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Children's indoor Party

David McGillivray , Apr 14, 2010; 06:42 a.m.

I have a Canon 20D with a Metz 48 flash and a canon 50mm f1.4 lens. I tried to take some pic at my sons birthday party recently and it was a bit of a disaster!! I was using the camera on P and found shutter speed too slow. Also sometimes 50 was too much and sometimes not enough,
Do I need a zoom? Any help most appreciated



David Haas , Apr 14, 2010; 07:13 a.m.

David -

Children's birthday parties can be a blast if shot correctly.

P is always my last choice for shooting anything. You're allowing the camera to interpret the scene and make determinations based upon what it thinks is best.

For party shooting I go to Aperture Preferred and set a really wide aperture - like 2.8 or 1.4... That way the background (which is usually cluttered) is out of focus.

Also - you don't mention what ISO you used. Typically for a party I shoot at 400 ISO to get a decent shutter speed.

The 50 mm lens is really the equal view wise of a 75 mm lens on a 35 mm camera due to the crop sensor. This is why Nikon and others have introduced fixed focal length lenses in the 30-40 mm range. To allow for a true fixed length 50mm on a crop sensor.

I'd recommend a good 17-50 or 18-70 zoom - I shoot Nikon - so I'm not a lot of help on what Canon has, but I know that Tamron makes a good 3rd party 17-50 and 18-70 zoom for about $500.00


David McGillivray , Apr 14, 2010; 08:56 a.m.

Thanks Dave, I am considering the canon EFS 17-55 and will do as you say with Aperture Preferred and the ISO 400 should help help get background out of focus.

Melissa Papaj , Apr 14, 2010; 09:20 a.m.

I typically shoot 1/125 or above for children as they are so wiggly and you also will have camera shake. I also shoot Nikon and typically use my 24-70 2.8 lens. The last childrens party I did, I tried to do all natural light, but ended up having to use my SB800 flash off camera and a few on camera bounced. Hope this helps :)

Nadine Ohara - SF Bay Area/CA , Apr 14, 2010; 12:50 p.m.

Yes, you need a zoom. The 17-55mm is great. So is the Tamron 17-50mm f2.8.

I also think you should stay above 1/125th, with flash, and use even faster shutter speeds if you are not using flash. Kids move fast. With flash, I would not use wide open apertures. There is no need to, particularly if you are bouncing the flash. Without flash, you may need to use the wide open apertures, but it becomes very tricky focusing accurately. It is hard enough with having to deal with fast moving kids. I assume the party was indoors.

By the way, be sure you are using One Shot focusing, not AI Focus or AI Servo. Without One Shot, you don't get the focus assist beam from the flash. On moving targets (kids), it is useful to 'pre-focus' on the subject or something close to the subject, just to get the lens focus moved to about the same distance for your final shot. Then when you take the picture, place the focus point over your subject and press down on the shutter in one movement--don't half press.

The 20D (I had one) has somewhat flaky focusing. Try to put the focus point (center one) over contrasty areas and stay away from edges of subjects, since the focus has a tendency to go to the background.

I will disagree with David about using aperture priority, since on Canons, the exposure will go for the ambient in any case, and the shutter speeds will be too low. I believe you can set a CF so the shutter speed is 1/125th when using aperture priority (with flash). That may work well, but it won't in every case. A lot depends on the ambient light.

David Haas , Apr 14, 2010; 01:21 p.m.

Thanks Nadine for pointing that out about Canon - Now I know why people like the Nikon CLS better than Canon's flash system! <GRIN>

My answer was of course based on what I shoot which is Nikon - and the ITTL integration -

Craig Shearman , Apr 14, 2010; 03:28 p.m.

I've shot a lot at kid parties and the 17-55 or maybe Tokina's 16-50 would work great. ISO 400 and flash at about f/8 for depth of field. Shutter at about 1/30 to keep the backgrounds from going black but not so slow as to pick up blur. Stofen diffuser or diffuser or your choice on the flash.

David McGillivray , Apr 14, 2010; 06:44 p.m.

Many thanks to you all

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