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Old May 30, 2010, 11:39 PM   #1
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Default Fashion show - what did do wrong?

This is from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt) Sophomore/Junior fashion show. My daughter is a student, so I wanted try to capture many of the projects.

I used a Nikon D40 and rented a Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR lens. I did not use a flash. I set the white balance to Tungsten. Shutter priority 1/160 or 1/200. After I realized the white background was causing the metering to under-expose, I added EV. Most of the photos are soft. Was it high ISO? Camera shake? Movement after I locked AF (I set to AF-A, so I was hoping that it would figure out the subject moved and refocus)?

The first photo is of one of my daughter's project (she's not the model). It's made out of 1400 plastic drinking straws (it's the notorious "non-textile" project that all the fashion students do). It came out early in the show, before I realized the under-exposure. I attempted to clean it up a little in Irfanview, second photo.

The third and fourth are two of the better photos, but they still aren't crisp. I'll take my comments off the air.

(ISO is 800, 1600, and 1100, respectively. Focal lengths are 110mm, 200, and 135.)

Thanks!
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Old May 31, 2010, 3:12 AM   #2
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This is the best I could get from your first shot.

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Old May 31, 2010, 11:22 AM   #3
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Old May 31, 2010, 1:15 PM   #4
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I think the biggest problem was the D40. My wife has one and it really struggles in low light and high ISO performance. She now uses my D700 when tough light is the issue like the kids music performances, plays, etc. I also have that 70-200 VR lens and it is a kick ass lens. Don't beat your self up too much.
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Old May 31, 2010, 2:46 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by elliotm00 View Post
I used a Nikon D40 and rented a Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR lens. I did not use a flash. I set the white balance to Tungsten. Shutter priority 1/160 or 1/200. After I realized the white background was causing the metering to under-expose, I added EV. Most of the photos are soft. Was it high ISO? Camera shake? Movement after I locked AF (I set to AF-A, so I was hoping that it would figure out the subject moved and refocus)?

Thanks!
Well, the first mistake was - you didn't use flash. You should have. An off camera flash - preferably on a bracket.

Second you want to use continuous focus (AF-C I believe on Nikon).
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Old May 31, 2010, 2:59 PM   #6
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Well, the first mistake was - you didn't use flash. You should have. An off camera flash - preferably on a bracket.

Second you want to use continuous focus (AF-C I believe on Nikon).
I did not know that flash photography was allowed in indoor fashion shows?
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Old May 31, 2010, 6:16 PM   #7
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Thank you for all your comments.

I did realize as soon as I saw the photos that I should have used continuous focus. But even the ones of the models not moving much weren't crisp.

I'm unclear on what the maximum usable ISO is on the D40. 800? 400?

I figured I didn't need a flash because I was able to get avoid motion blur with 1/200 and still get some shots at ISO800. Was 1/200 still too slow? I guess it's time to spring for the SB600. I also wanted to take a lot of photos. I took 700+. With the flash, I'd get, what, maybe 100, and irritate everyone sitting in front of me.

The reason for the blur, I figure, was one or more of the following:
- Motion blur; 1/200 still too slow
- Camera shake; I was using 200mm on a monopod, even with VR turned on
- AF locked too early; should have used continuous
- Medium JPEG quality; perhaps should have used fine or even RAW?
- High ISO, so too much noise; D40 not able to handle 1600 well.

I'm just a 50-something old fart trying to move to the next level, and I've read a number of books, but when you're right there, it's hard to figure out the exact cause of the problem, so I really appreciate all your advice.

Next year, yeah, maybe I'll rent a D700. That's what the guy at the rental place said, too (naturally:-).

Thanks again.
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Old Jun 1, 2010, 3:24 AM   #8
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1/200 probably not the problem. I shoot basketball and while my lowest limit, 1/200 works - have to use it in some gyms. The kids are moving faster than the models (at least most of them) so I don't think motion blur is the issue. If you were shooting at 200mm, camera shake may come into play, but the VR should give you enough grace that this isn't an issue.

It's probably several factors.

Sometimes it's the low light itself that is the problem - I find my cameras take longer to focus in poor light even with continuous. High ISO's never seem quite as crisp. Given how cheap memory is, I would always shoot at the best quality settings - at least the fine JPEG. You can always compress.

May be some of the fabric itself. Don't know much about the focus algorithms, but some areas of contrast are important for the focus to lock on. The straw dress doesn't seem to have much contrast. I understand that nude photography is difficult for this reason - autofocus can't lock on.

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Old Jun 1, 2010, 8:59 AM   #9
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I agree with JonhG, flash should have been used...
Most of the pictures are in focus, but the combination of low-light and wide aperture is never good for contrast and saturation

-> A flash will improve both the contrast and saturation which will increase the appearance of sharpness... The flash being only fraction in the 1000th of a second will also freeze motion and remove any need for VR.
If NiMh rechargeable batteries were used the number of flashes can increase to the hundreds and their recycle times are also shorter... The only issue might be the flash overheating at high-rate of fire with high-capacity batteries so you might try to interchange between two units (which also allow quick battery swap while the unit is cooling)

Also with a flash f/2.8 is no longer required as closing the aperture down a stop will increase the DOF which will negate any minor AF issue and will increases greater keeper rates: The 3rd image is perfectly good example, the dress on the model is in focus while her hair is out (and there was no motion blur)!

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Old Jun 2, 2010, 9:07 AM   #10
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Definitely, you needed a flash. The lighting appears to have been mostly overhead, which casts shadows on the faces, which is part of the trouble. The AF assist light of the flash would have helped with getting a good focus. Using spot metering on the models' faces, would have gotten you more consistent exposures.

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