Tricky one: Low light lens to replace a 50mm 1.8

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by gtx2, May 1, 2007.

  1. Hi Guys,
    I use two lenses for my indoor/low light shots.
    The Canon 50mm 1.8 and a Tamron 17-50 2.8 (both recommended by
    members) Some of my pictures do come out well. I havent or maybe it isnt that I
    dont like it but I dont flash at all. Flash annoys people to an extend and
    ruins the atmosphere I think...So here are a couple of shots I took last
    weekend.. Both taken using the 50 mm 1.8 lens. As you can see the pictures
    arent the best..The've come out noisy and blurry. How can I improve on these?
    Is an IS lens the solution? Is there something more specialised out there?
    Should I invest in a good flash (but that kinda ruins the whole argument at the
    same time:))... I'd appreciate your experienced views on this ...Cheers..George
    Shutter speed is 1/30 on both pictures. ISO 1600

    [Shots removed because they exceed posting guidelines]
  2. Can`t see the pics, but generally the existing light has to to be favorable to the subject. I can be low if you use a faster lens and higher ISO.

    Blurry can be too low a shutter speed or out of focus.
  3. Unfortunately the original pictures were too big and got deleted. Here's a resized version of the pictures [​IMG] [​IMG]
  4. You have to be pretty steady to shoot handheld at 1/30 and the subject has to be motionless. IS would help the holding but you're not going to get anything that is as fast as a 1.8 with IS. I think flash is going to be you're best bet. <P>Do you shoot RAW? If so you can gain an extra stop of exposure. Just underexpose a bit to speed up the shutter. <P>The 50mm 1.4 would buy you a little more light and if you wanted to really spend some money there is always the 50mm 1.2L.<P>
    Looking at the pictures the first one is going to be tough to improve on without a flash. The closer subject will be highly overexposed if the middle subject is properly exposed. Bouncing a flash off the left hand wall (if there is one nearby) would light her face pretty well. The second picture would be better with flash as well.
  5. For both pictures I'd add a bounced flash + white card. For the first I'd aim the flash to the left and for the second I'd aim the flash to the ceiling. Another possibility for the second is to aim it directly and use FEC -2 and a diffuser.

    Happy shooting,
  6. No lens will help with your problem - you have lighting and motion blur issues. You either have to live with these type of pictures or you will have to use flash.
  7. You're shooting at 1/30s and wide open aperture ... expect blurry pictures. Getting a faster lens would let you increase the shutter speed but you will have even less depth of field for a lot more money. Your best bet is to use flash and bounce it if possible. Using flash will let you stop action and will let you use smaller apertures to gain depth of field.
  8. I try to avoid flash whenever I can - I even prefer a bit "blurry" but flashed - since the result are rarely of great atmosphere.

    However if I got to the limit - I'll use a bouncing flash as described.
    Or in many occassion I use my Nikon-Flash-Combinationan having the possibility to fire wireless (and putting the flash wherever needed).
    I don't know the canon-flash-system, but the off-camera helps me to preserve a lot of atmosphere (e.g. if I don't have to be fast or for the VIP-persons on a party.
  9. Ahrite ahrite..I'll get a flash :)My old one isnt great.Think I might go for a 430EX
    I do shoot RAW - Might try underexposing and play around with the shutter speed first...Cant afford the 1.2 L but looks tempting!
    Thanks so much for your input and critiques everyone... Much appreciated...
  10. With the 50/1.8 on the Rebel XT, your effective focal length equiv is 80mm, which is harder to handhold, so you end up fighting camera shake and subject motion.

    One option is to go with a wider lens like the EF 35/2 or Sigma 30/1.4. Both of which will roughly give the effective FL equiv of 50mm, which is easier to handhold at 1/30. The Sigma will let you bump up the shutter speed to 1/60 or lower iso to 800.
  11. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    ` How can I improve on these? `

    There are several approaches of which flash is one.

    The more information you supply the wider the range of suggestions.

    What about this information which is missing for a detailed analysis?

    1. Aperture settings for each image

    2. Camera type and COMPLETE details of shooting mode and any PP

    3. If auto focus: auto focus selection?

    4. Camera viewpoint to subject distance (can be estimated by images, your recall should be more accurate.

    5. Description of any influencing factors re photographer i.e. caffeine, alcohol, sore wrist, just had an argument, blood sugar drop (regarding effect on ability to HH at 1/30 and or focus if manual focus).

  12. George,

    You may of took my previous post as condescending, but in truth the recommendation to spend some time with formal/informal photography instruction is the obvious answer to your question and a lot more valuable than, "go buy a flash, tripod, faster lens, etc."

    Some excellent resources are as follows:


    John Hedgecoe's New Manual of Photography by John Hedgecoe

    Mastering Flash Photography: A Course in Basic to Advanced Lighting Techniques by Susan McCartney

    Photography by John Freeman

    National Geographic Photography Field Guide: Secrets to Making Great Pictures (2nd Ed) by Peter K. Burian & Robert Caputo

    Those are a few of many good starting points on how to improve.

    Alternatively, if you have the opportunity to attend a local class/workshop it is time well spent.

    Good luck!
  13. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    `spend some time with formal/informal photography instruction`

    `John Hedgecoe's New Manual of Photography by John Hedgecoe`

    `Photography by John Freeman`

    Ditto x 3

  14. as pointed out're in a very low light situation. I love shooting in it. But expect a fair amount of or shoot a lot.

    Couple of hints/tips.........a wider lens would help. With that 50mm on a 1.6 crop cam, that ends up effectively being 80mm. Handholding shtterspeed guideline for that is 1/80th second for best results. So, shooting at 1/30th you need something more like a 20mm f/1.8....Sigma makes a decent one (although some may argue that point, I like the lens on my 20D)......for that matter even the Canon 35mm f/2 (ending up a 58mm) will help a bit. Both of which I own, and hve success with.

    Try shooting on multi frame shooting. A lot of times when you shoot, you move the cam when you press the shutterbutton down the rest of the way, so the first shot is you causing blur due to your movement........but if you shoot multi.....the 2nd and 3rd shots have a better chance of you being still.

    Shoot like you would shoot a gun. Basically that means.....take a breath, EXHALE, and squeeze off the shutterbutton. Exhaling causes you to relax your muscles a little........really, it helps.

    Try to anticipate your subjects movements.........and catch them when still. That could be a number of things. When they the peak of their action (like, if they grab for a drink glass...odds are when they touch the glas, they themselves are going to cause themselves to stop a brief moment to ensure they grab it correctly)...if they are moving back and forth, catch them at the extreme end before they move back to center again.

    Shoot a lot

    Shoot a lot

    did I say..........shoot a lot.....heh
  15. also requires proper camera holding. Of course, you right hand is on the shutterbutton, but also gripping the rh side of camera securely....bascially controlling side to side motion. Left hand....PALM UP... should be UNDER the CAMERA and LENS!......basically holding it up....and therefore controlling up and down motion. Both elbows should be shoved into your gut......this forms a triangle from your body to the camera........and keeps your arms from flailing around. If standing........feet spread apart. If sitting.........feet spread apart and back into chair back (forming another triangle). If at a table...put your elbows on the table and lean your gut into the edge of the table....another triangular support set up. Use anything to brace the camera if you're standing in a doorway........butt the lh side of the cam against the door jamb....stuff like that.
  16. Learning photography basics is part of becoming a photogrpaher. The internet is great, but you should not discard learning from other sources, such as books and courses/workshops. In sites like these, you will get the standard answers; and you will get advice from people whom you not know if they are experts or not.

    The title of your post says to me that you do not know the basics yet; your problem is not a lens problem, is a problem of too low shutter speed and/or subject movement. A new lens will not solve your problem. What will solve your problem is to:

    1. Use flash;
    2. Use higher shutter speeds (increase ISO to 3200);
    3. Tell your subject not to move;
    4. Any combination of the above;
    5. Use the blur/movement creatively.

    the best advice you got here was the one saying to learn more. What is wrong with that?
  17. Forget the flash, and forget all the jerk comments above. Yes, you should have a flash for the many things it can do, but you are right that it would ruin this type of shooting.
    Low-light pictures are one of the most challenging things in photography. The most important thing about taking them is to visualize and realize what you want. If you want to make a sharp and detailed high-key 11X14 with average exposure, that will flatter your subjects, then you will be probably be dissapointed. If you are shooting in available light, then you are probably out to capture certain moments or set certain moods in a journalistic fashion rather than professional studio portrait type stuff. That means if it is dark, the picture should look dark.
    I shoot in horrid lighting without flash two or three times a week. The first thing I would do if I were you is to try to eliminate as much motion blur as possible. Sacrificing exposure in order to stop motion cleanly is well worth it in my opinion. You can punch the highlights later just like you can with film, but you can't eliminate motion blur. I would try to use '90 if possible with that lens handheld, but you can go slower depending on how fast subjects are moving. I would also invest in the 1.4 version of that lens to give yourself an extra 2/3 stop. It is quite a difference, although it doesn't sound like it, and only about $325. The lowest shutter speed to freeze action also depends on how fast your subjects are moving...which may be influenced by whether or not they know you are shooting them. Also, I don't know what camera you are using, but different image processors and different sensors deal with noise better. All this low light stuff I shoot is taken with two cameras: #1 1st generation 1D, and #2 20D. The 20D has much cleaner high ISOs. The 1D is wretched, but I have done OK with it.
    Second suggestion: a monopod. I almost always have one on if I am not moving all over the place. You probably are moving a lot, but I would still have one if you like to shoot a lot in low light. A very nice one with a head won't even set you back $100.
    The following picture of artist Peter Alexander speaking could be color corrected for skin tone, and even a bit and even brightened, but I left it like this because it is more true to what the scene actually looked like. It was with a 1D RAW, and 85mm 1.8 at ISO 800, '45 shutter on a monopod pegged into my thigh. I was shooting at '90 during the lecture, but once he slowed down and started talking to the audience, I gave it some more time. The lighting was terrible. Dim spots and the projector only.
    <IMG SRC="">
    As you can see, the picture is technically imperfect according to the rules. The eyes are out, the wrist is in, there is grain, it's what most people would call yucky looking. Well, always remember and never forget that most people are wrong. I am happy with it. It's never goint to be as big as it is here on the screen, it's intended for a newspaper or magazine, and, more importantly than ANYTHING, the shutter was snapped at an interesting moment that shows something about the event and about the person. Diffucult condition, technically flawed, but it got exactly what I was after. That is what to aim for: getting what you are after, and it's almost never specifically. People get too specific when judging photos. The only thing technical knowledge will really do is make your mind look at things in a different way, so you know how to manipulate situations and equipment to get what you want.
    It seems like you came here basically saying, "Help; my pictures are crap!", and what you got was: "Well, your problem is that your pictures are crap." That is not helpful. Yes, technical knowledge will help, but no one should be so arrogant as to put you down. My point is that what you want to do is indeed possible. Just practice practice practice, work, work, work, and don't be bothered by what others have to say about your photos. You are out to make images that appeal to YOU, not to Joe Photographer on the Internet. Everything is an experiment, everything is hard work, and everything is about having FUN in photography, and those who forget that are the ones that really need to go learn something.
    I can tell you that I only learned by doing, so practice and work, and never be lazy, and you will start getting what you want from your photos.
  18. (Oh, BTW, manual focus of course. Auto focus would not work in there.)
  19. Another suggestion is to crop in camera as much as possible within the time you have. That photo above was not cropped. Always think of what you want from the final image, and manipulate your camera to make it so.
  20. Let me answer William's question first:

    Model Canon EOS 350D.
    shooting Mode :Manual Exposure.Converted from RAW.
    Changed WB to click. AF on, centered.
    ISO Speed: Max at 1600.
    Focal Length 50.0mm.
    View point to subject: Just over a meter I'd say
    (I'm sitting across the table for the 2nd shot. standing for the first).
    Exposure Data: f/1.8 @ 1/30s.
    Question 5: Hope you didnt ask that because I'm from Ireland :) Just joking. No I wasnt in a state (yet) when i took these pics.Camera goes back into the safe backpack under those circumstances
  21. First of all let me say a big thank you for all your responses...

    Mark, Thanks you for the link to that excellent site and the book suggestions. Taken on board fully.

    Thomas S, great tips..especially the handling and anticipatory ones! These are things you wont find in a textbook.

    Paulo, unfortunately these are shot at my max ISO.

    As they say, if you cant listen, you cant learn.And I'm here to listen and thanks again for all your input
  22. Keith,

    You so saw what I was trying to do. And yes,you're so right - Whats good is what looks good to YOU. Thanks for the tips and most importantly, thank you for helping me bring my confidence levels back up.


    ps: that picture above says it all
  23. Thanks keith for being realistic... It is refreshing.
    I took this picture at 1/6 @ 55mm on a 350D. f5.6, iso 1600 , handheld with the 18-55 kit lens. Technically perfect? No, but I sure like it. <br/><br/>
    <img src="" />
  24. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    RE ::`Let me answer William's question first etc: . . . How could I improve these? . . . Thanks for the technical detail: Not withstanding all the general and specific advice, it is too late in the day to point out with which I agree or have issue: I would improve the two images thus: Shot 1. (Three women) 1.Planning and viewpoint: What is the subject matter and what is the message, if it is the woman in the foreground right then the remainder is a distraction; if it is the contrasts and comaparisons between the three women then and you purposely chose F1.8 to highlight one and selectivey OOF the others then the viewpoint is wrong. You need to be squarer to the subject maybe 40m degrees not at 15 to 20, where you are now. 2. Focus and recompose or manual focus. You must control the focus with shallow DoF in Low Av Light shots. I am not suer if your camera allows Auto focus and recompose if it does practice, if it doesn?t focus manually, and in any case practice manual focus also. 3. Exposure control: Here I make assumptions, that the laughing lady is the key subject. SHE must be metered. You must expose for her. What follow might seem to contradict with point 4, but just let it digest. You must take a meter reading from her face, or shoulder and set that as your exposure, this means you might have to come closer in the planning and get or remember the EV. Similarly, you get focus on her and then recompose. Yes I know it all sounds a hell of a lot to do, but you asked how to improve them, and I have the luxury of doing it with 20 x 20 hindsight! 4. Shutter speed: Decision time, you either accept the motion of the right hand and assert that it adds value to the personality of the image and the subject, or you rectify. To rectify you need about 1/125 (ie two stops). So you still need to meter for her and underexpose that metering by two stiops and shot at 1/125 and then bring her back up in Post Production. 5. Camera shake: if you insist you must shoot at 1/30, then standing up you to have you feet slightly apart one slightly in front of the other. You need to have control your breathing ALL the time, not just before the shot. You need to take a small and SHALLOW breath in and then EXHALE and the squeeze the shutter. If you have any friend who shot (pistols) or are archers get them to give you the full skinny on how to control the body and the trigger or string at the time of release (I am NOT joking). I generally agree with the previous post regarding all different positions for shooting etc. Shot 2 (one woman) Prima facie, at the resolution on this thread I see nothing technically `wrong` with this image in regard to the lens or the technical application of the equipment. Composition is another issue: and this detracts form the image, and perhaps it is this aspect that is getting up your nose. This is a vertical shot, not horizontal. The hand whilst nice is distracting. The background even more so. I cannot abide heads being bashed with large objects ? the brown table. Problem solved: move your feet and get 15 inches camera right. RE: Gain. What do you want at 1600 ISO? RE: Another lens. If you like get the 50mmF1.4 I think it is one of the two best value for money non L prime lenses Canon has, the other being the 85mmF1.8. I use both on a 20D. I got the 50mmF1.4 because the extra few hundred dollars IMO is worth it to me. But as you have a 50mm already, I suggest you look seriously at the 85mm F1.8, the extra reach will just take you that little further from the subject and just that little bit more into the candid position. Examples of the theory I spake: RE: Selective Focus and DoF control, Planning: see images, `Bride and Two Bridesmaids` and `Best Man Pondering`. The Best Man shot is clearly seen at the low res, but trust me, the two Bridesmaids are OoF and the Bride is tack sharp: Both Shots 20D 50mmF1.4 @ F1.8 @1/50th hand held ISO `H` (ie 3200) then pushed one stop to ISO 6400. RE: Subject movement: see image Aunt`s Advice. I don?t give a Rats that the woman on the left of frame is moving in and I have lots head movement as she is talking intimately to the younger woman. I do dislike the background and I moved really quickly and got eight more images off, but in the wash this is the cracker, because of the emotion in the young woman`s face and eyes Shot with 20D 50mmF1.4 @ F1.8 @1/50th hand held ISO `H` (ie 3200) then pushed one stop to ISO 6400. Re Photographer`s Breathing Control and technique in Low AL: See Woman at Bar. Shot with 20D 50mmF1.4 @ F1.4 @1/8th hand held (knelling) ISO `H` (ie 3200) then pushed one stop to ISO 6400. RE Grain: It is lovely. It adds to the flavour. Bring it on and give me more, Tri X PAN shot 2400ASA and then pushed in the developer ? those were the days I can smell it. WW
  25. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

  26. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

  27. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    I got two frames off, before I was pushed over by a man believing my `creativity` was improper. This is the second frame: the only difference foir the first is the position of the subject`s left foot, she just turned it outward, which to me makes the abstract far more appealing.
  28. I just want to add again the very short version of what I was trying to say: Timing and composition are [almost] everything in this type of photography. No matter how much technical knowledge you learn, those two things CANNOT be taught. You get them from natural ability and PRACTICE. Technical knowledge should not be diminished, and is extremely important, but its ONLY purpose it to help you with a concept. Usually those who want to tell you about your technical errors don't have the depth of thought and vision to see anything else. It's a vapid, cold take on photography. An intelligent, insightful, and helpful critique starts with an initial reaction...not to any detail, but to the image. How does it make you feel? What does it make you think about? What narratives appear in your mind, if any? Then you can helpfully break it down as to what elements of the image make you have that reaction. Then you can talk constructively about what technical issues might have affected peoples' reactions, and what changes may acheive the desired reaction next time. You can't make such sweeping and detailed suggestions, as so many here have, based only on two photos. The information I gave was not a reaction to your photos, but general lowlight shooting experience.

  29. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Mr Lubow wrote:

    `Timing and composition are [almost] everything in this type of photography. etc`

    I also wish to paraphrase a little of my contribution

    I think TIMING needs to be broken into `Planning` `Preparing` and `Execution`. The CONCEPT of these elements CAN be taught, but (correctly pointed out by Mr Lubow) there is only one method of acquiring them: doing the hard yards and (often forgotten) ANALYSING the results.

    Mr Lubow contributed many other thoughts also: IMO, quite stimulating, forthright and insightful.

  30. >> Timing and composition [...] CANNOT be taught.

    William correctly pointed out that concept of timing can be taught. I'd like to add that composition can be taught as well. In fact, composition is taught in any basic photography course. First you learn the basic rules of composition, then - mostly after the basic course - you try to break them and see if you like the outcome.

    Happy shooting,
  31. Forgot to add...

    1. William's "Woman at Bar II" picture is a nice example of composition rule braking.

    2. Alongside timing and composition I'd put "Light" as a very important part of photography's concepts. You need to know how to exploit light and creatively use it. In fact, the meaning of the word "Photography" is painting with light...

    Happy shooting,
  32. Yakim,

    Composition is such a personal matter that I don't see how it can be taught. There is no universally good composition. You can critique someone's composition by telling them what reaction it creates in you, but you can't tell them how to make it "good". Yes, I have been through all the art, photo, and design classes you mention, and have met, worked with, critiqued, been critiqued by, and "taught" many a student. Anyone who stands out is not "taught" composition by anybody, but only came to personally refine their existing talent by repetition and by hearing and resonding to people's reactions. If anything, they gained ability, not talent. Anybody who didn't stand out comes in without talent or ability, and leaves with only ability. Anybody can be taught to produce commercial work, which is for someone else. No one can be taught to produce work for themself.

  33. One example of the basic rules of photography. I'm sure there are more.

    Happy shooting,
  34. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Mr Lubow wrote: `You can critique someone's composition by telling them what reaction it creates in you, but you can't tell them how to make it ``good``.

    Literally I agree; but if the word `good` is substituted by another, my answer is different.

    I make the point that in a critique of someone`s work pointing, out adherence, or in fact sometimes NON adherence to the RULES of COMPOSITION, (or, if not RULES, the BASICS or PREMISES of COMPOSITION), might make the photograph more: interesting; stimulating; expressive; vibrant; dynamic etc.

    And to that end, these BASICS or PREMISES of COMPOSITION, CAN be taught, BUT that is not to assume they need to be adhered to.

    Obviously, in all endeavours, (from the Arts, Science and even Government) the `breaking` of `rules` and then the `acceptance` of new boundaries thus creates the new yardsticks or `rule`.

    It seems to me both you and Mr Peled are saying very similar things: there must be a starting point somewhere, from which with experimentation the artist grows, and in this case I think we are referring to the `rules` of photographic composition, which I HAVE taught, but never STIPULATED a student adhere to.

    Of major interest to me is that, by now, Mr Thomas is encouraged that he does NOT necessarily need to get a new lens (or in fact any new equipment) to take `better` available light photographs.

    And also, if he were to get a flash and use it, the images, by definition would no longer be in the pursuit of available light photography, which IMO is not only extremely challenging but also great fun.

  35. Guys, Cheers to all of you who posted replies to my question. William, you are right..I have realised that it is not all about the lens...and I'm not going to starve for a month and buy a 50/1.2 lens.However, knowing how much the 1.8 lens makes low light photos possible in the first place, I will definitely consider a slightly better lens once I have improved my skills with what I have. Yes I agree that there is a lot to be learnt..How I go about learning that is another long question..I have a great interest in photography but am limited in the time I can spend and the resources I have available ( such as photography classes where I live). The pictures I posted above are of friends at a casual dinner one evening..Most of them are quick, spur of the moment shots..Metering or anything else out of the ordinary will transform me from being ' the guy who takes nice shots' to 'that annoying guy with the camera'. However I do take all the answers on board..I've already started using the suggestions given..breathing, multiple shots, underexposing and using a bit of PP...Hey its a learning process and as Keith dont learn unless you practice..Got what I wanted in this picture from yesterday..All i wanted was the girl in the middle..Not perfect..dont really care about others being OOF, I got what I wanted..And I've ordered those books as well, you'd never know where inspiration will come from :). A lot learnt lots more to learn... [​IMG] Thanks again.Purpose achieved...

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