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Technique for Digital indoor Candids??

nicholas radina , Aug 20, 2002; 04:57 p.m.

Hello Everyone! Great Forum!

I currently use a Nikon CoolPix 800 digicam. I'm trying to shoot candid shots indoors at parties, conventions, meetings, etc... Most of these enviorments have poor lighting. I would like to NOT use a Flash. What are my options? I'm also interested in trying out a wideangle lens for those hard to fit shots!! Thanks or any help...


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Maury Cohen , Aug 20, 2002; 05:35 p.m.

Your options are limited Nicholas.

1.) Turn flash off (using menu settings or flash control button) and shoot by avaiable light. You complained about poor lighting in many situations, but if you're choosing not to use flash you're also choosing to use the ambient light, whether it's poor or not. Using manual white balance (if your Coolpix 800 allows it) will probably help to adjust to the particular light situation. Adjusting the ISO speed up may help the shutter speed, but may also degrade the overall image quaity. I'd leave this on Auto.

2.) If your camera allows it you can try adjusting the flash output down by a stop or more to "tone down" the appearance of flash. In this case leave the white balance on daylight or Auto.

S. LIU , Aug 20, 2002; 06:07 p.m.

If you don't want to use flash, here are some tricks:

  1. Be calm. Practice holding your camera still. (I can hold up to 4 secs without a support.)
  2. Find some interesting light before you shoot.
  3. Evaluate the light situation, if the available light is distributed, use matrix metering. If there is a center of attention, use spot metering. Use exposure compensation to make adjustment.
  4. The auto WB works very well in most situations.
  5. Prefocus and hold the shutter button, wait for the opportunity. The digital camera is too slow for you to follow people. Let people walk/run into your frame.
I have many indoor candid shots with my CoolPix 800. For privacy reason, I only post this shot in a public place as an example.

S. LIU , Aug 20, 2002; 06:16 p.m.

Don't use high ISO (because of noise). Try to find a support if the exposure is too long. The key is planning and expectation. Since digital camera can take more shots than film and show result immediately, take advantage of it.

The theory that only film camera can take low light indoor candids is bullshit.

Another example.

Marc Williams , Aug 20, 2002; 09:31 p.m.

Yes a digital camera can be used in low light. But the same principles that govern film apply with digital capture. For example, someone here said they can hand hold the camera for 4 seconds, which is sheer nonsense.

You are probably asking more of the specific camera mentioned than it can deliver. You may get some lucky shots, but without a very fast lens and a TTL flash that provides a wide latitude for fill compensation, it'll just be that...luck.

Digital Photography in Low Light, No Flash Allowed

S. LIU , Aug 20, 2002; 10:22 p.m.

I checked the information of the two photos I put above (using iphoto).

The first one: 1/4 sec @ f4.8, -0,3 EV, ISO 151

The second one: 1/3 sec @f4.8 -0.7 EV, ISO 100

I also have some candid shot taken at 1 sec @f3.5.

The point is not how long you can hold or how lucky you are. The point is that it is possible to take low light photo of long exposure (> 1/30?) with digital camera hand held. I can not explain why. Could it be that there is no vibration of moving mirror in the camera? Or could it be due to the short focal length of digital camera (in my case, the focal length is between 7 and 14 mm, if you use 1/focal length rule, that allows 1/7 or 1/14 exposure, I am not sure if this is correct).

I admit that 4 sec record is little bit exaggerated. My actural experience of exposure longer than 4 sec withou our tripod was in landscape though (on an airplane). Perhaps that is luck ;-)

6 sec @f4.2, focal = 10.40 mm, spot meter, ISO 100

S. LIU , Aug 20, 2002; 10:40 p.m.

The example of 1 sec hand held. (They are all from the same camera, CP800) Not pure luck.

1 sec @f4.2, ISO 400, Matrix metering, focal = 10.60 mm

S. LIU , Aug 20, 2002; 10:47 p.m.

BTW, I don't think CP800 can compete with Leica with high speed B&W film (or any high end digital camera : DSLR, E-10, G2, etc.). It is a low end camera, but it is not a toy. If you use it properly, it can take very nice photos. That is all I want to say with my examples.

Marc Williams , Aug 21, 2002; 06:02 a.m.

Ahh, but it is pure expermintal luck to use a slow lens at ISO 125 in poor lighting conditions and get a worthwhile image. S. Liu, you seem to profess that a basic digital camera can somehow defy physics. That one can become a human tri-pod, stop their heart from beating, and shoot pictures at super-human lengths of time. This is advice for cyborgs, not some guy looking to take flashless pictures at a party where you can actually recognize some of the people in the photo.

If one has a passion for low light work, there are alternatives that are far more capable of achieving reliable results. One poster stated "use film", perhaps a bit stridently, but true non the less. Low light is still a strong hold of film. Fuji ISO 800 coupled with an inexpensive used 50mm 1.4 lens and consumer level body will outperform the Nikon 800 all night long. IMO, to profess otherwise is pure one upmanship ego doing the talking.

S. LIU , Aug 21, 2002; 08:35 a.m.

Film is not an answer to his question,

neither is DSLR or fast lens Digtial camera (G2, E-10, 3040Z, 4040Z). There is no doubt that a fast lens and film are the best choice. But his question is about how to use CP800 with max f3.5 ISO 400 to take indoor candid shot.

Indoor candid shot doesn't always mean low light shots as I posted above and below. And I don't think exposure longer than 1 sec would work for people shot anyway, digital or film, because people move. 1/3 or 1/4 sec can be achieved with CP800 with some practice of holding the camera. That is fact, not luck. And it obeys physics of short focal length, small sensor digital camera.

BTW, in terms of luck, I think luck is on the side of digital camera if you compare it with film camera. I can take hundreds of low light party shots, have instant review and keep a few good one (my rate is about 10:1). If the shots are very "mission critical", you need a tripod or good flash, or film camera. That is for sure. There is not free lunch in the world.

1sec @f4.2, -2 EV, 10.40 mm, ISO 100.

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