Will VR help with dragging the shutter?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by nishnishant, Aug 18, 2010.

  1. I was out with family late at night last weekend and took some shots using a D80, 50 mm 1.8 lens, and an SB-600. I tried my hand at dragging the shutter and while a few shots came okay, there were many more that did not. I mostly played with ISO 200-400, f/1.8 - f/2.8, and shutter speeds of 1/15 to 1/8 seconds.
    I suspect my hand holding skills weren't great because the biggest problem was handshake blur (or so it seemed to me). I was wondering if VR would have helped here?
    What puzzled me is that in a few cases even the primary subject (my son or wife or both) had blur - you'd have thought the flash burst would have frozen their motion/hand-shake. But that may have been because I over-exposed for the background and got some of the subject in the exposure too.
    I know most people scorn the idea of VR for a 50 mm lens but I am just wondering if I'd have had better luck with a VR lens (like the Tamron 17-50 2.8 or even the Nikon 18-55 (3.5 - 5.6) VR 2 lens).
  2. I mean the Tamron VC lens released late last year.
  3. Yes, VR would help. But you can also accomplish what you are trying to do by increasing your shutter speed and ISO a bit. And/or by using a tripod with your current settings. And/or by supporting your camera a bit better, possibly by leaning against something.
    You will have do some testing to see what the slowest shutter speed you can shoot at comfortably and successfully is. And the more you practice, the better you will get at it and the slower the shutter speed you will be able to shoot at.
  4. VR helps but very little, and VR does not prevent subject movement. You still need to hold as steady as possible and minimize movements.
    I recommend to use a faster shutter speed, & since you already have flash, it would also help further if you use a tripod.
  5. When you use slow shutter speeds to photograph people, you can expect to get some blurred results; at those speeds you used I'd think very few will come out critically sharp. VR might help a bit when the subjects are sitting but since Nikon doesn't have a normal lens with VR you'd have to choose a (much) slower lens such as the 16-85, leading to further subject movement related blur.
    Here's what I do when photographing people indoors with flash and ambient light (mostly window light with some artificial house lights). I set the ambient exposure (flash off) by metering the scene and taking a test exposure to verify the result. I may underexpose it slightly. In setting the ambient exposure I select a wide aperture such as f/2, maybe 1/30s-1/125s, and set the ISO to 800 so that I don't drive the flash too hard. Then I turn on the flash, set it to TTL-BL and -2/3 compensation, point it towards the ceiling and back wall behind me, at 24mm FL setting. This way I add frontal fill to the subject to open up the shadows. This only works if you have large white or near-white surfaces to bounce from (ceiling, walls); otherwise there will be nasty color disparities (which will occur in the presence of household lamps together with window light anyway, but window light + flash or house lamps + filtered flash may mix nicely). I typically make the images black and white if there is a color clash. If I must have color images I will turn off the house lamps and use window light and flash only in a typical case. I'm not at all a fan of those images where the foreground subject is neutral, and the background warm - IMO it should be the opposite (main subject warm, background cold) if there has to be a color disparity... ;-)
    By selecting a wide aperture and faster shutter speed and slightly undexposing the background I avoid the subject blur to the most part, though of course then I need to focus accurately as the wide aperture is associated with a shallow depth of field. I think the technique works very well. When it gets really dark (no window light; this doesn't happen in Finland in the summer but the rest of the year it's all dark in the evening), it makes sense to experiment with filters on the flash to see if the light can be balanced to match the ambient artificial lights, allowing color photography with all artificial light. Sometimes this works well. Here I may need to go ISO 1600 or even higher though, FX starts to get mandatory for the best results. While there is still a lot of window light, life is good. ;-)
    Getting back to the main subject, VR starts to be helpful in people photography when the focal length is about 105mm or longer; I think the 105 VR works nicely at 1/60s, f/2.8 for the background, and flash for the foreground subject whereas you might get a bit of blur at that focal length without VR. At 200mm-300mm VR is very useful (regrettably, my 300mm doesn't have it). VR for wide angle and normal lenses would be helpful for architectural interiors when the subjects are very small in the frame a slight movement blur might not ruin the image, but if people are the main subject, in my opinion it is not that useful unless you want to risk a substantial proportion of images to be blurred due to subject movement and can live with those odds, or if you're deliberately blending movement blur and flash to stop the movement (I do not like this look).
  6. First, do what Ilkka suggests. But... The short answer is Yes. VR may help in this case. You are TRYING to get a little blur, so try and make the blur work for you, and try a rear curtain sync if people are moving.
  7. Thanks a lot for all the great suggestions and advice. I think practice is the keyword here. I was just a little too optimistic that I'd get it right (or rather that I'd get most of the pics right). The few that came out well have really pleased me though.
  8. Do you have a sample to post? I have not heard of dragging a shutter before, but I suspect it is the rear curtain sync, that Peter referred to, that you are looking for. I think this will be more useful than VR. If your subjects are moving then pan with them. With rear curtain sync the motion blur will be behind them, where it should be.
  9. when i shoot club shots of dancers, DJs, or musicians, and want to emphasize motion, i use rear curtain sync with flash, iso 200, aperture 2.8 or maybe f/4, and set a show shutter speed...1/15 is generally the benchmark, but it can vary from 1/30 to 1/4, or even slower...it totally depends on the amount of background/ambient light, the amount of subject movement, and the angle you choose. you have to experiment with this technique a lot to feel confident in using it, and even then, you probably wont nail every shot. i'd say the key is really locking in focus on your main subject and dragging/panning in a straight line without weaving or jerking. i would never use a tripod for this in a club, especially because, sometimes, you have to hold the camera over your head to get the best angle.
    btw, i typically use the tamron 17-50 for this which has a known overexposure issue with TTL-BL mode on the sb-600, so i don't use that. i also don't use VR, because my lens doesnt have it.
  10. I think VR would actually make the situation worse because it slows down the auto focus speed. I think VR is more of a marketing gimmick than a real benefit. I only have one VR lens, the 70-200 f/2.8, and I turn the VR off because I was missing shots. I work along side many professional photographers at press events and athletics and most who use lenses with VR, turn it off. I used to miss shots at basketball games all the time, because my focus was too slow, until I turned off the VR and now my shots are in focus. I don't see any professional using VR lenses except the 70-200, probably because that lens is great and you can't buy it without VR.
  11. What is "dragging the shutter"? I like to shoot in manual, setting the SS to manipulate the ambient light and reduce blur etc. but not familiar with dragging the shutter. How would that be done and why?
  12. Dragging the shutter is using a slower than normal to shutter speed to allow for shooting in low light settings or for effect. It has to be done with a speedlight or everything will be a blur. I usually start at 1/15 of a second and set my flash to rear curtain sync, which causes the flash to fire right before the shutter closes. The speedlight will freeze some of the action and if you move your camera during the exposure you get trails of light from the ambient light sources. You don't have to use rear curtain sync, I believe only Nikon has this feature, but not sure. I will go as low as 1/8 of a second , but after that the results are too extreme for me.
  13. OK thanks will have to try that.
  14. One other thought is that the 50mm 1.8 is quite soft at 1.8, and usually you have to stop it down to at least 2.8 to get sharp images (I usually go 3.2 just to be safe)

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