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Shooting from far back in church or hall (low lighting - no flash)

Jerilee Brown , Feb 27, 2010; 04:21 a.m.

I would love to hear everyones views on this... (I know this is a very generalised question but a rough idea would be nice)
I generally use my tripod, zoom lens (70mm - 300mm), (some on P mode (canon D1000), ISO about 800 , auto WB.. and switch to M mode, ISO about 800, auto WB, F4.6 and SS about 80.... I know the exposure on the second comes out rather dark, but I post edit with photoshop. I do find in the P mode I get a slight blur due to motion movement???
I've heard many people like to use the SS mode and let the camera work out the rest.. or the AV mode.
What can people recommend or does anyone have any tips.


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Hugo Poon , Feb 27, 2010; 05:15 a.m.

Firstly, it's a 1000D, not D1000 :)
If you're using a tripod, why use ISO 800? Are there moving subjects? If it's all "still", I'd say use ISO 100, and get it right in the camera, especially if you're shooting JPEG. Post-process exposure editing will only bring the noise levels up, and at ISO 800, it could give quite a bit of noise (it's good if you're aiming to get that look; otherwise just shoot at the lowest ISO possible).
Also, if you're on a tripod, the only causes for motion blur I can think of are:
You shake the apparatus when pressing the shutter (solution: use a cable release/self timer/remote)
The church/hall's near a railway where a train regularly passes, or where there're heavy vehicles(?) (solution: time your shots)
The mirror's slapping so hard that the apparatus becomes unsteady? (solution: make sure everything on the tripod's as tight as possible (but not so tight that you hurt your fingers unscrewing))
Shoot full manual; it gives you so much more control over your exposure.
Assuming that your current Manual settings have the "right" exposure (whether it's "right" or not is your decision to make), at ISO 100 (base ISO for most Canon dSLRs), you would be shooting at 4.5 and (taking 1/80th to the nearest full stop of 1/125th) 1/15th.
However, shooting wide open doesn't give you a lot of DOF; it's also often not the lens' sweet spot.
So do a series of tests at ISO 100:
4.5 1/15
5.6 1/8
8 1/4
11 1/2
16 1s
Beyond that the photos will likely look "soft" due to diffraction. A wild guess is that your lens' sweet spot will be f/11.
When viewing the results of this test, use the self timer (preferably 10 seconds) or a cable release; have your tripod at its tightest settings and make sure everything around you is still.
It might also help to step back a bit from the tripod after pressing "the button", just to make sure your feet don't hit the tripod (this is something I always do, especially with exposures under 1/30th on an SLR)
Obviously, trying to compare sharpness on the camera's screen won't be easy. Nor will it be accurate. Get the photos on your computer, view them at 100% (and 100% only); anything above or below won't be a fair test.
Personally, I stay away from all auto modes on cameras. Actually, 2 of my 3 (properly working) cameras don't have auto. 1 of the 3 (Kiev 4a) doesn't have a meter (I specifically bought the 4a because I didn't want a meter); the Nikon FM has a meter but no auto mode (I just took the batteries out because I hate distractions in the viewfinder), and my D50 has auto-everything (but I still use my incident meter and manual mode).
Manual's brilliant once you get used to it. Especially easy on most negative films (can afford errors of up to 4 stops either way).
Especially if you're shooting in light that doesn't change really quickly (and you don't have a decisive moment to catch), you should have all the time you need (especially indoors, unless you count the window light); use manual mode.
I find that when shooting indoors, a lot of the time, auto WB just doesn't do it - set WB yourself (saves time on the computer).

Jerilee Brown , Feb 27, 2010; 05:32 a.m.

Hi Hugo
Wow thanks for that. Sorry about the D1000 - force of habit with me..
anyway.. just been practising with the series of shots at the various settings that you put down.. and yip you are very right.. f/11 is the best.. and kept my ISO down to 100 - fabulous result.. the only thing is not everything will be completely still, as there could be movement involved and I will be shooting a series of moments, so even though I'm on a tripod, a shutter speed too low will give me a lot of blurry shots. I don't think I can go lower than 60 or even 80 for sharp pictures..
hmmm... what do you think?

Jerilee Brown , Feb 27, 2010; 05:36 a.m.

forgot to add.. I mainly shoot in M mode, but its always the lighting in long distance situations that thwart me..

David Haas , Feb 27, 2010; 06:25 a.m.

1/60 or 1/80 without flash is not going to be nearly fast enough to stop motion.

Which is what I'm guessing that you're seeing as blur on the final images.

Advice #1 - Save up and buy or rent a 70-200 F2.8 zoom. The extra speed in the lens will pay off as will the inherent sharpness in the lens.

Advice #2 - Shoot weddings in RAW, not JPEG - take care the post processing yourself, not allowing some computer geek in R/D to do it for you.

Advice #3 - Relationship between ISO and shutter speed / exposure - Going from ISO 100 to ISO 200 will give you 1 - 2 additional shutter speeds... so F11 at 1/2 ISO 100 = F11 at 1/8 ISO 200 and so on...

Advice #4 - I don't shoot Canon 1000D's so I don't know what their noise behavior is, but I'm guessing that with proper exposure (which is critical) - you should be able to get up to 800-1000 ISO. I shoot weddings with Nikon D300's and my available light ISO is never below 1600 with it being up around 3200 most of the time. My secret? Noiseware Pro (a photoshop plug-in) - it really does work.


Jerilee Brown , Feb 27, 2010; 07:41 a.m.

Hi David.. Thanks
I generally never like to shoot lower than 80 ss as alot of my work is full of motion. Hence why I upt the ISO.. for the exposure. (generally 800 in unlit conditions), and about 200 on a good day (lighting wise).. I just can never seem to get it sharp enough without loosing the exposure totally and visa versa..
Will defo look into the noiseware pro (brill tip :) )

Lindsay Dobson , Feb 27, 2010; 08:01 a.m.

Jerilee, I won't add to David's excellent advice, other than to say that the autofocus of the lens you mentioned (70-300) performs very poorly in even slightly dim light (at least that has been my experience) so I will reinforce David's suggestion that you get your hands on something more reliable.

William W , Feb 27, 2010; 08:32 a.m.

Yes, (David), Jerilee should be able to get quite good images at ISO800 with a 1000D, provided the exposure is nailed correctly

I concur with David that 1/80s is too slow (generally) for people even when they are standing still or kneeling at the Altar - they sway and fidget. (Hugo - we can't assume that everything is "still" because the people at a Wedding are not).

That said, if you time the shot for the least movement I have seen 1/30s pulled with good results.

Also noting mirror slap and jitter from pressing the shutter button can be alleviated by using MIRROR UP (see custom functions in your user manual) and by using a remote release (you need to buy one).

Also, some Photographers think they have a steady tripod when they do not.

You are getting motion blur when you use P mode because in low light, and with that slow lens you have exceeded the limit of the Tv priority of P mode - i.e. the Tv will select whatever it can with the aperture wide open - even if you increase the ISO, it is likely that the camera will close the aperture a little thus rendering an even slower Shutter speed. - you can manually control this using PROGRAM SHIFT - explained in your user manual.

But the bottom line is as David stated, you need a faster lens - an economic solution could be the EF85F/1.8 and crop to the desired image size later.


Steve Hovland , Feb 27, 2010; 12:35 p.m.

I would think with current generation gear you should be able to shoot at 1600 and have good enough quality.
I recently shot a performance where I was about ISO 800 in shutter mode and twiddled the shutter speed against the flashing highlight display.
I would say shoot a bunch of pix because the subjects will be relatively still in many of them.
I might shoot group pix in RAW but for most pix if you watch your histograms and flashing highlights you should be OK with jpg.
Contrary to what we are often told leaving image stabilization on when using a tripod doesn't seem to hurt and may help.

David Wegwart - Denver/CO. , Feb 27, 2010; 01:39 p.m.

Just a bit surprised by the notion that 1/80th is too slow for standing still subjects. I would be happy with 1/60th for a ceremony... totally.

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