Shooting from far back in church or hall (low lighting - no flash)

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by jerilee, Feb 26, 2010.

  1. Hiya
    I would love to hear everyones views on this... (I know this is a very generalised question but a rough idea would be nice)
    I generally use my tripod, zoom lens (70mm - 300mm), (some on P mode (canon D1000), ISO about 800 , auto WB.. and switch to M mode, ISO about 800, auto WB, F4.6 and SS about 80.... I know the exposure on the second comes out rather dark, but I post edit with photoshop. I do find in the P mode I get a slight blur due to motion movement???
    I've heard many people like to use the SS mode and let the camera work out the rest.. or the AV mode.
    What can people recommend or does anyone have any tips.
  2. Firstly, it's a 1000D, not D1000 :)
    If you're using a tripod, why use ISO 800? Are there moving subjects? If it's all "still", I'd say use ISO 100, and get it right in the camera, especially if you're shooting JPEG. Post-process exposure editing will only bring the noise levels up, and at ISO 800, it could give quite a bit of noise (it's good if you're aiming to get that look; otherwise just shoot at the lowest ISO possible).
    Also, if you're on a tripod, the only causes for motion blur I can think of are:
    You shake the apparatus when pressing the shutter (solution: use a cable release/self timer/remote)
    The church/hall's near a railway where a train regularly passes, or where there're heavy vehicles(?) (solution: time your shots)
    The mirror's slapping so hard that the apparatus becomes unsteady? (solution: make sure everything on the tripod's as tight as possible (but not so tight that you hurt your fingers unscrewing))
    Shoot full manual; it gives you so much more control over your exposure.
    Assuming that your current Manual settings have the "right" exposure (whether it's "right" or not is your decision to make), at ISO 100 (base ISO for most Canon dSLRs), you would be shooting at 4.5 and (taking 1/80th to the nearest full stop of 1/125th) 1/15th.
    However, shooting wide open doesn't give you a lot of DOF; it's also often not the lens' sweet spot.
    So do a series of tests at ISO 100:
    4.5 1/15
    5.6 1/8
    8 1/4
    11 1/2
    16 1s
    Beyond that the photos will likely look "soft" due to diffraction. A wild guess is that your lens' sweet spot will be f/11.
    When viewing the results of this test, use the self timer (preferably 10 seconds) or a cable release; have your tripod at its tightest settings and make sure everything around you is still.
    It might also help to step back a bit from the tripod after pressing "the button", just to make sure your feet don't hit the tripod (this is something I always do, especially with exposures under 1/30th on an SLR)
    Obviously, trying to compare sharpness on the camera's screen won't be easy. Nor will it be accurate. Get the photos on your computer, view them at 100% (and 100% only); anything above or below won't be a fair test.
    Personally, I stay away from all auto modes on cameras. Actually, 2 of my 3 (properly working) cameras don't have auto. 1 of the 3 (Kiev 4a) doesn't have a meter (I specifically bought the 4a because I didn't want a meter); the Nikon FM has a meter but no auto mode (I just took the batteries out because I hate distractions in the viewfinder), and my D50 has auto-everything (but I still use my incident meter and manual mode).
    Manual's brilliant once you get used to it. Especially easy on most negative films (can afford errors of up to 4 stops either way).
    Especially if you're shooting in light that doesn't change really quickly (and you don't have a decisive moment to catch), you should have all the time you need (especially indoors, unless you count the window light); use manual mode.
    I find that when shooting indoors, a lot of the time, auto WB just doesn't do it - set WB yourself (saves time on the computer).
  3. Hi Hugo
    Wow thanks for that. Sorry about the D1000 - force of habit with me..
    anyway.. just been practising with the series of shots at the various settings that you put down.. and yip you are very right.. f/11 is the best.. and kept my ISO down to 100 - fabulous result.. the only thing is not everything will be completely still, as there could be movement involved and I will be shooting a series of moments, so even though I'm on a tripod, a shutter speed too low will give me a lot of blurry shots. I don't think I can go lower than 60 or even 80 for sharp pictures..
    hmmm... what do you think?
  4. forgot to add.. I mainly shoot in M mode, but its always the lighting in long distance situations that thwart me..
  5. 1/60 or 1/80 without flash is not going to be nearly fast enough to stop motion.
    Which is what I'm guessing that you're seeing as blur on the final images.
    Advice #1 - Save up and buy or rent a 70-200 F2.8 zoom. The extra speed in the lens will pay off as will the inherent sharpness in the lens.
    Advice #2 - Shoot weddings in RAW, not JPEG - take care the post processing yourself, not allowing some computer geek in R/D to do it for you.
    Advice #3 - Relationship between ISO and shutter speed / exposure - Going from ISO 100 to ISO 200 will give you 1 - 2 additional shutter speeds... so F11 at 1/2 ISO 100 = F11 at 1/8 ISO 200 and so on...
    Advice #4 - I don't shoot Canon 1000D's so I don't know what their noise behavior is, but I'm guessing that with proper exposure (which is critical) - you should be able to get up to 800-1000 ISO. I shoot weddings with Nikon D300's and my available light ISO is never below 1600 with it being up around 3200 most of the time. My secret? Noiseware Pro (a photoshop plug-in) - it really does work.
  6. Hi David.. Thanks
    I generally never like to shoot lower than 80 ss as alot of my work is full of motion. Hence why I upt the ISO.. for the exposure. (generally 800 in unlit conditions), and about 200 on a good day (lighting wise).. I just can never seem to get it sharp enough without loosing the exposure totally and visa versa..
    Will defo look into the noiseware pro (brill tip :) )
  7. Jerilee, I won't add to David's excellent advice, other than to say that the autofocus of the lens you mentioned (70-300) performs very poorly in even slightly dim light (at least that has been my experience) so I will reinforce David's suggestion that you get your hands on something more reliable.
  8. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Yes, (David), Jerilee should be able to get quite good images at ISO800 with a 1000D, provided the exposure is nailed correctly
    I concur with David that 1/80s is too slow (generally) for people even when they are standing still or kneeling at the Altar - they sway and fidget. (Hugo - we can't assume that everything is "still" because the people at a Wedding are not).
    That said, if you time the shot for the least movement I have seen 1/30s pulled with good results.
    Also noting mirror slap and jitter from pressing the shutter button can be alleviated by using MIRROR UP (see custom functions in your user manual) and by using a remote release (you need to buy one).
    Also, some Photographers think they have a steady tripod when they do not.
    You are getting motion blur when you use P mode because in low light, and with that slow lens you have exceeded the limit of the Tv priority of P mode - i.e. the Tv will select whatever it can with the aperture wide open - even if you increase the ISO, it is likely that the camera will close the aperture a little thus rendering an even slower Shutter speed. - you can manually control this using PROGRAM SHIFT - explained in your user manual.
    But the bottom line is as David stated, you need a faster lens - an economic solution could be the EF85F/1.8 and crop to the desired image size later.
  9. I would think with current generation gear you should be able to shoot at 1600 and have good enough quality.
    I recently shot a performance where I was about ISO 800 in shutter mode and twiddled the shutter speed against the flashing highlight display.
    I would say shoot a bunch of pix because the subjects will be relatively still in many of them.
    I might shoot group pix in RAW but for most pix if you watch your histograms and flashing highlights you should be OK with jpg.
    Contrary to what we are often told leaving image stabilization on when using a tripod doesn't seem to hurt and may help.
  10. Just a bit surprised by the notion that 1/80th is too slow for standing still subjects. I would be happy with 1/60th for a ceremony... totally.
  11. Here is 1/50th at about 35mm. The little girl is making a quick turn to see what is happening with the MOB...
    ISO 3600 on a D300s BTW.
  12. There are several factors I think you should understand before doing anything else.
    First, how are you determining the manual exposure? Seems arbitrary to me, unless you are metering? The darkness you describe could be because the exposure is arbitrary and isn't enough, or you are metering and not compensating based on an assessment and understanding of how the meter works, and getting underexposure.
    Second, when you use Program, I agree that the shutter speed is probably falling to one that is too slow for motion blur, although as William W. points out, there could be other factors. Be sure you aren't getting a blinking display in the viewfinder. If you are, that means the values that the camera has to work with are not enough for a good exposure. You would run into this with any automated mode (AV or TV), without the auto ISO function, which I don't think the 1000D has--not sure.
    Third, I find that 1/60th is about the borderline for fairly still subjects, as far as getting sharp, non motion blurred images consistently. Below that--1/30th and slower--you begin to 'see' them breathing. However, as William W. points out, you can get decent shots if you learn how to shoot during the pauses...and your tripod technique is good.
    Fourth, bringing up an underexposed image taken at high ISO is something to be avoided, if possible. This makes noise worse, and an image that is well exposed without noise software is still better (IMHO) than one that was underexposed and worked over with software.
    I would first review my tripod technique to make sure that isn't causing shake--whether you can actually shoot sharp images using slower shutter speeds. You may have to learn how to lock your mirror.
    I would try using TV, with the shutter speed set to 1/60th, noting that the aperture isn't blinking in the viewfinder. If it is, you will have to raise your ISO. More important, you will have to learn how to read the histogram to determine you've got a good exposure.
    Obviously, a faster lens will help, but I'd immediately go for fast primes, rather than a zoom. The 50mm f1.8 is cheap and good. The 85mm f1.8 is reasonable and fantastic.
  13. Oh, one other thing about using a tripod. Turn off any VR/IS on the lenses. That has a counter productive effect on a sharp image shot with a tripod.
  14. Thanks everyone.. I've been practising and surprisingly I didn't get too bad a result for 1/60th- ISO 800 and even pushed it to 1/40th -1600, both F4.8 - its 'dooable' I suppose, as long as no one starts disco dancing... and I had it on continous shooting, (was recording my son and daughter by the way), indoors, rainy overcast dim day. (from two rooms away) I think I will defo invest in a better lens though and the noise software. I'm also ruling out the Program mode as its just not to realiable with all the motion blur in this situation..
    Thanks again :)
  15. Jerilee, manual is prefered in a set environment for sure.
  16. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    “I've been practising and surprisingly I didn't get too bad a result for 1/60th- ISO 800 and even pushed it to 1/40th -1600, both F4.8 - its 'dooable' I suppose, as long as no one starts disco dancing... and I had it on continous shooting,”

    When using a wider to normal lens the apparent subject movement is often less than when using a telephoto lens. In the example there is a slight movement in the Girl’s right hand, but this movement is not apparent in the full frame crop of the image, which was taken with a 35mm lens.

    I was very careful the way I worded my comments about what is too slow or not to capture “still” subjects and I am certainly not arguing that slower than 1/80s cannot be sustained for the whole day - I like to know where those limits are – I collect “limits” many of which are in my portfolio, here at Photonet

    On this thread I noted that Jerilee was speaking of the rear of the Church and using a 70 to 300 - which is a telephoto lens, and especially long FL on an APS-C / DX camera, and so it is logical to assume that Jerilee might not have had many flying hours up at pulling this particular type of shot, but subsequently, she has been practicing to find just where the limits might be – that’s great - my initial advice was predicated upon moving Jerilee to a safer Tv of maybe 1/125s, rather than pushing any limits of slow Tv, to begin: but I don’t have any hesitation in agreeing that much slower Tv can be employed well, by many Photographers.

    As you (Jerille) are now practicing and finding your limits of a slower Tv when using a tripod from the rear of the Church and a telephoto lens you might consider the following points:

    Continuous shooting is NOT necessarily your best friend, because with many DSLRs at Shutter speed between (approximately) 1/8s and 1/60s the resultant vibration of the camera’s mirror-slap causes the camera to move slightly.

    Why I mention these speeds specifically is because –when the mirror slap produces a camera movement - it is for a very short period of time that the camera is actually moving (vibrating) – but at the Shutter Speeds mentioned, that period of camera vibration is quite a large % of the overall exposure time.
    Often for this range of shutter speeds (1/8s to 1/60s) a better method is to use single shot and to use mirror LOCK-up, when using a Tripod.
    A camera on a tripod can be “damped” by using a large heavy garment to cover it and at the same time applying a slight downward pressure centrally over the vertical axis of the centre of he tripod. Also the shutter release (if not using a remote) is then gently squeezed.
    Also, specific to Weddings and similar “solemn” occasions . . . the “rat-are-tat-tat” of machine gun capture is often the Photographer’s one way exit ticket to banishment.
    When shooting hand held, shutter speeds to as slow as 1/30s can be achieved on a regular basis if the camera is “damped” such that vibration to reduced or eliminated – this damping is simply holding (cradling) the camera using the hands and the body as a buffer to absorb the very minute “recoil” of the mirror slap.
    I have had Students / Assistants learn good Stance, Breathing and Shutter Release Technique to nail shots at 1/15s Hand Held and then be quite puzzled as to why they get slight blur or fuzz at 1/30s when using a tripod – the above explanation is usually the reason.
    These a couple of extreme examples of slow shutter speeds which employing many different techniques you might find useful to use at a Wedding when Availble Light Shooting is necessary:
    This shot: was taken at 1/2s and was HH, but I wrapped the camera in my pullover and braced it and my body against a pylon and used MIRROR LOCK-UP - the same logic can be employed at the rear of a Church using a pew or any solid structure in an emergency.
    This was taken using 100mm lens at 1/8s, Hand Held and whilst standing: – so in prep for the shot I selected mirror up, after preparing to brace I framed and executed the first shutter to lock the mirror, then controlled breathing and released the exposure – I had three attempts this was the second and the best of the three. The whole execution only lasted a few seconds, because I prepped the camera into Mirror Lock Up Mode (See "Custom Functions" in your user manual), as I was walking into the room were the young athlete was sitting. This same logic can be applied to the Ring exchange or a tight shot of the Bride and Groom at the Altar using a Telephoto lens - if you are without a Tripod or Monopod. There are other examples of "limits" in my portfolio.
    “I'm also ruling out the Program mode as its just not to realiable with all the motion blur in this situation.”

    There is a lot of confusion about what P Mode actually is and how it works.
    In simple terms P Mode initially selects a Tv (Shutter Speed) and Av (Aperture) combination.
    If you employ Program Shift then you have complete control over the Shutter Speed and the Aperture combination for shooting any image – just the same as in “M” Manual Mode - In P Mode you can select the Tv and the Av to suit the scene (and the ISO also).
    “P” (Program mode) employs the same TTL Metering which “M” (Manual Mode) uses and you have complete control over setting those Metering Modes . . . also you have EV Comp and White Balance Comp and other functions - just the same as when using “M” (Manual Mode).

    It is not that P mode is “not reliable” – “P” mode is VERY reliable.
    At an educated guess, you are getting poor results using P Mode, because you are using the very first Tv and Av selection the camera is making for you and you are not adjusting those two parameters, using Program Shift. I touched on these points in my first post. . .
    What using Manual Mode does (in many cases) is FORCES the Photographer to pay attention to both the Tv and the Av and then select both MANUALLY.

    I normally use Manual Mode for all my work: and for the rear of the Church using a Tripod I would use Manual Mode 99.99% of the time, but I do use P Mode sometimes and it has great value (IMO) when I choose to use it.
    I am not suggesting that you use any one Camera Mode over any other . . . I am merely making the point about “P” Mode – because it seems to me that you are confused as to what it is and what functionalities it has - and I believe it is important to make an informed choice as to what to use, based upon those factors.
  17. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

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