Night Shooting Tips + What Caused Reflection?

slpollettslpollett Major grinsRegistered Users Posts: 1,117 Major grins
edited October 21, 2012 in Technique
Simply stated, how does one get decent (sharp) images after dark or in poor stadium lighting??

I've been trying to get some nice photos of our marching band during halftime of the football games, but nothing I have tried has really worked to my satisfaction. I hated going over 800 ISO on my 'old' camera because of way too grainy, and even then the best I could do was 125/ f2 without the images being too dark. Still pretty soft on focus--especially for a moving target. I generally had to wait until they stopped to get anything remotely useable. My new camera can go higher ISO, but it is still too grainy for my tastes and still can seem to get past 125/ f2 without the pictures being too dark. I was using an Olympus E-520 with either a 12-60 f2.8-3.5 lens or a 35-100 f2.0. I now have an Olympus E-5 with these same two lenses. I can be field level or up high & have tried from various places.

Here are a couple of examples:

Old camera, ISO 800, no post-editing:
i-qVwgK6v-L.jpg

New camera, ISO 1600, no post-editing (This one from a middle school band exhibition.)
PA131060-L.jpg


Any tips so that I can get some better images with the equipment that I have would be appreciated!


Also, this one was taken using my new E-5. There is a reflection from the scoreboard (obviously). I had several images right around this one that had that reflection. Other pictures I took from the same spot on the field did not have the reflection. What caused it and how could I prevent that in the future? Was it the filter (UV) on my lens, the angle I was to the scoreboard, humidity in the air????

New camera, 35-100 mm lens, 125/f2 ISO 1600, no post edits yet
i-ZTk2xX8-L.jpg
ps: Normally, I would throw away this shot, but my daughter is the Drum Major so the Mom in me wants the shots from this group. :wink


Anyway...now that it is later in the season, it is really dark by halftime. I'd really like to get a few good band shots of my daughter's senior year before the season is over.

Thanks,
Sherry

Comments

  • pathfinderpathfinder Drive By Digital Shooter western IndianaSuper Moderators Posts: 14,601 moderator
    edited October 16, 2012
    If you have to shoot after sunset, it can be tough.

    In low light the only choices you have ( without adding an external light source ) are to raise the ISO, use faster glass wide open, or lengthen the shutter speed.

    Higher ISO causes more noise, good, sharp FAST glass is expensive, and long shutter speeds don't work for moving targets.


    SO - can you add flash? At ISO 1600, speedlites really punch out above their weight class.
    Newer, better cameras can shoot at ISO 3200, and even 6400 with fair results, but they are not the cheap cameras.

    NoiseWare and other noise reduction software can help cut back on the noise issues.

    Adding a couple speedlites and a radio trigger can help quite a bit, but are more involved, inconvenient, and more expensive.

    No free lunch, I am afraid...

    Your first image is under exposed, but your last two images look acceptable.
    Pathfinder - www.pathfinder.smugmug.com

    Moderator of the Technique Forum and Finishing School on Dgrin
  • perronefordperroneford Major grins Registered Users Posts: 550 Major grins
    edited October 17, 2012
    You ever watch a pro or college football game at night and see those huge cameras with the even bigger lenses? Well, now you know why they have those cameras and lenses. Getting photos of moving targets in dim light requires either external light, or lots of money. You get to choose. That F2.0 lens should get the job done for you, but seems like the E-5 is just not up to the task you are asking of it. I shoot a LOT of indoor and night sports work, and I can tell you it's no picnic. I am usually at ISO 3200 or beyond. Fortunately, my cameras are up to it.
  • aj986saj986s Major grins MarylandRegistered Users Posts: 1,100 Major grins
    edited October 17, 2012
    Another option to consider is a f1.4 50mm lens. Not terribly expensive. And may allow you to quicken the shutter speed enough to lower the ASA, allowing you to crop out some decent pics.
    Tony P.
    Canon 50D, 30D and Digital Rebel (plus some old friends - FTB and AE1)
    Long-time amateur.....wishing for more time to play
    Autocross and Track junkie
    tonyp.smugmug.com
  • angevin1angevin1 Performs as designed Registered Users Posts: 3,403 Major grins
    edited October 17, 2012
    slpollett wrote: »
    Simply stated, how does one get decent (sharp) images after dark or in poor stadium lighting??

    I've been trying to get some nice photos of our marching band during halftime of the football games, but nothing I have tried has really worked to my satisfaction. I hated going over 800 ISO on my 'old' camera because of way too grainy, and even then the best I could do was 125/ f2 without the images being too dark. Still pretty soft on focus--especially for a moving target. I generally had to wait until they stopped to get anything remotely useable. My new camera can go higher ISO, but it is still too grainy for my tastes and still can seem to get past 125/ f2 without the pictures being too dark. I was using an Olympus E-520 with either a 12-60 f2.8-3.5 lens or a 35-100 f2.0. I now have an Olympus E-5 with these same two lenses. I can be field level or up high & have tried from various places.

    Here are a couple of examples:

    Old camera, ISO 800, no post-editing:


    New camera, ISO 1600, no post-editing (This one from a middle school band exhibition.)



    Any tips so that I can get some better images with the equipment that I have would be appreciated!


    Also, this one was taken using my new E-5. There is a reflection from the scoreboard (obviously). I had several images right around this one that had that reflection. Other pictures I took from the same spot on the field did not have the reflection. What caused it and how could I prevent that in the future? Was it the filter (UV) on my lens, the angle I was to the scoreboard, humidity in the air????


    ps: Normally, I would throw away this shot, but my daughter is the Drum Major so the Mom in me wants the shots from this group. mwink.gif


    Anyway...now that it is later in the season, it is really dark by halftime. I'd really like to get a few good band shots of my daughter's senior year before the season is over.

    Thanks,
    Sherry

    Sherry, I think probably the UV filter is to blame for the inverted reflection of the scoreboard.

    It's your daughters Senior year and if they hold graduation exercises inside I'll bet you're gonna be in the same boat come commencement. I'd guess by now you've figured out that your Camera doesn't have the highest of High ISO capabilities. Though I do wonder what the resultant images would look like at 3200 ISO? As has been suggested flash would take your Camera to another level where you might actually have a bit more control of things in other than AutoMode. I think if it were me, I'd at least try a hotshoe mounted flash to see if I could then gain a bit more control and tame the beast a bit.

    Pro-level lenses are practically a requirement when shooting in the outer stretches of the Camera's capability.

    So using the Camera you have presently I'd suggest a flash and a pro level lens.

    But if I had my druther's I'd rather have a Camera capable of High ISO; 6400 De rigueur, pro level lens and come commencement, a Hot shoe flash attached to get some direct/bounce too.
    tom wise
  • slpollettslpollett Major grins Registered Users Posts: 1,117 Major grins
    edited October 17, 2012
    Thanks for the replies.

    So now, my shoulders slump with a bit of disappointment (lol) and I give a big ol' sigh. :cry I can't really afford to go out and buy the biggest and the best of all lenses & cameras--especially since this is just a hobby for me. I will never make a living (or even try to make a living) as a photographer.

    I guess from the reviews I read of the Olympus E-5, I thought it was/is a higher level camera. It 'can' go to 6400 ISO, but I thought my pictures were too grainy for my tastes at 1600. I can only imagine what they would look like at 6400, but I guess I can try that this week to see what they look like.

    My Zuiko 35-100 f2.0 is the best lens I have. I doubt I will buy anything bigger or more expensive because I don't do enough photography (remember it is just my hobby) to justify the expense. I have enough to play with right now.

    I do have an external flash, a bracket, and a hot shoe cable for it. I just can't use the flash while the kids are marching (which is of course when I would want it). So, I have to find a way to get decent shots without the flash. I'd like to find a way to get decent shots with the equipment that I already have (I guess that was my original question).


    So...I will keep blindly trying to get the most out of my existing equipment that I can. Maybe this blind squirrel will get lucky and find a nut somewhere.

    Still, I do appreciate each and every response and the time you each took to give it.

    Sherry
  • MarkRMarkR Accused Shill. Registered Users Posts: 2,099 Major grins
    edited October 17, 2012
    Do the best with what you have. In a few years you'll have forgotten all the hardships and missed shots, and you'll be glad you got some photos you can treasure.
  • perronefordperroneford Major grins Registered Users Posts: 550 Major grins
    edited October 18, 2012
    Sherry, is it possible for you to maybe borrow or rent a camera/lens for your event? Many photographers do this. Even pros, when they have a special need for a one time event and don't want to commit the major expense to purchase something.
  • adbsgicomadbsgicom Texas-Sized Grins Registered Users Posts: 3,615 Major grins
    edited October 18, 2012
    What are you using for post-processing? Try pushing your ISO a little further and see what the noise reduction in LR and/or Noiseware/NoiseNinja can do for you. Lightroom's NR is pretty powerful, so it is worth checking out. Even really good cameras near their ISO limits don't look good right off the memory card. Also, are you shooting in a RAW mode? If you are letting the camera compress to JPG you are not going to get as good of results as if you do the noise reduction prior to compression.
    - Andrew

    Who is wise? He who learns from everyone.
    My SmugMug Site
  • slpollettslpollett Major grins Registered Users Posts: 1,117 Major grins
    edited October 18, 2012
    I may rent a nicer lens for graduation. For the football game halftime shows, I'm just going to try with what I have. I think I have some decent (not perfect, but decent) equipment to use and I just need to figure out the best settings/etc to use.

    Andrew, I have PS CS3 and Lightroom 3. I wouldn't consider myself anywhere near an expert with either one, but I know how to do a few things. I have played with LR's noise reduction, but I must not be doing it quite right. To get rid of the grainy-ness, it seems to me to lose some of what little bit of sharpness I had. What I think I need to try is to bump that ISO up to 3200 or so as suggested and then get a faster shutter speed setting and see what that gives me. Maybe I can get a sharper image that way and the noise reduction edit won't look so bad to me.

    I haven't yet tried to shoot RAW. I'm not sure I'd quite know what to do with a RAW file if I had it (lol), so I have my camera set to the least compression I can get for a jpeg. I guess you're saying I need to get over my fear/lack of understanding of RAW and figure it out. I know I need to, but that is a big step for me. mwink.gif I've been so busy this Fall that I haven't taken the time or had the patience to take time to learn something new. Things will slow down after football season and I will have more time to devote to learning something that doesn't automatically come easy to me.

    Thanks again all for the tips and replies.

    Sherry
  • IcebearIcebear Major grins Registered Users Posts: 4,015 Major grins
    edited October 19, 2012
    slpollett wrote: »
    I haven't yet tried to shoot RAW. I'm not sure I'd quite know what to do with a RAW file if I had it (lol), so I have my camera set to the least compression I can get for a jpeg. I guess you're saying I need to get over my fear/lack of understanding of RAW and figure it out. I know I need to, but that is a big step for me.

    Sherry
    Shooting raw is going to help you a lot. Shoot at the highest ISO you dare, and let LR do its magic. Play with the sliders in the noise reduction panel. Here's the thing: If your shot ain't sharp or properly exposed in the first place, all the noise reduction and sharpening in the world won't make it nice. So get that ISO and shutter speed up there. Try different combinations of luminance smoothing and sharpening. Use that masking slider. Reduce the luminance noise just to where it isn't objectionable. If you smooth too much, you're right . . . you loose detail and people start to look like plastic dolls. If you start with a jpg file, you've already lost data. Don't get intimidated by raw shooting. Don't forget, you're ALWAYS shooting raw. When you let the camera do the jpg conversion, you lose data. You can never get it back.
    John :
    Natural selection is responsible for every living thing that exists.
    D3s, D500, D5300, and way more glass than the wife knows about.
  • perronefordperroneford Major grins Registered Users Posts: 550 Major grins
    edited October 19, 2012
    slpollett wrote: »
    Andrew, I have PS CS3 and Lightroom 3.

    I haven't yet tried to shoot RAW. I'm not sure I'd quite know what to do with a RAW file if I had it (lol)
    Sherry


    Processing a RAW in lightroom is exactly the same as processing a JPG. Import, add punch, saturation, etc., just like JPG. use the noise reduction sliders just like a JPG.

    The difference is that the RAW has a LOT more information, and will produce a FAR better result. Every time.
  • adbsgicomadbsgicom Texas-Sized Grins Registered Users Posts: 3,615 Major grins
    edited October 19, 2012
    You can usually save both JPEG+RAW, and as long as you aren't shooting long bursts that will just take up space and not slow you down. One thing you will find with the RAW file is that it will probably feel dull next to the JPEG. This is because you camera has already made some decisions and applied some sharpening, contrast, and staturation. You will be doing all of that in lightroom.

    The control panel on the side is set up in pretty logical fashion. Work your way from top to bottom. Get the color right, then adjust exposure (if the image is quite dark you may find the need to do WB after exposure), but then get the fine tuning on the tone. Use the histogram to guide you. If you hold down ALT when sliding things like the recovery, exposure and blacks, you can see where clipping starts to happen while you adjust. If you decide to mess with the tone curve that's next, and so on. Near the bottom is you sharpness. This is easy to miss. RAW requires some sharpening. Again holding down ALT while adjusting helps you see what you need. Set the sharpening, then back is off with the mask (to keep skin from getting too gritty).

    Hope that helps.
    - Andrew

    Who is wise? He who learns from everyone.
    My SmugMug Site
  • slpollettslpollett Major grins Registered Users Posts: 1,117 Major grins
    edited October 20, 2012
    Yes this helps. Thank you John, Andrew, & Perrone. You have given me some good pointers to get me headed in the right direction. I think I learned a little bit about LR as well as some good information about shooting at night.

    I will probably try jpeg + RAW first while I'm figuring out what to do with RAW files. It will also help me do some comparing of both versions. I tend to learn a lot just by doing that.

    Thanks again for all the information and responses. I will let you know how it turns out after our next football game.

    Sherry
  • chasgroh2chasgroh2 Big grins Buena Park,Knott's Bury FarmRegistered Users Posts: 68 Big grins
    edited October 21, 2012
    ...hi Sherry! I've been shooting band shows for a few years now, and all the comments so far are pretty much what I'd suggest (especially processing RAW files in LR) BUT, your equipment should work well in one instance I can think of...when the kids are standing still. That happens alot in these productions, much of the time the color guard and band members are in dramatic poses, too. So, to try this with effect you need to shoot with a slower shutter (maybe 80, which would allow you to lessen the ISO a bit) with a monopod for stability plus whatever image stabilization your lens can give you, and wait for those moments...sometimes they're longish (many times I'll get a half-dozen or more nice shots of individuals when the kids are standing still). Of course, through the years I've upgraded my equipment and can now *hang* with the big boys some, which allows me to work pretty fast, but you can get 20-30 "keepers" per group by trying this technique, IMO...
    Charlie Groh
    (tin can tied to the bumper)
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