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Old Mar 4, 2008, 10:41 AM   #1
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I own a Nikon D40x. I mainly take pictures of my 2 yr old son indoor , typically low light. I tried adjustingthe aperture and shutter but just cant seemed to get it right as a slight movement will blur the pictures. I try not to use the flash as I find the pics tend to over esposed or the features totally washed out by the strong light. Appreciate all advise...:?

Thanks in advance.
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Old Mar 4, 2008, 12:00 PM   #2
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OK, you're in a very difficult situation here. You need to freeze motion, and you're not getting shutter speeds fast enough to do it.

As you've also found out, the onboard flash, while being capable of freezing motion has some veryy unsatisfactory side-affects.

Unfortunately there is no single answer to your problem.

If you don't want to use flash, you need faster shutter speeds. So, to get the fastest possible shutter speeds you need to shoot at the highest ISO the camera has available (1600?). You also need your lens at it's widest aperture. I'm guessing you're shooting with a kit lens or similar. So you maybe have 4.0 aperture but likely 5.6. That isn't going to give you fast enough shutter speeds in low light to freeze the motion of your child. A lens with 2.8 aperture will do a better job - but they're expensive. AND, most importantly, 2.8 isn't going to be fast enough in a lot of instances. Only if the room is very well lit will 2.8 give you fast enough shutter speeds.

Which leads us to the next option - lenses faster than 2.8. Unfortunately in Nikon that means a prime lens (fixed focal length, non zooming). So, you have to choose a specific focal length and you're stuck with it - so you have to adjust your distance to your subject. But, even more importantly, short nikon prime lenses like the ones you would need do not have focus motors in them. And the D40 does not have a focus motor so you lose auto-fous ability. So you would need to manually focus. Manually focusing in low light, with a moving subject with wide apertures is extremely difficult to do successfully. Removing the focus motor was one of the ways Nikon was able to reduce the price on this model. Unfortunately this is the type of situation where that really hurts the user. So, I would not recommend a fast prime as a good solution

Which brings us to our last option. An external speedlight flash. Unlike the onboard flash, an external flash is more powerful, recycles quickly and most importantly can be bounced off the ceiling or wallso you don't get that flash burn on your subject. And flash is one area where Nikon excells. Their speedlights and the flash system in general are top notch. And, unlike the 2.8 lens solution, this solution will work no matter what the light levels are. AND it's a lot less money than a 2.8 lens.

I shoot a lot of low light action as I'm a sports shooter. But I have a 19 month old son and a gaggle of nieces and nephews. In most houses, a 2.8 lens just wouldn't be fast enough when there isn't a lot of daylight in the house. So even though I like available light shots, I recognize the flash is the better tool and put my flash on. So an sb600 or 800 would be my recommendation (I have a canon dslr not nikon so I can't provide advice or examples of those particular flashses).
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Old Mar 4, 2008, 7:57 PM   #3
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John covered the ground real well. I'd just add a couple of points.

I also dislike flash, but recognize that it is needed at times. Fairly close fast action in low light is the clasic flash use. Kids opening presents etc. As John said, high power is the key point. High power means you can throw away a lot of the light by bouncing and/or diffusing. If you are comfortable with dinging about with manual settings, and old fashioned thyristor flash (cheapish and highish power) might do the job for you.

The othe point is a fast lens. For many/most/all dSLRs there are fairly cheap fairly good 50mm f/2 (or thereabouts) used lenses available. These were the kit lenses on film cameras so there are a lot of them out there. That would be good for head/shoulder shots: more across really big rooms.

To further explore those issues, you would do better to ask in the forum for your specific camera than asking in a general forum.
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Old Mar 4, 2008, 8:52 PM   #4
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JohnG wrote:
Quote:
OK, you're in a very difficult situation here. You need to freeze motion, and you're not getting shutter speeds fast enough to do it.

As you've also found out, the onboard flash, while being capable of freezing motion has some veryy unsatisfactory side-affects.

Unfortunately there is no single answer to your problem.

If you don't want to use flash, you need faster shutter speeds. So, to get the fastest possible shutter speeds you need to shoot at the highest ISO the camera has available (1600?). You also need your lens at it's widest aperture. I'm guessing you're shooting with a kit lens or similar. So you maybe have 4.0 aperture but likely 5.6. That isn't going to give you fast enough shutter speeds in low light to freeze the motion of your child. A lens with 2.8 aperture will do a better job - but they're expensive. AND, most importantly, 2.8 isn't going to be fast enough in a lot of instances. Only if the room is very well lit will 2.8 give you fast enough shutter speeds.

Which leads us to the next option - lenses faster than 2.8. Unfortunately in Nikon that means a prime lens (fixed focal length, non zooming). So, you have to choose a specific focal length and you're stuck with it - so you have to adjust your distance to your subject. But, even more importantly, short nikon prime lenses like the ones you would need do not have focus motors in them. And the D40 does not have a focus motor so you lose auto-fous ability. So you would need to manually focus. Manually focusing in low light, with a moving subject with wide apertures is extremely difficult to do successfully. Removing the focus motor was one of the ways Nikon was able to reduce the price on this model. Unfortunately this is the type of situation where that really hurts the user. So, I would not recommend a fast prime as a good solution

Which brings us to our last option. An external speedlight flash. Unlike the onboard flash, an external flash is more powerful, recycles quickly and most importantly can be bounced off the ceiling or wallso you don't get that flash burn on your subject. And flash is one area where Nikon excells. Their speedlights and the flash system in general are top notch. And, unlike the 2.8 lens solution, this solution will work no matter what the light levels are. AND it's a lot less money than a 2.8 lens.

I shoot a lot of low light action as I'm a sports shooter. But I have a 19 month old son and a gaggle of nieces and nephews. In most houses, a 2.8 lens just wouldn't be fast enough when there isn't a lot of daylight in the house. So even though I like available light shots, I recognize the flash is the better tool and put my flash on. So an sb600 or 800 would be my recommendation (I have a canon dslr not nikon so I can't provide advice or examples of those particular flashses).
Thanks so much John. This is one most detailed and informative advise I have gotten so far. Looks like the flash is the best option. Heard sb600 works well with Nikons.

I thought of getting a prime lens (50mm f1.8) but then wasnt quite sure if it will helped much; esp without the AF mechanism. Being a newbie and as you had pointed out, MF on an active toddler, under low light seemed rather challenging. I also explored Sigma 30mm f1.4 (with HSM)but it's a lil out of my budget. Some also said with aperture as wide as 1.4 the blurred degree will cover the subject as well (hands, body etc) instead of jus the background. Is that a valid statement? :?




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Old Mar 4, 2008, 9:29 PM   #5
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BillDrew wrote:
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John covered the ground real well. I'd just add a couple of points.

I also dislike flash, but recognize that it is needed at times. Fairly close fast action in low light is the clasic flash use. Kids opening presents etc. As John said, high power is the key point. High power means you can throw away a lot of the light by bouncing and/or diffusing. If you are comfortable with dinging about with manual settings, and old fashioned thyristor flash (cheapish and highish power) might do the job for you.

The othe point is a fast lens. For many/most/all dSLRs there are fairly cheap fairly good 50mm f/2 (or thereabouts) used lenses available. These were the kit lenses on film cameras so there are a lot of them out there. That would be good for head/shoulder shots: more across really big rooms.

To further explore those issues, you would do better to ask in the forum for your specific camera than asking in a general forum.
Yes.. I'm thinking along the line of getting a fast lens. Just wasn't sure which is a good one since Nikon D entry dslr has limitation on the lens. Your raised a good point. I should explore/opt for used lens. Thanks much dude.



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Old Mar 4, 2008, 9:39 PM   #6
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Not sure which way you're currently leaning. So I'll reiterate a few points:

1. Dont count on manual focus getting you a lot of keepers at wide apertures, indoors in low light.

2. Even if you had autofocus there are a lot of situations where a fast prime wont even give you fast enough shutter speeds. If you child is moving you'll need really good light for a fast prime to give you enough shutter speed.

For example, at ISO 1600, f1.8 in many houses, 1/30 would be a very good shutter speed if you dont have sunlight or extra lighting. 1/30 will still show quite a bit of motion blur.

Also, what you have heard about a 1.4 lens is true. That can be a great affect if it's what you're after. But if you want your entire child in focus you want to be around f4-5.6. WAY, WAY too narrow to give you fast enough shutter speeds with poor lighting.

a wide aperture prime would be a second choice IMO - AFTER the flash. You could use it when lighting is good or when you want just shallow-dof portrait type work. Best of all - you can use it WITH the flash - so you can still get shallow dof when you want it but the flash takes care of freezing the motion.


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Old Mar 4, 2008, 10:42 PM   #7
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girlizz wrote:

Girlizz you have received some great advice here but one thing has been overlooked.
Quote:
I try not to use the flash as I find the pics tend to over esposed or the features totally washed out by the strong light.
I do recommend an external flash for more pleasant lighting, however the problem you have described is an exposure issues not a quality of light issue and there is nothing to suggest you results will be any better with an external flash. Frankly I am surprised you are getting washed out images as the pop up flash on my D50 works quite well. I have to wonder first, if maybe you have something set wrong. And second if you are simply too close to the subject.

First go into your menu and make sure your flash is set to "Auto" then try taking a few pics from at least 5 feet away. And see if you do not get better results.

If this doesn't do it you can reduce your exposure via exposure compensation, and reduce your flash output with flash compensation. This should result in a less washed out image. Again I do recommend an external flash for more pleasant lighting, however compensation may provide you with a solution until you can afford a flash and have had time to make a good buying decision.

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Old May 20, 2008, 7:42 AM   #8
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I have the D40 with the kit lens and the 55-200mm VR. I do a lot of low- light people shots, and considered both a fast lens and a flash. Decided to go with the sb 600 and have been very happy. My friend who has the same camera went with the 50mm f1.8, manual focus. It works ok, but the flash pics are far better - especially for kid shots.

My typical settings for indoor action shots (active games, functions, home, etc) are:
-Manual setting, (not Aperture priority or Shutter priority)
-f/5.6 (for consistency throughout the entire zoom range)
-1/100 or higher for stopping most action including hand motion blur (you will have to take a few test shots, and remember that if you move a great deal toward or away from your subject, you will have to adjust this a notch or two)
-800 ISO (take it off auto ISO if you have put it there. 1600 ISO gives a bit more noise than I like.)
-WB settings on flash +2 (adjust this on in your menu settings. Your +/- values cool down or warm up the colors, but you also have to account for the color of the surface you are bouncing the flash off of)
-SB 600 on TTL (not TTL BL)
-Flash head tilted up or up and to the side (the side light can add a neat effect, so can bouncing it off the floor on the occasional pic)

If you are still getting over-exposed shots, make sure your camera is set on TTL flash mode. Nikon has done great work with their TTL flash mode. If I get an over-exposed or under-exposed shot, it is usually the nut loose behind the trigger. (me :-))

Nathan
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Old May 25, 2008, 2:59 AM   #9
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girlizz wrote:
Quote:
I own a Nikon D40x. I mainly take pictures of my 2 yr old son indoor , typically low light. I tried adjustingthe aperture and shutter but just cant seemed to get it right as a slight movement will blur the pictures. I try not to use the flash as I find the pics tend to over esposed or the features totally washed out by the strong light. Appreciate all advise...:?

Thanks in advance.


Or: place several tungsten lights around your baby, then you can take pictures without flash device... and compensate the lighting as tungsten gives the picture a redish light...not completely natural..

If you get a good flash light you will learn to expose right after some practise. And buy yourself a larger diffuser like the softbox or sto Fen...it softens the light.

By the way..do get a flash which can rotate 45, 60 , up, left and right....to bounce light off walls..that softens the flash light as well.
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Old May 26, 2008, 8:08 AM   #10
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One point which hasn't really been addressed, is that in low light situations, autofocus systems tend to be slower to lock focus than in brighter light. This can be the source of a lot of frustration for people trying to keep up with active children indoors. A faster lens doesn't just give you faster shutter speeds, it lets more light through to the autofocus sensors, enabling faster focus. You will still likely need a good flash, as well. As an old race car builder once said, "Speed costs money. How fast do you want to go?" It applies well to photography also.

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