    AF should not be shot per shot, but continuously so that you can shoot when you want, and not when your camera allows. My reason for this ( and experience) is that the models are moving most of the time and when shooting with the AF on shot per shot will very likely not stand on the spot anymore where your camera focussed on before at the moment you take the actual picture and thus your pictures will risk to be OOF
    Also, dont shoot bounced, this will drain your batteries fast and also slow the flash recycle time while doing so. If possible try rent/borrow a flash that allows an additional battery-pack so that you have more than the standard 4 AA batteries to power your flash (and give a faster recycle time in the proces)
    And try to take several shots per model (not spray and shoot, just a small series of shots at a low fps rate of that picture you thought you saw in your viewfinder), so not just the one perfect picture per model. My reason is that smalll things like closed eyes, an open mouth, lining of the clothes showing or a small fault with the general pose at that very moment might just spoil that only shot you took.
    If you have time and possiblity try doing a 'test'shoot with a model/friend/whoever is willing to help you by having them walking to you (on the street or a large room) so you can get some experience shooting moving models, and finding out the best AF settings, best lens to use and getting the feel of this type of shooting.
    Sorry for the long post
  17. I would think your clients expect the typical flash shots like you see of parties on the society pages. I would use a flash bracket, and perhaps a bounce diffuser, depending on the ceiling. Trying a new camera for a special event is crazy.
  18. Karen:
    I'm uncomfortable with flash and I am so rammed with portraits in the studio i have little time to practice. I may be foolish indeed to even agree to do it, I do need an upgrade though :)
    If I were in your position, I would politely decline, unless you have already agreed to do this. In which case, you probably need to give up optional activities, like sleeping, eating, and breathing. :)
    If you are uncomfortable with flash, this is not the time to start. You will encounter new problems and issues. In the heat of the moment when your adrenaline is flowing, you don't want to have to stop to troubleshoot something new. You want to know exactly what's wrong. Until you've reached this point, I would urge against using flash for anything that remotely approaches a real assignment.
    When reading this thread, keep in mind that if you ask half a dozen photographers for their opinions, you'll get 8+ different (and conflicting) answers. :)
  19. I think it is a good idea to go to the location days or weeks in advance and practice shooting a model/friend in those
    very same conditions that will exist at the actual event, in as far as possible. You can practice both available light and
    flash and combine them. See what kind of a look you get and what is the look that the 'customer' wants. I think it is
    likely that available light would not be generally acceptable if used as the only light. Faces and clothes will need to be
    lit well. You need to get enough experience prior to the event that flash and camera settings are second nature and
    that you minimize the element of chance ruining the exposure etc. Flash use you can practice anywhere and
    everywhere - the more comfortable you get with it obviously the better. What is the interior of the restaurant like, are
    there light neutral walls or ceilings to bounce from? This affects what kind of lighting setup you need. If the surfaces
    are dark or coloured, then it becomes more difficult to achieve soft light and neutral colours with just one small flash. If
    there is a white ceiling, you are in luck and can easily generate beautiful light by bouncing to the back and up towards
    the ceiling behind you. This way the faces get lit similarly to a giant softbox behind and above you. But you may need
    some ISO to get enough light to shoot this way. I would read books on location lighting and e.g. Neil van Niekerk's
    tangents blog. Experiment. Flash is your friend when it comes to making people look beautiful indoors. (I like to shoot
    events myself with mostly available light but that usually works out well only if you have already existing lighting of
    suitable character and light surfaces in the interior, and I usually go for a black and white rendition to solve the energy
    lamp chaos problem. However, in 'fashion' colour images are probably mandatory, and high contrast may be shunned,
    so you're better off making your own light with flash. You can do this if you take the time to learn lighting and practice
    enough. And you can do some available light images in between to record the mood of the event and place but the main concern should be how the clothes and the faces of the models look.)
  20. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    If you are uncomfortable with flash, this is not the time to start. You will encounter new problems and issues. In the heat of the moment when your adrenaline is flowing, you don't want to have to stop to troubleshoot something new. You want to know exactly what's wrong.​
    Amen. I agree with Eric about declining, you really need to spend time understanding how to use flash best, how it fits with your post-processing, etc. This is especially true because you used the word "uncomfortable." That's not going to make shooting easy. In addition, some of the advice given here is not particularly effective, like saying not to use bounce flash (look at the shadows in that poster's first link to know why you want to bounce), and it won't work to run out with all the advice here and think you will get good shots without a lot of practice.

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