PDA

View Full Version : Should be posting here...


Sipo
10-07-2006, 01:33 AM
Guess it's about time I start posting here. I've been putting my photography in practice for quite some time, but rest assured, I am no professional. (You won't see any of my photography in my gallery since all of my photos have been taken by my friends and their point and shoot cameras.)

But anyways! I come with a question: What is the best method for nighttime portraits of people? I have taken photos at night of places/things, using manual setting to make sure I get what I see or want, but it's a different world with people+night. I want to make sure that the photos of the people are flattering, but that I absorb as much of the background and detail as possible. My camera of choice is a Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi (to replace an older version of the Rebel), and all I have is it's built-in flash. I use an 17-85mm (f/4-5.6) zoom lens for most of my portraits/people and landscape/cityscape, and a 70-300mm (f/4-5.6) telephoto zoom lens for some of my landscape/cityscape, in case that helps any. (And of course I have my tripod with me; I don't know how I'd survive without it in some cases!!)

Please, keep in mind that I am an amateur: I am a senior in high school and all of my photographic knowledge is based on what I've learned myself and a friend's father, whos hobby is photography. (I plan to further my knowledge by taking a class as soon as I enter college. :))

Hey, thanks for reading my essay!

jtnishi
10-07-2006, 02:14 AM
Guess it's about time I start posting here. I've been putting my photography in practice for quite some time, but rest assured, I am no professional. (You won't see any of my photography in my gallery since all of my photos have been taken by my friends and their point and shoot cameras.)

But anyways! I come with a question: What is the best method for nighttime portraits of people? I have taken photos at night of places/things, using manual setting to make sure I get what I see or want, but it's a different world with people+night. I want to make sure that the photos of the people are flattering, but that I absorb as much of the background and detail as possible. My camera of choice is a Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi (to replace an older version of the Rebel), and all I have is it's built-in flash. I use an 17-85mm (f/4-5.6) zoom lens for most of my portraits/people and landscape/cityscape, and a 70-300mm (f/4-5.6) telephoto zoom lens for some of my landscape/cityscape, in case that helps any. (And of course I have my tripod with me; I don't know how I'd survive without it in some cases!!)

Please, keep in mind that I am an amateur: I am a senior in high school and all of my photographic knowledge is based on what I've learned myself and a friend's father, whos hobby is photography. (I plan to further my knowledge by taking a class as soon as I enter college. :))

Hey, thanks for reading my essay!
I'll go technical for an answer: I best recommend you pick up a 50mm f/1.8 prime for about $80 or so from a good camera store. Find decent ambient lighting versus a flash when you can, to give the shot some mood. Then as much as you can, take a run at shooting without flash. The big key though is to take night shots with any hope of using exterior lighting, you need a lens with a bit of speed. F/4 is going to be a bit tough with portraits at night. It's doable (I used to use a low light telephoto for concerts), but it makes post-processing so much more difficult. The 50/1.8 is fast, the glass is decent, but very importantly the lens is dirt cheap so it's perfect for taking a shallow first step into the night.

For another example, try looking at the shots ZiggyB took of Heki back at AX2006 (http://images.cosplay.com/gallery.php?cat=54446&member=418). I did a quick check of the EXIF data against one of the shots from his set, and for this example (http://images.cosplay.com/showphoto.php?photo=859390), reading the data came back 30mm lens (probably actually the 35mm, as I remember him having that), f/2.5, 1/60s at ISO 1600. If I remember the area correctly, the lighting was neutral color (as in closer to white to light yellow in this case) metal halide style lamps roughly 8' tall. The key is to recognize that the 50mm lens, while a bit longer, can definitely cover portraits of this style of lighting, so this type of shot is doable under that light. Some night situations are worse, but the 50mm is a good magical weapon for night photography on a tight budget.

Best of luck!

staereo
10-07-2006, 11:38 AM
Jason is a very knowledgable photographer. You should, without question, listen to him, as I agree with everything he is saying. He offers a very good method, and you will certainly get great results when successfully applying this advice. I strongly support this method.

I would like to offer some complimentary and contrasting advice here, for another style of picture.

First of all, I have the nifty-fifty (the 50mm 1.8 mk2 Jason referred to). Many photographers do, as it is insanely cheap, and while the build quality isn't that hot, the speed of the lens and the output tends to be pretty nice. The issues that you may run in to when using it are it's best when stopped down a little to f/2.8 or f/4. You CAN use it at f/1.8 but expect it to be a little less sharp and less contrasty than you'd probably like. Not to mention the only downfall that kind of irritates me about the lens, which is kind of a poor bokeh (background blur). Again, for the money, it is AWESOME, and I *do* have one and fully encourage you to get one. Is your current lens the 17-85 IS lens? If so, you may want to try playing with that, as the IS may improve low light shots' sharpness.

Here's my take on what you've said...
What is the best method for nighttime portraits of people? I have taken photos at night of places/things, using manual setting to make sure I get what I see or want, but it's a different world with people+night. I want to make sure that the photos of the people are flattering, but that I absorb as much of the background and detail as possible.

From this I gather that you want to shoot people at night. When you shoot them, you would LIKE background detail involved in the shot. I will assume that by detail, you mean you want not only a lit background, but also a focused background.

This poses a wild problem, as we photographers love to be as lazy as possible, and especially people with some money invested in equipment become lazy, as we tend to use our super fast lenses as crutches for poor light. After all, as photographers, our art involved recording light, and we have the tools to pull that light in with fast lenses with big apertures. SOOO, when I shoot sports in gymnasiums and arenas without decent lighting (Think ISO3200, f/2.8, 1/500-1/400, and still underexposed a stop or stop and a half) I end up USING that large aperture to allow me to keep a high shutter speed. In your case, shutter speed is NOT your limiter, as you aren't shooting sports.

Your limiter is your ISO. Why is it your ISO? Because in fashion, and cosplay is best likened to fashion in terms of photography, you want a noise free, eye catching image. Sooo, instead of shooting 1/500 at ISO 3200 in that same lighting, you would be wanting 1/60 at ISO400. As you aren't so much stopping movement as you are trying to please the eye with a nice image.
Great, so you know you want your ISO as low as you can get it. The problem you have now, is that you just said you don't want to use the 'photographers crutch', of using a fast lens (f/1.8), How did you say that? By saying you want background detail, it means you want a larger depth of field. Do accomplish this, your best bet is to keep that aperture as small as possible. (As big of a number as possible.) The issue you have here is that the smaller that aperture gets, the less light you have flowing through to your image sensor.

(Continuing in next post (post 1 of 3), as this doesnt all fit in one post.)

staereo
10-07-2006, 11:40 AM
SOOOO, before I go any further, I am going to copy and paste a post I made on a photography forum about lenses. I want to ensure you get the basics down. I tried to make it a simple post when I wrote it.


=========START POST========
I assume you want to know what a given lens means, when talking about a lens. I will briefly explain each part, and some extra specifics about canon lenses specifically.

Let's take a normal lens, in this case, you're referring to the EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6. I will break down each of those parts.
First, EF-S. This part of the lens name refers to the lens' manufacturer's designation for the mount.

The mount is where the lens attaches to your camera. Different cameras have different mounts, and camera/lens manufacturer's mounts change over the years. This is why you can't take an old old canon lens and attach it to your digital rebel today, without some sort of an adapter. The way the lens attaches to the camera body is different.

Popular canon mounts of today are listed as:

EF, which stands for "Electro-Focus". This is canon's term for their autofocus lenses. These lenses can be used on the new digital SLRs, as well as modern film cameras.

EF-S, which stands for "Electro-Focus - Short back focus". This is canon's term for the lens mounts specifically desgined for use with APS-C sized image sensors. Current canon dSLRs that are compatable with this type of lens include: 300d, 350d, 400d, 20d, (20d) 30d.

FD mounts were used before EF mounts, and FL mounts were used before those. Neither of these are mainstream lens mounts anymore.

18-55mm refers to the focal length of the lens.

To over-simplify, the focal length is the "zoom-in/zoom-out". The smaller the number, the more 'zoomed out' the lens. The larger the number, the more 'zoomed in' the lens. (mind you, this is oversimplifying focal length to a fault, but it may help with a basic understanding.)

When talking about a lens that only has one focal length, we call that a prime lens. That means you cannot zoom in or out, except by using your feet to walk closer to the subject. The rules above remain the same.

When talking about a zoom lens, like the 18-55mm, it tells you the range it can zoom from. In this case, it can zoom OUT as far as "18mm" and zoom IN as far as "55mm".

Now, lets take a closer look at focal length, without going into all of the complicated factors that involve focal length. Focal length is a measured distance from a lens and a focal point. In this case, your image sensor or film. For some nice illustrations of this, feel free to visit
http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tutorials/camera-lenses.htm

The longer the focal length, the narrower your field of view becomes. I just thought of a neat way to experience this. Get a string or a rubber band. Make it about 2 feet long, and tie it so its a circle. Then set it up in your hands like this:
Left hand String Right hand
||-----\ /-----||
|| \-----\ /-----/ ||
|| \-----\ /-----/ ||
|| \-----\ /-----/ ||
|| \/ ||
|| /\ ||
|| /-----/ \-----\ ||
|| /-----/ \-----\ ||
|| /-----/ \-----\ ||
||-----/ \-----||
(EDIT- APPARENTLY MY PICTURE DIDNT WORK OUT ON HERE)

What I'm trying to do is display how the string is around both your hands, but with a twist between your hands, making the strings cross.
Pretend your left hand is your film, and your right hand is your field of view of the image youre taking. The place where they cross is your lens.
The distance from the place where they cross, your lens, to your left hand, your sensor, is called your focal length. The string itself is the light.
Now, expand your right hand, so the loop going around your right hand gets larger. Notice as this 'field of view' gets larger, the place where the string crosses gets closer to your left hand. Soooo, as your focal length (distance from your hand to where the string crosses) gets smaller, your field of view (loop around your right hand) gets larger.

Do the opposite. Collapse your right hand. Notice the x moves AWAY from your left hand. The distance from your left hand to the x gets larger. This is your focal length getting larger. Sooooo, you can see as your focal length gets longer, the field of view becomes more narrow.
This is the basic idea behind focal length.

f/3.5-5.6 refers to aperture. That is how much light is being let through the lens. The smaller the number, the larger the aperture, and the more light is let in. The larger the number, the smaller the aperture, and the less light is let in. Often times they refer to lenses that have larger apertures as being "fast" because they collect light quickly. If more light is being let through, then its clear that the light is being sent through the lens faster. This also means you can use faster shutter speed, as it doesnt take as long for your media to record the image.

F stops are sequential powers of the sq rt of 2. We approximate them, so the whole f-numbers are f/1, f/1.4, f/2, f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, f/16, f/22, and so on.

Aperture also is a strong modifier to your depth of field. The larger your aperture (smaller the f/number), the shorter depth of field you will have.

Check out this glossary for lots of info about terms we all use:
http://www.usa.canon.com/html/eflenses/lens101/glossary/index_a.html
and focal length in general:
http://www.usa.canon.com/html/eflenses/lens101/focallength/index.html


I read somewhere on the internet a nice analagy for exposure, comparing it to filling a bucket.

Your objective in capturing light is to get a proper exposure. This can be compared to filling a bucket.

Your object is to fill the bucket to the top, without under-filling it, or over filling it.

Your aperture can be compared to how fast your pouring the water into the bucket. (The larger your aperture is, the smaller the number is. Also the higher your aperture is, the faster you're pouring the water into the bucket.)

Your ISO can be compared to the size of your bucket. (Higher the ISO number, the smaller your bucket.)

Your shutter speed can be compared to the duration of your pouring. (The faster your shutter speed, the less time you spend pouring.)

If you fill the bucket to the top, you will get a proper exposure. If you change one factor, you must modify one or both of the other two factors accordingly to ensure you do not overfill or underfill the bucket.
=========END POST========

(Continuing in next post (post 2 of 3), as this doesnt all fit in one post.)

staereo
10-07-2006, 11:41 AM
Now that you have all of that information (more than you needed, but hopefully will be useful elsewhere.) let's re examine our situation.
You want to fill a big bucket (low ISO). You don't care how long you pour for (shutter speed). You want to flow water as slowly as possible. (Small aperture.)

So. In the perfect world, you will just set your camera to ISO100, Aperture to f/11 or f/16, and just let it run a shutter speed indefinately, until a proper exposure is captured.

Would this work? Yep, probably pretty well, in fact. That is, if you we'rent shooting something that is alive. The problem you're facing is that you have a person that shakes, shifts, and wobbles. Whether they are trying to hold perfectly still or not, they ARE going to wobble. And the longer your shutter is open for, the more they are going to wobble. So even using a tripod, to stop YOU from shaking, their shaking will at the very least soften your image, if not blur them completely.

Soooo, we want to at least make your shutter speed fast enough to not blur everything to pieces. Let's keep it on the tripod for support, though. The rule of thumb for the limitations to hand holding a camera, is that shutter speed that is 1/focal length for a steady shot. So, with a 50mm lens, you would want 1/50 of a second shutter speed or faster. For a 300mm lens, you would want 1/300 of a second shutter speed or faster. A canon IS lens decreases that by a said 2 stops. That means that hypothetically, if you were shooting at 125mm, where you would normally need 1/125 of a second shutter speed to keep from handshaking the image, you would only need 1/30 of a second. Either way, let's toss this on the back burner, and attack the meat and potatoes of the issue.

You want a sharp image of a person and their background. For clarity, you want to keep the digital noise down, so I would say ISO400 and under is preferred. ISO 800 is pushing it, though doable on the 20d, I don't know how the rebel's noise is at ISO800.

How do we get a background exposed properly in the dark, and also expose a person in the foreground, without having the person all wobbly because of an insanely long shutter speed. WELL, I'm GLAD you asked.

IF YOUVE BEEN IGNORING EVERYTHING UP TILL NOW, AND JUST WANT THE CLIFF NOTES, HERES WHERE YOU OUGHTTA PAY ATTENTION

I will assume you have no light meter. Set your camera to Tv. This is shutter-priority mode. It will automatically set the shutter speed of your camera based on your preset factors. I would suggest setting your ISO to 100. Set your aperture to f/8 or f/11. Take a picture of just the background with noone in the picture. Check to see your exposure and how the background comes out. Good? If so, check your shutter speed. Remember your ISO, aperture, and shutter speed.

Now set your camera to M. Use the same aperture and ISO you used in your Tv test shots on the background. If your camera can, and you know how, dial your flash ev to -2. (Check your manual, as I dont know how the rebel does this... be sure its your FLASH ev, and not your 'Exposure compensation' Ev.) Put a piece of thin, white translucent paper (cheap printer paper should be fine. White tissue paper works too.) in front of your little camera flash. Then have your subject get in front of the lens. Shoot the subject with all the same settings, but with the flash ON. Have your subject stay VERY still. Check the exposure. How'd it come out? Too bright on the subject? Put more sheets of paper in front of the flash. Person too blurred? Try having them wait until the flash is completely out (shouldn't take long.... its a flash), then have the person quickly jump out of the picture while the camera continues to record the background.

Experiment.

I hope this was at the very least, informative. :bigtu:

I've been putting my photography in practice for quite some time, but rest assured, I am no professional..........Please, keep in mind that I am an amateur: I am a senior in high school and all of my photographic knowledge is based on what I've learned myself and a friend's father, whos hobby is photography.

Bleh... don't cut yourself down. Every photographer, myself included, is granted a license for a big head, the moment they touch their first camera. The only difference between amateur and pro is the money involved. Many amateurs blow the doors off of seasoned professionals. Skill is not in direct relation to money making. I went ahead and put a lot of information in this post that you may well already be aware of, but I wanted to write it and cover all the basis just in case. Please feel free to share your work, I enjoy photography of all sorts! And by all means, post as often as you want in this forum. Heaven knows we all do. :toothy:

Bruce

(End of post (post 3 of 3), as this doesnt all fit in one post.)

Trelyon
10-07-2006, 12:34 PM
Guess it's about time I start posting here. I've been putting my photography in practice for quite some time, but rest assured, I am no professional.

But anyways! I come with a question: What is the best method for nighttime portraits of people? I plan to further my knowledge by taking a class as soon as I enter college.

the answer to your question is see above... just want to say welcome to this cozy friendly corner of cosplay.com... we have a lot of knowledgable people out here... glad to have you with us... and welcome. :)

take as many classes as you can... but most important teacher is you going out and taking tons of pic... and develope your own styles... like anything else... pratices... pratices... pratices.


The only difference between amateur and pro is the money involved.

WHAT!!?!?! pro... suppose to get pay? nobody told me... LOL....

Skill is not in direct relation to money making. :toothy:
so very true... some are VERY lucky more than skilled... to have their foot in the door... ::shrugs:: more power to them

Sipo
10-07-2006, 03:10 PM
Thanks, all 'a ya, for the information. I can say: it's been helpful.

Bruce, yes, there was some information that I already knew (as any serious photographer would) but all three posts were very informative, easy to understand, and helpful. I plan to try my luck at low-light portrait/fashion (aka cosplay) photography very soon here, as PMX is coming along, and if I don't make it there, I still have friends to nab with extravagent cosplay and no photos!!

Looks like I should be investing in a new lens. Oh, and please, my life is on a budget, so I am used to bargain-shopping! (And bitting the bullet to get something nice...) :toothy:

Also, I guess that... the background doesn't need to be super-sharp, just needs to be apparent. I want to be able to know that there was a building in the background or a lamp post, but I want to make sure that the foreground and the subject are nice and sharp. (Like ZiggyB's recent nighttime photos; they turned out oh-so-nice IMO.)

Oh, I know the difference between amateur and pro is the money; I live in a house filled with artists of all kinds, but the reason I especially stress that I am an amateur is, not only do I not make money, but I am not as skilled as most (not as many years of experience). :thumbsup: But worry not, since I seem to officially be granted my "license for a big head," it's only time now! :P

(I do get pretty proud of my art sometimes. :angel2: )

Again: thaks for the advice: it was helpful and clear! 'Appreciate it! :)

ZiggyB
10-07-2006, 07:08 PM
What everyone else said above. :)

Just to clarity a little bit, the lens I used for that shoot is a 30mm/1.4f made by Sigma for Canons.

The 1.4f and 1600ISO is what made it possible to shoot at night with very low lighting and still come out pretty sharp and clear. After the photo is taken, a touch of Photoshop is required to even out the lighting and make sure everything is sharp.

Again, what people have said above a 50mm/1.8f lens is very affordable (under $100).

I was going to mention tripods as well, but that subject is already covered. :)