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Old Oct 14, 2007, 7:23 AM   #1
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Hi, I need to take shots of people rehearsing plays in a local theatre. I have a high-spec point and shoot but am finding it very difficult to freeze action and get satisfactory colour. The theatre background is painted entirely black. I am not happy with noise on high ISO photos, that is, 400+. Is it best to use shutter priority at say 1/60 and let the aperture and ISO be determined automatically? There is a yellow colour cast under the studio lighting but I can change this. However, when I change it to more realistic colours thenoise is more apparent. Is it best to use spot metering if there is a black background? My camera does not have low light focusing lamp. If the autofocus area is over a person on the stage, even if the green light on my camera does not tell me I have focused correctly, will that person be in focus? It is not very practical to use a tripod.


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Old Oct 16, 2007, 10:59 PM   #2
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bradaun wrote:
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Hi, I need to take shots of people rehearsing plays in a local theatre. I have a high-spec point and shoot but am finding it very difficult to freeze action and get satisfactory colour. The theatre background is painted entirely black. I am not happy with noise on high ISO photos, that is, 400+. Is it best to use shutter priority at say 1/60 and let the aperture and ISO be determined automatically? There is a yellow colour cast under the studio lighting but I can change this. However, when I change it to more realistic colours thenoise is more apparent. Is it best to use spot metering if there is a black background? My camera does not have low light focusing lamp. If the autofocus area is over a person on the stage, even if the green light on my camera does not tell me I have focused correctly, will that person be in focus? It is not very practical to use a tripod.

I don't know exactly what a high-spec P/S is but they all are about the same in low light. The one Camera maker that looks to be better than the rest is the Fujiflim FinePix F30 or F20.

You will need to use a tripod or add light or use a different large CCD camera if you wish for sharp non flash pictures.

If you have a canon, like a S3, mine under exposes in low light and this makes even more noise. I would get close so you don't have to use the zoom and use a tripod and set the ISO to 200 and the EV to +1 and try to shoot when they are not moving.

You really need to use a flash but they may not want that.

In normal room light you will have a shutter time of around 1/30 to 1/60 which is really hard to get a sharp shot of someone moving. If you are hand holding the odds are way less of a good shot.


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Old Oct 17, 2007, 8:25 AM   #3
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With a black background, proper exposure will be tough. You should try spot metering on a subject, and use AE Lock before you compose your shot. You could even find something that works, and set the exposure manually.

Even the best P&S digicams have comparatively small image sensors (which increases the potential for noise) and comparatively small maximum apertures (which limits their light gathering ability.)

You can try a Fuji, which has a reputation for better low light performance than its competition, but for a significant improvement in low light performance, you really need a dSLR. And not just a dSLR with the kit lens. You need a lens with a maximum aperture of about f/1.4. That would give you almost four times the light gathering capability of the f/2.8 lens on the average P&S. That means you could use a shutter speed about four times faster. And because dSLRs have larger image sensors, they are less prone to noise than P&S digicams, so you could probably use a higher ISO setting as well.

If this is something you'll be doing a lot, you really should be looking at a dSLR.
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Old Oct 17, 2007, 8:42 AM   #4
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Hi, thanks for that. It will be of help. I am using a Fuji E900.I am hoping to pick up a canon 400d or an olympus e510 and hopefully they will improve my results. Unfortunatley it is not really possible to set up a tripod or change the lighting as the lighting is generally set up to suit the play. Does spot metering improve focusing?



Thanks folks.
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Old Oct 17, 2007, 9:00 AM   #5
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spot metering doesn't affect focusing at all. It just affects whether or not you get a correct exposure.

Focusing from a DSLR and fast lens will be a huge improvement. Focusing is a combination of camera and lens. The wider the aperture the more light that gets in. So the 1.4 lens TCAV mentioned will let in 4 times the light of a 2.8 lens - so the camera has more light with which to focus. But, not all cameras have the same ability to focus is low light. Some are better than others.

But another key to successful focusing in low light is framing tightly - you want your subject to fill the frame. This allows the camera to more easily detect the contrast differences it needs to focus. So, if you try to take wide shots showing a lot of the stage you may encounter focus problems even with a DSLR because the camera has a tough time finding necessary contrast.
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Old Oct 17, 2007, 10:54 AM   #6
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bradaun wrote:
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I am hoping to pick up a canon 400d or an olympus e510 and hopefully they will improve my results.
Without a doubt. But the included kit lenses might even make it worse. If you intend to do more of this type of shooting, you should really be looking at lenses too.

For the Canon, there's Canon's 24mm f/1.4, 28mm f/1.8, 35mm f/1.4 & f/2.0, 50mm f/1.2, f/1.4 & f/1.8, 85mm f/1.2 & f/1.8, and 100mm f/2.0,and Sigma's 20mm, 24mm &28mm f/1.8, and 30mm f/1.4.

For Olympus, there's Leica's 25mm f/1.4, and Sigma's 24mm f/1.8 and 30mm f/1.4.

None of these come cheap, but they'll all run rings around what you're using now.
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Old Oct 17, 2007, 10:56 AM   #7
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Another Tip:The maximum aperture of the zoom lenses in typical P&S digicamsis larger at wide angles than at telephotos. If you get close and zoom out, you'll be able to get faster shutter speeds (or use lower ISO settings, or both.)
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Old Oct 17, 2007, 12:00 PM   #8
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My two cents worth.

First of all, your existing camera is not going to work well indoors without a flash for moving subjects. So, no matter what you do, expect a high percentage of images with motion blur, unless you can get close enough to use a flash and stay within the rated flash range.

As for metering, if the stage is not evenly lit (and it probably won't be if you have spotlights on smaller areas of the stage at any given time), that's going to fool your metering system.

For example, in concerts with that type of lighting, I tend to get overxposed photos with my camera, because the large amount of dark space in the frame fools the metering. Some cameras may do the opposite. Whenever there is a big difference between light and dark in a frame, metering systems struggle to figure out what you want to be properly exposed.

Spot metering may not help much either, because if you try to meter on a dark subject, you may get an overexposed image, and if you try to meter on a lighter subject, you may get an underexposed image. If you try to meter on a face, that might work better. But, you'll have differences in skin tones and the metering spot may be larger than you think.

So, in difficult lighting, I tend to use manual exposure. Basically, when the lighting is about average for a subject when overhead lights illuminate them, take some photos and adjust your settings until your images look properly exposed in playback, using the histogram to help out.

You'll want to leave the aperture wide open (smallest available f/stop number) and adjust your shutter speed for best results. A faster shutter speed will give you a darker exposure and a slower shutter speed will give you a brighter exposure for any given aperture and ISO speed.

If you'd prefer not to use manual exposure and/or the lighting is changing a lot, I'd probably go Center Weighted Metering for stage lighting. Then, adjust exposure as needed with Exposure Compensation after reviewing some test shots. A +EV setting will give you a brighter exposure and a -EV setting will give you a darker exposure compared to what the camera would normally use.

You'll also want to leave your ISO speed set relatively high. I usually shoot at ISO 1600 for stage type lighting, using a bright prime (i.e., f/2). But, your camera is not capable of ISO speeds that high, and your lens is not very bright either.

As TCav pointed out, another problem with your camera is that it's lens loses a *lot* of light as you zoom in more. So, your shutter speeds will become slower if you try to zoom in much.

IOW, you're going to have your hands full trying to get many keepers, unless the lighting is much better than I'd expect.

I'd probably use both ISO 400 and ISO 800 and take lots of photos to try and get some keepers. Try to shoot when the performers are as motionless as possible. A monopod or tripod can help out with the camera shake part if you have one available.

When you increase ISO speed, noise levels will also increase. So, you may want to use software to help later. Look into these (and they have demo/free versions available for personal use):

http://www.imagenomic.com (note that the "Community" edition is free). Here's a direct link to download it:

http://www.imagenomic.com/setup/2007...etupXP2601.exe


http://www.neatimage.com
The stand alone Neat Image trial version is free for personal use.

Take lots of photos. Be patient, prefocus with a half press of the shutter button, and try to take them when movement stops (smoothly press it the rest of the way down then). Your shutter speeds are still going to be slower than desired if there is any subject movement (expect motion blur).

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Old Oct 17, 2007, 12:24 PM   #9
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P.S.

I'd probably set your camera's White Balance to incandescent (tungsten) for most stage lighting. That will probably get rid of most of the yellow/orange cast you are seeing if your exposure is OK.

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Old Oct 17, 2007, 3:15 PM   #10
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Thanks a million for that comprehensive reply, it's very kind of you- I am eager to try out all those tips. I'll post up some results when I get the chance.



regards

Bradaun
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