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NukeJockey

Tips for shooting in low light WITHOUT a tripod

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Was taking some photos of my cat tonight under a fairly dim (covered) fluro light and I just couldn't get the colour/brightness right. The light was more white than yellow btw, even though it has a cover. Obviously if I set a slower shutter speed I could, but it was pretty hard to keep the camera steady.

 

I think I ended up using these settings:

 

Shutter Speed 1/40, Aperture F5.6 and ISO 1600.

 

Now this captured the pictures OKAY, but still didn't take in enough light, now it didn't seem too dark, but the camera obviously thought it was, on Auto settings it tried to use a 20" shutter speed to take a photo...you can imagine how that ended up when I wasn't ready for it.

 

What am I doing wrong?

 

The offending photos:

 

Posted Image

Posted Image

 

Going to try brighten these in Photoshop a bit (downloading it now and about to look for a tutorial) I LOVE these shots as my cat usually runs away when I pull the camera out, but she was actually posing for these shots tonight.

 

Any advice?

 

*EDIT* I should note, I forgot to change the white balance, it was set to daylight, should I have set it to something else? It has a fluro option (4000k)

Edited by nukejockey

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Few tips I have for shooting in low light without a tripod.

 

1. Purchase a fast lens. In the case of portraiture. The 50mm 1.8 would be your best bang for your buck. Just be mindful of your depth of field.

2. Stabalise yourself and control your breathing. Breath out before you take your shot. Sort of like what snipers do before taking a shot

3. Turn on IS/VR if your lens have it. Combining with tip 2, I have pushed 1/10 handheld with success.

 

Also, with the below photo, what was your metering set to?

 

What I would of done is 2 things. Check the metering on the cats eyes, and on the brightest part of the scene to sort of determine what results I need to expose the photo correctly. I wouldn't say you had done anything wrong, just that your exposure would of been based on the overall scene which I am going to hazard a guess you had matrix/evaluative metering set? With the photo and it's shadows, a fill light would have been required to light up the subject.

 

Also, the yellow tint under fluorescent lights is based on the white balance settings you have.

 

What I can recommend, which you eventually get to anyway. Is to purchase a set of white balance cards. You can even get the foldable ones that fit snugly into your bag. Basically, if there is a dramatic change in lighting, I would pull out the wb cards, take photos in the current lighting then custom set my wb. That way you are guaranteed good results.

 

The other option, which I would hope people do anyway, Is to shoot in raw. Once you get your photo in your editing suite of choice, you can alter your wb of the photo till you get the result you require.

 

Sure I missed things out, but this should help somewhat.

 

Rob

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A note about IS/VR is that while they're great to reduce camera shake, remember that you ultimately need a fast shutter to stop motion. In other words, IS/VR won't help if the cat decides to move during exposure.

 

Checking your EXIF data, the two shots were (1/10 @ f/5.6, ISO 1600 55mm) and (1/10 @ f/5.6, ISO 1600 42mm). I'm not sure how high ISO the Kiss X3 can go up to for acceptable noise performance, but you could give the ISO expansion settings (H mode) a try. 1/10 is already pretty slow, so it's a good thing that your cat remains so still.

 

If your cat doesn't mind, maybe you can try shooting at 18mm in order to get the f/3.5 that the lens is capable of? That'll give you a bit more light to play with.

 

+1 to motiv about RAW formats, because they allow much more flexibility in post processing for colour temperature. Adobe camera raw does a fine job in correcting colour casts even using its 'Auto' setting.

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Thanks for the info guys, I'll set the camera to shoot in raw from now, I have a 16gb SD card, so plenty of space.

 

Whats the 55m/42mm/18mm that you're talking about? Is that distance from the subject or something else?

 

Is there anything I can do for these pictures at the moment in their current form?

 

I'm still just beginning to learn to shoot so actually be able to capture the cat at all is an accomplishment for me as the first 5-6 shots I took were nearly pitch black for some reason.

 

I only have the 1 lens at the moment and can't afford another at this point in time so I need to make do with what I have.

 

Would a wide angle lens be better or worse for close subjects? I have an attachment for my lens (some el-cheapo thing that came with a bunch of UV filters and stuff) which is a little macro attachment and then a bigger wide angle attachment, they're both meant to be used in conjunction with each other.

 

So much to learn....enjoying the experience at least.

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the 52mm/42mm/18mm is the focal length of the lens. I.e. how far you are zoomed in.

 

As far as the attatchments for your lens goes I have nfi.

 

-X

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So 18mm would be zoomed right out, meaning I need to get closer, which is what edmund was asking me to do?

 

I'll give it a try, I didn't realise that focal length affected the aperture and stuff, but its interesting to know. As you can tell, I still have lots to learn.

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The fl affects the aperture for your particular lens.

 

If you look on the barrel, you should see 18-55 f/3.5-5.6

 

That defines that at 18mm you can achieve a max of f3.5 and at 55 a max of f5.6

 

The more expensive glass usually have a fixed f stop in their focal range.

 

E.g 24-70 @ f/2.8, 17-55 @ f/2.8 etc etc etc.

 

So regardless of what focal length you are at, effectively you can have f/2.8 for all settings.

 

Rob

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if your not goint to shoot in raw what i tend to do is bracket my shots harder with moving opbjects but i've found it usefull if a need contrast, manipulation, layering and merging exposure bracketed shots can be great

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As far as what you can do with the photos in its current form, I'd suggest putting them into Photoshop/Lightroom and do an auto white balance. JPEG images tend to suffer a bit when you tweak its colour temperature, but at least you'll be able to remove most of the colour cast.

 

So, back to the lens. 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 means that at 18mm, your aperture is f/3.5 while you only get f/5.6 at 55mm. So taking photos at 18mm allows you to have a wider aperture (due to lens restriction).

 

 

Would a wide angle lens be better or worse for close subjects?

Wide angles are generally worse for portrait photography because they make the subject look rather fat while you're up close. However, the wider aperture definitely allows better photos to be taken in the dark. One of the reasons why the 50mm (x1.6 = 80mm) f/1.8 prime lens is so popular is because the focal length is great for portrait shots, yet it also allows such a wide aperture compared with f/5.6 on the kit lens. Anyway, don't worry about the geometry of the photo too much and get the lighting right for a first start.

 

I have an attachment for my lens (some el-cheapo thing that came with a bunch of UV filters and stuff) which is a little macro attachment and then a bigger wide angle attachment, they're both meant to be used in conjunction with each other.

Your kit lens at 18mm (x1.6 = 28.8mm) should be wide enough for most situations, so adding the (0.45x) wide angle attachment won't be very useful. The macro part of that attachment does come in handy for taking photos of tiny subjects and it does a fairly good job.

 

In general, remember that whenever you add a piece of glass in front of (or behind) your lens, it's going to cost you 1) sharpness, 2) light and 3) introduces distortion and chromatic aberration. It's important to consider these factors when using them.

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Thanks guys, some good advice there.

 

So just something to clarify, in low light while shooting by hand, I want to get a balance between Exposure time, Aperture and Iso to get a well lit photo without too much noise?

 

If that's the case, would I want to go like 1/50-1/100 exposure time, lower aperture and medium ISO? Like 800 or so?

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Just did a test shot in the same spot (without the cat :P) focusing on one of her toys, the colour looks alot more natural but it still doesn't seem very bright, Is a slower exposure time the only thing that could help me there?

 

Settings: 1/50, F3.5, ISO800.

 

Posted Image

 

Hmm, on second thoughts, maybe its my monitor making it look darker than it is. Opinions?

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It's not your monitor - it is a bit dark. ISO 1600 should still be OK with the Kiss X3, giving you an extra stop of light.

 

At 18mm (x1.6 = 28.8mm), shutter speed of 1/25 might be doable with the IS lens to give you I think 1 stop equivalent of stillness.

 

These two combined should give 2 f-stops extra light. Give it a try and see how it goes. That said, the 1/25s shutter speed would be useless with a moving subject.

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As edmund said, invest in a prime lens would help immensely under low light conditions. But if you still want to keep the 18-55mm lens in low light, you definitely need a flash.

 

But nice thread as I need some tips as well.

 

EDIT: You can diffuse the flash which might make it easier. Also, try and take photos of the cat when it is not directly looking at you. That's probably when the picture looks more interesting.

Edited by sora3

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...studio lights?

 

If you want to get as close as you are in the top photo, direct flash is a serious no-no, unless you want to blind your cat. So bounce flash is probably the only alternative, but even then you'd probably only get a single shot out of it, before startling your cat and making them nervous. Other than just making the room brighter with static lights, cranking up the ISO beyond 1600 will just look horrible (it already doesn't look fantastic on the fur to the right)

Edited by Mademan

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I think I just had my settings wrong, as all the colour and stuff is way off too, its a white light, not a yellow light, If I get her in a similar mood again I'll try for round 2.

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If I get her in a similar mood again I'll try for round 2.

Bow chica wow wow

 

Sorry, cant help myself. Keep us posted on your result.

 

edit - wow double post in a post!

Edited by motiv

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What colour profile are you using? I found that alot of the preset colour profiles were horrible and had a fiddle with the custom ones, so maybe have a play there.

 

Shooting in RAW lets you adjust the colour profiles as well as the WB, and i gotta agree with every one else get a 50mm prime, i got the cheap plastic f1.8 and its gotta be my favorite lens to use, all though I'm rarely in a position to use it.

 

Sorry if i went over whats already been said I just skimmed the thread.

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Um, probably one of the default ones like portrait.

 

I'm still learning so had enough trouble working out the shutter speed, aperture and ISO, let alone the white balance and colour profiles.

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Added to what everyone else has said, shooting under fluoro lighting is always a pain. Fluoro lights put out light with a very narrow spectrum, which sometimes means the colour of things don't look quite right in a photo. You also have to remember than fluoro lights pulse or flicker at 50hz, so if your shutter speed is faster than 1/25th, you're not going to get a full cycle and might snap the shot in a peak or trough that your camera's exposure meter didn't see coming, hence the off light level.

 

There's not any easy ways to get around that, unfortunately. If you keep shooting, you'll eventually get a lucky shot, but fluoro lighting just isn't photographer-friendly.

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Added to what everyone else has said, shooting under fluoro lighting is always a pain. Fluoro lights put out light with a very narrow spectrum, which sometimes means the colour of things don't look quite right in a photo. You also have to remember than fluoro lights pulse or flicker at 50hz, so if your shutter speed is faster than 1/25th, you're not going to get a full cycle and might snap the shot in a peak or trough that your camera's exposure meter didn't see coming, hence the off light level.

 

There's not any easy ways to get around that, unfortunately. If you keep shooting, you'll eventually get a lucky shot, but fluoro lighting just isn't photographer-friendly.

 

Thanks for the info oj, very helpful.

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