Shutter speed for indoor shots without flash?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by bmoorhouse, Apr 4, 2007.

  1. I will be using a 70-300mm VR lens at a party in a couple of weeks.
    Unfortunately, I will not be able to use a lot of flash, so as the lens is only
    a f/4.5-5.6, I will have to use a slower shutter speed.

    I understand the limitations of VR in that while it will help me prevent camera
    shake, it will do nothing to help stop any motion in my subjects. Fortunately
    for me, I am only trying to shoot people at a party and not sports or fast

    Assuming people are just standing around, talking, etc, how slow can I go and
    still expect to capture sharp expressions, laughter, the occassional hair flip,

    Obviously, an f/2.8 would be better, but I can't afford to buy it, don't know
    anyone with one, and there is no place to rent it where I live, so that will
    not be an option.
  2. Are you saying that the ONLY lens you have is the 70-300VR??

    I would use a 50/1.8 or any of the kit zooms in this situation.

    FWIW, the slowest I'd go is 1/30.

    BTW, with an f-stop that slow, your camera will probably have focus issues, too. I recommend that you use only the center AF point since that one will get the most light.

    - larsbc
  3. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    If you use a flash, the flash itself is short such as it can freeze action, provided that not much ambient light contributes to the exposure.

    I am only talking about subject movement here.
    If you shoot mainly with ambient light, for people, I would try to use at least 1/30 sec to get a high percentage of sharp images; 1/60 sec would be safer. If you shoot at 1/15 sec, you'll likely have plenty of problems, e.g. waving hands, shaking heads, etc. etc. In other words, if you only have a slow f4.5 lens, you'll have to use a high ISO and make other compromises.
  4. I can honestly tell you that if the party is indoors and at night, forget it! I took a 50 f/1.4 to such a party with friends on St. Patrick's day. To stop hand gestures and jaw movement from casual conversation I had to use shutter speeds higher than 1/60 and usually 1/100. That is well higher than I can handhold. So, that basically negates any benefit of VR. It also meant that almost all shots were at f/1.4. I can't imagine success at 4.5 let alone 5.6. Check out the shots I took -- they are the vast majority under "Friends" in my portfolio.

    I'd also add that the 70-300VR is a huge lens to photograph people with in an intimate setting like a party. It is going to be somewhat intimidating for your subjects.

    You really might consider a 50 f/1.8 for around $100. Or if you are using a camera that can meter with manual (non-chipped) lenses, you can get a manual 50 1.8 for less.

    Now, if you party is in a brightly lit hall, in daylight (esp. outdoors) or something else, you might have more success. Plus, it never hurts to try.
  5. Oh I should add that I only was willing to push my ISO to 400. If you're willing to go to 800 or 1600, then you can re-calculate.
  6. Thanks, guys.

    I do have other lenses, specifically the 50/1.8 and the 18-70/3.5-4.5, and will probably be using them as well.

    I have gotten better candid results using the 70-300 in daylight shooting thanks to the extra zoom and the ability to be out of sight of the subjects. I would like to try and get similar shots using it during this indoor party if I can.

    Hopefully, the lighting will be such that I can shoot at 1/30 or better. If not, I will probably have to stick to the 50/1.8 and accept fewer candid shots.
  7. How large are the "indoor facilities"? Inside a train station at night, the 70-300 might be good for candid long distance shots, but in any humble club or living room: FORGET IT, please. You will be taking pictures of people's teeth fillings, full frame. Or is that your idea of "candid" shots, maybe?
  8. You don't like teeth fillings, Frank?

    No actually, the room is a large conference room in a casino and about the size of a high school gymnasium. I don't know that I will use all 300mm, but 70mm won't be enough.
  9. Why the hell are you using a telephoto for party photography? If anything, I'd think you'd want a wide angle.
    Anything over 1/50 of a second should be passable for capturing movement without too much blur, and the blur there is will just suggest motion and probably look good. If you need to, use a higher ISO.
  10. Have you considered renting a 70-200mm VR? Indoors, you fight for every single stop of light.
  11. Kieran, I am using the zoom because I like to get candid head shots without having to get in the middle of the party or right up in people's faces. I have gotten really good results during outdoor events walking around the perimeter of the event and zooming in on people.

    As for the 70-200mm/2.8, Erik, there simply isn't anywhere to get one here, unless I bought it off the internet, which I can't afford.
  12. Robert Moorhouse, Apr 04, 2007; 12:42 p.m. wrote:<br>
    <br>&gt; I have gotten better candid results using the 70-300 in
    <br>&gt; daylight shooting thanks to the extra zoom and the ability
    <br>&gt; to be out of sight of the subjects. I would like to try and
    <br>&gt; get similar shots using it during this indoor party if I
    <br>&gt; can.
    <br>Robert, a great many street photographers have gotten beautiful candid results with short lenses that portray the subject in the context of their environment. You don't need a telephoto to achieve this. I think it helps if you work with a fixed focal length for a while so you can develop a good ability to frame the shot in your mind. Once you can do that, you can then bring the camera to your eye, fire, and put it down again. A video I saw of Gary Winogrand at work demonstrated this very well. He basically brought the camera to his eye only when he was ready to trip the shutter.
    <br>IMO, the 50/1.8 would be pretty long enough to get the kind of head shots you like in an indoor party. You've got two choices for your approach. Either bring the camera to your face only when shooting, or use it so much that people simply become inured to your activity.
    <br>Unless this is a quiet, formal occassion, I don't see the need for a tele lens at all.
  13. 50mm f1.8.

    f4.5 - 5.6 is just too darn slow for a party. The 50mm f1.8 (stopped to 2 or 2.8 ideally) will
    be a perfect short tele (equiv fov to 75mm on full-frame). I've done this. It's great. You also
    want a wide angle with flash for any group shots, but you already have that covered with the
    18-70. Yer set!
  14. You need light, either with flash or faster glass, 4.5 isn't going to get it.
  15. Another vote for 50 f 1,8. It is a really fast lens, short telephoto lens ideal for your situation. If you raise the ISO to 400 you can easily hand with 1/60 speeds and over and the noise is still acceptable.
    Try it.

  16. Robert, you seem determined to use the 70-300. My suggestion, try it. Like the others, I don't think you will get what you want but I am sure you have the sense to take along your other two lenses.

    I suspect that in the end, the shorter lenses will give you better photos overall but nothing beats an on-the-job learning experience.
  17. Thanks, everyone. I do appreciate everyone's advice.

    I will have all three of my lenses with me and plan on using all three. I know the 50/1.8 is
    the most suited for the lighting I am going to encounter. I know the 18-70 will be needed
    for group shots.

    I also know, however, that I can not be a fly on the wall at this event and get the candid
    head shots I want walking through the middle of the crowd, even with the 50mm. Even if I
    can move the camera to my eye and snap the photo before they realize I am there, they
    will realize the photo was taken when the shutter sounds. It's not a matter of trying to get
    the candid shot before they see me taking it, but taking the shot without them ever
    knowing it was taken.

    I am sure that when all is said and done, my shots taken with the 50/1.8 will have the
    most accurate exposure and that I will also recognize how valuable the 70-200/2.8 is at
    an event like this. On my budget now, however, I will have to do the best I can and hope
    to have enough light in the room to shoot at 1/30 to 1/50 or faster.
  18. That zoom will stick out like a sore thumb. Another thing to do to be less obtrusive would be
    to pull off your neckstrap and replace it with a lightweight wrist strap just for safety. If your
    camera looks more like a point and shoot, you'll get better stuff.

    A long lens is going to be very obvious, especially on a full-sized camera. The D-Series
    Nikons look a lot smaller with a small prime mounted.

    Also, why can't you use much flash? An SB series flash bounced off the ceiling could do
    wonders, and not look very flash-like, image wise.
  19. I think you'll find that any time spent with the 70-300 will be waisted effort and I personally wouldn't bother dragging it along. You seem obsessed with the notion that you can't take candids without it. IMO and experience this is a false notion. It's how you blend in, not what you shoot with.
    You should see some of the hundreds of candids my father took with his Busch Pressman D 4X5. talk about an in your face camera.

    Don't be afraid to really crank up the ISO. Forget about someone else's limitations. You can get a much faster shutter speed and/or not so shallow a DOF. Your shots will be sharper and any noise is easy to correct if necessary. Under exposure is death to an image in a low light situation. I'd rather have a little noise and a sharp image to deal with than a underexposed mess.
    Just my $0.02 worth.

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