?

Log in

No account? Create an account
Photo Talk - "You didn't hear about the polar bear?"
February 4th, 2006
07:15 pm

[Link]

Previous Entry Share Next Entry
Photo Talk
Every once in a while, I hear somebody say "My photos at the convention didn't come out as well as I hoped; how can I take better photos?" or "Why didn't my photos come out the same as yours?"

The short answer to the second one is - don't expect to! I've spent a lot of time, effort and money to be able to take the kind of photos I want to - partly because of one of my hobbies (nature photography), and partly because I love taking photos of such great subjects (the "hobbits") and I love being able to share pics of them.

But if you want the long answer, and some suggestions on how to do the best with what you have, or what to get to do better, follow the cut!

There are 3 different answers, depending on what kind of camera you're going to use: point-and-shoot, hybrid, or SLR (single lens reflex). But in every case, the important thing to know is that these are LOW LIGHT SITUATIONS, not your normal daylight photos or photos inside where you're close to the subject and can use a flash. That's why it's so hard to get good photos. So, if you're beating yourself up for not getting some of the photos you've seen, that's why. Any "great" photos taken of the people on-stage were either taken within 10 feet of stage with a point-and-shoot, or with a hybrid or SLR set up for optimal results. Take home lesson: don't expect great pics under difficult conditions! The majority of photos are going to be grainy, underexposed and contrasty. But, let's go on to what IS possible.

Point-and-shoot: This is for a typical point-and-shoot - the kind that, while it may have great magnification, still has a very narrow lens. You have two choices here: get up close and use a flash (and I mean CLOSE - 10 feet or less), or make the most of your settings. To be honest, you're not going to get great photos unless you're within 10 feet, and you'll only get okay pics, even if you're within 20 feet and don't use flash. Since this is what the majority of people bring, most pics will be grainy and underexposed - so don't feel badly! If you want better photos, you're going to have to pay a lot of money for a better camera - for just a few photos - so, ask yourself if it's worth it, before you make that decision. If you do want to improve your results without a flash, see the next entry.

"Hybrid": This is my name for point-and-shoots with big, built-in lenses - like the one my roommate used, a Kodak, or another I saw, a Panasonic Lumix. These are point-and-shoots that gather a lot of light, have a lot of magnification, and have a lot of options. And they're expensive - about $500.

Here are links to some examples of what I'm talking about. BTW, the links come from different places, so do not take them as recommendations of any of the specific sites to buy at - except for B&H, which I've dealt with for years, and can safely recommend. But please be aware that they won't answer your questions or help; they're just a warehouse in NY city, and they assume you know what you want.

Panasonic Lumix: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?O=productlist&A=details&Q=&sku=395457&is=REG&addedTroughType=categoryNavigation

Canon S2 IS that saranet used: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?O=productlist&A=details&Q=&sku=381966&is=REG&addedTroughType=search

Kodak EasyShare Z740 (possibly the same that quiet_moments used: http://www9.dealtime.com/xPF-EasyShare_Z740

But just as important is how you set it. My suggestion would be to try it at the "night photography" setting, and then compare it with the following (for my roommate, she had much better results with the following):

-Set it for A (aperture control)
-Set the largest aperture (opening) possible (which means the smallest number - confusing, I know! - like 2.8, not 5.6, or 8, or larger). This makes the opening (aperture) as large as possible.
-Set it for the fastest "film speed" possible - 400 ASA, or, better yet, 1600 ASA (if your camera goes that fast)
- TURN OFF THE FLASH! (unless you're within 10 or 20 feet; otherwise, you just light up the back of people's heads, and confuse the camera, which will expose for the back of their heads, not the people on stage; plus, it's kinder to other people - *S*)
- Play with the exposure compensation; if people's faces are too bright (overexposed), go negative until they're right; it'll also give you more speed because the camera will select a faster shutter speed
- Make sure you set the white balance correctly - such as for incandescent (bulb) under stage lights.

If all goes well, the shutter speed that the camera will give you, after you've set these settings, will be at least 1/60th of a second, or faster (like (1/100th, 1/200th), so you won't get camera shake and fuzzy pics! Basically, you will have let as much light in as possible (big aperture), and made the cameras as sensitive to light as possible (fast "film" speed, or ISO), for the best results in these low light situations.

Oh! And only go to the highest "optical" magnification! Usually the camera will allow even more "digital" magnification, but that just means it's cropping the picture for you in the camera; you won't actually get a better picture. You still need to get decently close, but my roommate was in the Dwarf section and got remarkably good photos; I'll see if she'll share one as an example.

SLR: This is what I use. Unless you're seriously into photography, you won't want to go this route - a Nikon D100 (digital SLR), using a 180 mm f 2.8 lens, at 1600 ASA (that's why they're grainy), and usually a little underexposed. Make sure you set the white balance correctly - such as for incandescent (bulb) under stage lights. And - I was in Row C - a big help! Plus, there's years of experience in taking photos, which helps in composition, catching expressions, and adjusting the camera as necessary. And a big thank you to lilithlotr, who first told me about the existence of the 180 mm f 2.8 lens, and that little bit of extra light it adds, that makes this kind of photography possible. Thank you, Lilith.

Hope that helps! Please, ask questions if you have any.

(90 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments
 
Page 1 of 2
<<[1] [2] >>
From:saranet
Date:February 5th, 2006 12:53 am (UTC)
(Link)
This is great info. I remember when I met you and you told me to turn off the flash when I'm taking pictures. Without the flash, my Billy pictures were taken very well. No I have to work on the film speeds and all that. LOL. Thank you for sharing your info with us! :D
[User Picture]
From:rosamundeb
Date:February 5th, 2006 01:05 am (UTC)
(Link)
Really? I'm so glad it helped! I'm always worried about possibly giving the wrong advice. Go you! *S*
[User Picture]
From:onecheekyhobbit
Date:February 5th, 2006 12:56 am (UTC)
(Link)
You are so cool.
I don't think I'll ever need that info because, you will, *fingers crossed* be there, but it's so freakin' cool that you put it up for everyone.

Well done Ros.
Good show.

K
[User Picture]
From:rosamundeb
Date:February 5th, 2006 01:02 am (UTC)
(Link)
Thanks, K - I appreciate it. *S*
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
From:rosamundeb
Date:February 5th, 2006 04:03 am (UTC)
(Link)
EEE!!! Billy in the "lil' cowboy" shirt, photographing! *squee!*

Say, what did you get this year?

And, thanks. Your approach makes a lot of sense, rather than worrying about spending a lot of money. And you get to ENJOY the Q&A's! *S*
(Deleted comment)
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
From:pearltook1
Date:February 5th, 2006 01:27 am (UTC)
(Link)
This was most cool! We need to learn to work with what we have and go into things knowing what our equipment has to offer. I've got to where I'll go for odd effects and such instead of the beautiful shots you get because I know my wee camera can't get those. I got some interesting shots at that Nickel Creek concert playing with their lighting effects. I've also found I often get decent shots in off lighting by using the sepia or B&W setting on my camera instead of color. :) I really need to get the NC photos on my Picture Trail account.
[User Picture]
From:rosamundeb
Date:February 5th, 2006 04:01 am (UTC)
(Link)
Going for odd effects is a great way to make photos in a difficult situation. I've had a similar situation; if my color pics are dark, I'll do "remove color" in Adobe photoshop, and then juice up the contrast and light, and get a neat looking photo. Good point!
[User Picture]
From:zoniduck
Date:February 5th, 2006 01:49 am (UTC)
(Link)
In addition to this, I have to say, I love my monopod. I used it at ORC last year when I was in row D, and got semi decent still pics, but got some really quite good MPEGs because of it. It's much easier to work with than a tripod, though it was a bit bulky even when it was collapsed. What I really needed though, was a telephoto lens, because the 4x zoom on my Sony DSC-V1 just wasn't cutting it, even from row D.
[User Picture]
From:rosamundeb
Date:February 5th, 2006 03:59 am (UTC)
(Link)
You know, I wasn't sure if they let those in! And mine's not gripping correctly, so it sliiiiiides down. *L*! I agree 100% on using it for doing movies; nothing worse than trying to hold your hand still for a long time - or not doing it and getting shaky films. It can get in the way for stills, when switching from a vertical shot to a horizontal shot.
[User Picture]
From:primula_baggins
Date:February 5th, 2006 02:22 am (UTC)
(Link)
I have a Canon digital A85. I paid what I think is a lot of money for it. I'm still thinking I should be getting much better pics that I do. I am going to see if there are other lens I can buy for it. I agree, being close is the most important thing, but obviously at these cons, that ain't gonna happen! I am amazed that digital cameras take as good a pictures as they do considering I almost never use flash because the cons frown on them. I'm not giving up. Somehow I'm going to learn how to do this right!

Thanks for the advice. I'm going to print this out and study it more. Then I'll take it to the store and see what I might get to enhance things.

Oh, I do have some questions. I use my memory cards and then delete the photos and reuse them. Do you think the pictures would be better if I bought new memory cards occasionally, or should it not matter?

Also, would going to a real camera store (rather than Best Buy) be a better option? It seems like I could get better advice on equipment there. Also, I agree with someone else here who said they liked their unipod. I was going to buy one before ORC this year, but never got around to it. I messed up a lot of pictures simply because I couldn't steady my hands enough.
[User Picture]
From:rosamundeb
Date:February 5th, 2006 03:56 am (UTC)
(Link)
This one: http://shopping.yahoo.com/p:Canon%20PowerShot%20A85%20Digital%20Camera:1991557770

Yes, I'd call that a very good point-and-shoot that belongs in the first category. Compare it with the Canon S2 IS that I just put a link to up in my post, and compare pics with the ones saranet has, using the Canon S2 IS. It's more expensive (about twice the cost of yours), but it's the hybrid type that A) gathers more light and B) has incredible magnification.

Good questions. Here's my attempt at answering:

I don't think you can add/change a lens to your camera. They might have something to put on top of your lens for greater magnification, but it will also cut out light, so - no good.

Don't worry about re-using the cards; I do it all the time, and it's okay - it doesn't make a difference. Luckily! *G*

Real camera stores are great for advice, but they do cost more. If you know what you want (sounds like you'd want the Canon I mentioned above), it's better to go with a high quality on-line store like B&H. These stores are in NY and do high volume business, and run out of warehouses - which means lower prices, but no service... *G*. Here's a link: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?O=productlist&A=details&Q=&sku=381966&is=REG&addedTroughType=search .

Hope that helps! I was where you were once, so I know what you're going through.

One more piece of advice... take a good camera course, say, through adult ed. *S* There are some good teachers out there; if you're lucky, you'll get one. Good luck!
[User Picture]
From:quiet_moments
Date:February 5th, 2006 02:55 am (UTC)
(Link)
Well, it's not the best of the photos, but here is one I tool of Sean from my dwarf seat. Saranet was sitting right next to me, and we were around 13 rows back. Didn't she get amazing photos?
[User Picture]
From:quiet_moments
Date:February 5th, 2006 02:56 am (UTC)

D'oh!

(Link)
I clicked post comment before I posted the photo! *facepalm*


[User Picture]
From:aeb
Date:February 5th, 2006 03:14 am (UTC)
(Link)
I like your short answer. That's the truth! {Chuckle, SMILE} Dad is a shutterbug, complete with a variety of lenses, and two camera-bodies. He takes much better pictures than Mom and I because he's got the equipment (if he remembered to bring it), and because he's bothered to learn how! For that matter, he's had enough more practice, even one of my little point-and-shoots takes better pictures with him behind the lens. {chuckle, SMILE, REALLY BIG GRIN}

Now to go back to reading. I haven't even gotten to your long answers yet. {SMILE}

Anne Elizabeth Baldwin
[User Picture]
From:rosamundeb
Date:February 5th, 2006 03:46 am (UTC)
(Link)
Yep, takes good equipment, knowing how to use it... and then the composition and "art" comes in. *S*

The short version of the long answer is - buy a hybrid camera and learn to use it. *G* They can probably do as well as my expensive equipment, but I haven't done a head-to-head test yet!
From:ex_absolutef238
Date:February 5th, 2006 04:18 am (UTC)
(Link)
thank you so much for sharing your incredible photos! i iconed one of them. i hope you don't mind. i credited you for the photo ;)
[User Picture]
From:rosamundeb
Date:February 5th, 2006 04:35 am (UTC)
(Link)
Glad you came by - no problem, and thanks!
From:wisteria_way
Date:February 5th, 2006 04:31 am (UTC)
(Link)
This is exactly the kind of info I want for ELF!

Thanks!

Now I want to know how important are mega pixels? I see the newest camera's come up to about 8 mp. Do we need that for really clear sharp photos from ..say ...10 rows back? How important are high mega pixels? Can you get great photos with lower mps but good settings?


I love taking pictures all the time, not just for cons.

I want to get the best digital cmaera I can for between $200 and $400.
[User Picture]
From:rosamundeb
Date:February 5th, 2006 04:39 am (UTC)
(Link)
To be honest... not important at all - *L*!

Seriously, everything has at least 5, and that's more than enough. The number of megapixels won't help if your photo is blurry. The only thing it will help do is allow you to blow up the photo bigger later.

I'd say, take a good photo course, first of all, if you really love taking photos. Then I'd say, get one of the hybrids. They're more like $500, but perhaps you can find one at a better price if the prices come down. Good luck!
[User Picture]
From:alassenya
Date:February 5th, 2006 07:35 am (UTC)
(Link)
For anyone who is interested, mine was the Panasonic Lumix camera that Ros mentioned. I am a pretty bad photographer, but this camera has an enormous Leica lens that just sucks in all the available light, and has some great features, including 12x optical zoom and a stabiliser. I mostly used the "night scenery" or "fireworks" setting for Daniel; "night scenery" or "P" (automatic everything) for Sean and Elijah, and "P" with flash for Billy. I was in Row F, so about 15 metres from the stage, but the zoom was fantastic (though I did delete an awful lot of blurred photos). The ones that are more-or-less in focus are here: http://photobucket.com/albums/e175/alassenya/

Before the con I had tried fixing the exposure time and working around that (to reduce blurring), but it made for very dark pics, so I settled for auto exposure with the knowledge that there would be a high wastage rate.

Unfortunately I've never really got my head around F-stops and apertures, so that's what I'll be trying to learn over the next few months.

Thanks for the advice, Ros - I'll try to put it to good use.
[User Picture]
From:rosamundeb
Date:February 5th, 2006 05:16 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Really???? Sorry, I've been so bad with names. Actually, I think I first talked to somebody from Australia - is that you, or perhaps you were another person with that camera? (I think it was the latter).

Excellent in for for comparison - thank you very much! Especially about the settings.

Damn good pics for somebody in Row F! And I can pretty confidently say you couldn't have gotten those with a regular point-and-shoot. Looks like you had everything right, but could have underexposed a bit to get the right exposure, and less shake (note the bright white on some of the faces). And these cameras are very light, so it may be hard to keep them steady. Somebody suggested a monopod to hold the camera on, so that might help you as well.

Thanks for sharing! I really appreciate it. *S*

[User Picture]
From:freakspawn
Date:February 5th, 2006 10:08 am (UTC)
(Link)
Excellent advice Ros, and I have to agree with you about point and shoots. I have played about with mine, practiced, changed the settings and found the best one possible, but like you say, at a distance it just wasn't made for those type of photos.

I love my camera, but seriously need to get one with a better zoom. The shutterspeed and exposure settings are great, but when the zoom isn't good, they don't help that much in the end :)

Am gonna link to this in case others on my flist want some advice :D
[User Picture]
From:rosamundeb
Date:February 5th, 2006 04:50 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Please do! And thanks for the confirmation from somebody who's really looked into it.

Yes - now that these "hybrids" are available, I'd seriously suggest checking into them. I'm going to add a link to a Kodak one that might be cheaper, and *may* be as good.
[User Picture]
From:frodoholic
Date:February 5th, 2006 06:24 pm (UTC)
(Link)
great info! I just bought a Cannon PowerShot A520 and still learning to use it.
Most of what I did was video clips at ORC, but I don't know how to post them.
Here's a photo that you might like. This little girl was very patient with me.
Image hosting by Photobucket
[User Picture]
From:rosamundeb
Date:February 5th, 2006 06:31 pm (UTC)
(Link)
EEEE!!!! I remember her - such a sweetie! My roommate spent her first night in the little girl's mother's room. Thanks!
From:aranel80
Date:February 5th, 2006 08:30 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Hello! :)

I've followed annwyn55's link to your ORC pictures and wow...you have some wonderful shots! There's one picture of Elijah that I fell in love with the moment I saw it and I want to use it in my journal layout, so I wanted to ask your permission to use it, I couldn't resist working on it, I'm not throughly done with it yet, but I'd never use it till you say its ok, I'll credit you in my user info. It's over here if you wanna take a look.

I totally understand if you don't want me to use it though. Thank you so much for sharing your pretty pics. :)
[User Picture]
From:rosamundeb
Date:February 5th, 2006 08:32 pm (UTC)
(Link)
That's so nice of you to ask! Yes, please go ahead. I love that "look", too... *G*
From:honeyfitz
Date:February 6th, 2006 04:08 pm (UTC)
(Link)
*ADDS THIS TO MEMORIES!!!*

Thanks so much for all this info, I must admit I've only scanned it so far but it will come in very useful next weekend (looks like I'm going to GMEX after all!)

I have a fancy new camera but I've not used it at any events for a while, and when I first used it I wasn't sure what I was doing. I still don't - hopefully your post will help me!

Thanks again, we'll see what the GMEX results are!
[User Picture]
From:rosamundeb
Date:February 6th, 2006 05:12 pm (UTC)
(Link)
*L*! Is that a Woody Allen/Diane Keaton icon? *G*

Oh, that's right - GMEX!!! Have lots of fun!

Hey, so what kind of camera do you have? And let me know if you do get better pics - good luck!
Powered by LiveJournal.com