November 23, 2014, 01:15:50 AM

Author Topic: How to shoot parties (general stuff: birthday, halloween, casual gatherings)  (Read 4716 times)

Synomis192

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I'm being dubbed as the party photographer for some friends and they're expecting images that are printable. I'm not talking about like 16x20 canvas print. Just like normal 4x6s and the occasional 8x10 enlargements.

I'll be bringing my 17-35mm and 50mm. Along side that I'll have my speed light attached the whole night. I've been practicing around my house taking sample photos. I want to shoot at f/8 but I also want to keep the ISO low but my flash fires at full output every time. Is it safe to bring the ISO up to about 400 without having grainy images?

Any thoughts on how to capture a moment without actually having to interrupt it?

Basically, I'm asking tips on how to be a casual photographer who takes great shots at parties without seeming like that one"photographer" that run around with a kit lens and their popup flash and act like they're Scott Kelby, Ansel Adams, or Chase Jarvis. (I'm not saying people like that are all horrible but they kind of give a negative outlook on photography now.)
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Nishi Drew

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Me and my T1i cry at anything above ISO 400 usually, but really, you can't avoid noise completely even with the best cameras for dim lighting indoor shoots. I doubt whoever is going to be receiving the prints are going to scrutinize the images to tell you how it's not super sharp, or how noisy the images are.

And thing is, with the speedlight giving good light to your subject, you're not going to see much noise at all, only the darker background and shadows would have some grain at 400 but nobody's looking there except you. Here's a shot I did recently, Canon T1i 430EX ISO 400 1/60, 16mm @ F4 with no de-noise .
Where's that noise? I'd say safe to shoot at ISO 800 and push exposure in post if necessary


Synomis192

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Me and my T1i cry at anything above ISO 400 usually, but really, you can't avoid noise completely even with the best cameras for dim lighting indoor shoots. I doubt whoever is going to be receiving the prints are going to scrutinize the images to tell you how it's not super sharp, or how noisy the images are.

And thing is, with the speedlight giving good light to your subject, you're not going to see much noise at all, only the darker background and shadows would have some grain at 400 but nobody's looking there except you. Here's a shot I did recently, Canon T1i 430EX ISO 400 1/60, 16mm @ F4 with no de-noise .
Where's that noise? I'd say safe to shoot at ISO 800 and push exposure in post if necessary

It's okay, my t1i and I shall join your crying party haha. But you're right, noise is something that bothers me and only me apparently. To my friends I scrutinize anything that looks grainy from 2 ft away. I just feel like bumping the ISO would lose that canon saturation, sharpness and shadows. Cant help it though so ISO 400/800 all night woo! Btw very nice and cute shoot. I'm going to take a extremely wild guess that your family is making green tea... Or some sort of tea haha
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Z

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You'll want to go easy on that flash for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, at a party, if you're not careful you can end up nuking the ambient entirely with flash and losing all sense of atmosphere. Photos will just look like oddly dressed people standing in a room filled with daylight.

Secondly, flash draws attention. And if you're dumping a full power flash every time you will be "that guy". This isn't necessarily a bad thing as long as you don't do it all night. Enjoy yourself. Pass your camera around if you trust people enough to hold it (or if it's appropriate... I don't know if this is a house party or a club night).

I have some more tips but it would be helpful to know exactly what you're shooting.

Synomis192

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Well the party is basically a teenager Halloween party. People running around either dressed up to the max, or not even trying haha. The house has a pretty short roof it's probably like 9-10ft? I know if I jumped i'd be able to palm the roof. Big amount of friends, close friends and some strangers coming. It's more gathering of friends. Thing is though, with the dslr being extremely hype, I have a lot of friends who like showing their "fancy/high tech" point and shoot. Of course I won't be shooting all night the party planners emphasized on just getting shots of major events like kareoking, costume contest, and really just shoot as much as I can. Of course there's people I trust with my camera at the party so lending my camera out wont be such a bad thing. Lemme know if you have more questions because I can't really think at the moment it's 3:30am -_-

Also, my friends have already been adjusted to the fact that carry my speedlight because I've proven to them how useful it becomes in certain situations. It's not always on but the house is kind of dimly lit. Like if I shot wide open with my Tammy, I'd be up at like 800iso about 70% of the time.

Oh, forgot to mention. I hate shooting my speed light directly at people's faces so it's always shot up at a 90 degrees, or its bounced off the celling at 45. If i desperately have to, I'll slap on the 6'x8' fotodiox softbox and shoot straight on but at like 1/8 power. does that change your opinion on the subject of the flash?
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Z

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Hmm. Yes!

Okay, so in your situation I'd want to try to capture as much of the ambient of the party as possible. I'd probably start off with your 50mm (80mm 'equivalent' and a nice portrait lens on crop) in manual mode: ISO 400, f/2.8 at 1/60sec. Chimp your screen for a rough idea of where your exposure is landing.

RE: flash I'd probably ceiling bounce or, like you suggest, use that strap-on softbox. I'd probably keep my speedlite in the hotshoe in second curtain sync mode - this is important because at 1/60sec you are going to capture subject motion blur, and you want their movement to be frozen by the flash at the end of the movement, not the beginning. I really like a little motion blur for parties, it makes people more animated.

The other issue you will have to deal with is mixing flash with ambient in terms of white balance. This might be particularly tricky at a Halloween party if there are 'spooky' lighting colours. But if you're indoors and lights are on, your best bet is probably going to be tungsten white balance with a full cut CTO to balance your flash. Since it's Halloween you might want to experiment with other colours on your flash like green or leaving it ungelled (which, with tungsten white balance will be a strong blue colour). Also, if you're able to get your flash off-camera you could light people's faces from below for a spooky effect ... but don't go nuts with that visual cliché.

That's a bit of a rushed explanation of what I'd do... but there's more than one way to skin a cat. Let me know if you've got any Q's.

EDIT: I forgot to mention that 1/60sec with an 80mm focal length is a recipe for camera shake. Subject motion blur with sharp surroundings is cool. Subject motion blur with blurry surroundings is awful. See how it goes, but you might have to ramp up the shutter and ISO if your hands aren't really steady.

On the other hand, with your Tamron at 17mm you could get some nice wide shots at 1/30sec without too much trouble.
« Last Edit: October 26, 2012, 07:36:06 AM by Z »

rmt3rd

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First, why f/8?  During your test shots, a low ISO and small aperture is making your flash work a lot harder.  A hard working flash will overpower any ambient light in the room and only light up the subject in the foreground, leaving the background dark. 

If you have several people in a frame you are photographing, I would shoot at f/4.  If only one person, you can open up the aperture to let more light in.  You can shoot at 1/60 to 1/80, or less if you can.  The flash should help freeze motion in the foreground.  Also increasing your ISO will help with the ambient light in the background.  Bounce the flash as said previously.

For tips:  Don't always shoot standing tall.  Take photos from different perspectives.  Stand on chairs, crouch down, etc....  Also, know what's happening and when and be there to catch it.  Sometimes this doesn't work, as parties are mostly spontaneous.  Just be aware of what's going on and enjoy yourself.

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MK5GTI

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i just can't believe the OP complain ISO 400 from a somewhat new T1i. especially you are printing 4x6.

i used to own that T1i, i use up to ISO 1600 all the time if i print 4x6, 3200 doesn't look that bad too.

i guess slight noise really bother some photographer.  ;D



Juliuslepetit

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i just can't believe the OP complain ISO 400 from a somewhat new T1i. especially you are printing 4x6.

i used to own that T1i, i use up to ISO 1600 all the time if i print 4x6, 3200 doesn't look that bad too.

i guess slight noise really bother some photographer.  ;D

Really! Go and get these shots à 800, 1600 or even 3200. You'll be blown by how much ambient light and atmosphere you'll get. I think that this is what you want from those party shots.

This will also use much less flash power and expand your battery's lifetime. Also, your owner's manual tells you that you shouldn't shot more thant 10 or 15 shots in a row at flash full strenght because it can overheat it or change the color of the flash glass cause of the heat... Another reason to put up the iso and open aperture as it requires less flash power and more safety shooting. Canon's flash don't stop by themselves because they're overheating, you have to be careful for that.

I agree with others, shooting in manual at 1/60 to 1/100, wide open to f/4, iso 800 to 3200, flash bounced off 90° or 60° and you will certainly have the results you want. I suggest TTL flash (metering Throught The Lens) and get the benefit of that 9-10ft roof. It will help you have a more diffused light on your subject as you know.

Also, turning your "to much grainy photo" in black and white gives an interesting result too. Kind of old looking photography. Give it a try!

Have a nice time  :)

Synomis192

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Hmm. Yes!

Okay, so in your situation I'd want to try to capture as much of the ambient of the party as possible. I'd probably start off with your 50mm (80mm 'equivalent' and a nice portrait lens on crop) in manual mode: ISO 400, f/2.8 at 1/60sec. Chimp your screen for a rough idea of where your exposure is landing.

RE: flash I'd probably ceiling bounce or, like you suggest, use that strap-on softbox. I'd probably keep my speedlite in the hotshoe in second curtain sync mode - this is important because at 1/60sec you are going to capture subject motion blur, and you want their movement to be frozen by the flash at the end of the movement, not the beginning. I really like a little motion blur for parties, it makes people more animated.

The other issue you will have to deal with is mixing flash with ambient in terms of white balance. This might be particularly tricky at a Halloween party if there are 'spooky' lighting colours. But if you're indoors and lights are on, your best bet is probably going to be tungsten white balance with a full cut CTO to balance your flash. Since it's Halloween you might want to experiment with other colours on your flash like green or leaving it ungelled (which, with tungsten white balance will be a strong blue colour). Also, if you're able to get your flash off-camera you could light people's faces from below for a spooky effect ... but don't go nuts with that visual cliché.

That's a bit of a rushed explanation of what I'd do... but there's more than one way to skin a cat. Let me know if you've got any Q's.

EDIT: I forgot to mention that 1/60sec with an 80mm focal length is a recipe for camera shake. Subject motion blur with sharp surroundings is cool. Subject motion blur with blurry surroundings is awful. See how it goes, but you might have to ramp up the shutter and ISO if your hands aren't really steady.

On the other hand, with your Tamron at 17mm you could get some nice wide shots at 1/30sec without too much trouble.

I always leave it on second curtain anyways haha. I like capture the subject at the end of the fram as well. haha. Thanks a lot for the info and advice, I'll be sure to ask more questions if I need some more advice :D


i just can't believe the OP complain ISO 400 from a somewhat new T1i. especially you are printing 4x6.

i used to own that T1i, i use up to ISO 1600 all the time if i print 4x6, 3200 doesn't look that bad too.

i guess slight noise really bother some photographer.  ;D

Really! Go and get these shots à 800, 1600 or even 3200. You'll be blown by how much ambient light and atmosphere you'll get. I think that this is what you want from those party shots.

This will also use much less flash power and expand your battery's lifetime. Also, your owner's manual tells you that you shouldn't shot more thant 10 or 15 shots in a row at flash full strenght because it can overheat it or change the color of the flash glass cause of the heat... Another reason to put up the iso and open aperture as it requires less flash power and more safety shooting. Canon's flash don't stop by themselves because they're overheating, you have to be careful for that.

I agree with others, shooting in manual at 1/60 to 1/100, wide open to f/4, iso 800 to 3200, flash bounced off 90° or 60° and you will certainly have the results you want. I suggest TTL flash (metering Throught The Lens) and get the benefit of that 9-10ft roof. It will help you have a more diffused light on your subject as you know.

Also, turning your "to much grainy photo" in black and white gives an interesting result too. Kind of old looking photography. Give it a try!

Have a nice time  :)

OH! LOL I DID COMPLAIN ABOUT PUSHING TO 400. I'm an idiot. Hahaha.
@MK5GTI - I meant pushing it up to 1600 haha. I have no idea what I was thinking when I was typing this out. It was like 2:30am xD

Well I've complained about the noise on my T1i just recently because I have felt the true low noise performance on a 5dmkII. I was just awestruck by the cleaninest of the noise well past 3200. That being said, a lot of my friends shoot with cameras that were made post 7d sensor so they have the benefit of shooting 1600 with no problem. I'm a pixel peeper and I know it's bad :x I agree, images are usable at 1600 on a T1i, but to my eyes it's just my nightmare. I don't like grain unless it's in Black and White (like what you said :D)

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My 24L is the definative Party lens.  ;D

ectobuilder

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I'm being dubbed as the party photographer for some friends and they're expecting images that are printable. I'm not talking about like 16x20 canvas print. Just like normal 4x6s and the occasional 8x10 enlargements.

I'll be bringing my 17-35mm and 50mm. Along side that I'll have my speed light attached the whole night. I've been practicing around my house taking sample photos. I want to shoot at f/8 but I also want to keep the ISO low but my flash fires at full output every time. Is it safe to bring the ISO up to about 400 without having grainy images?

Any thoughts on how to capture a moment without actually having to interrupt it?

Basically, I'm asking tips on how to be a casual photographer who takes great shots at parties without seeming like that one"photographer" that run around with a kit lens and their popup flash and act like they're Scott Kelby, Ansel Adams, or Chase Jarvis. (I'm not saying people like that are all horrible but they kind of give a negative outlook on photography now.)

Coming from a filmaker's perspective, you have to gauge how much they want these shots (similar to people I work with, I have to gauge exactly HOW MUCH they want their story told using motion pictures).

If they want it badly enough, then you don't have an issue as they will do whatever necessary to give THEM the best end product for THEM (hence they are 110% fully vested in the project).

If however they are not full engaged in having their story told, meaning they are "just" hiring you "just because" then this is where being an active story teller kicks in.

And being their friend means you already got a leg up.  You must already know each of your friend's personality and how they relate to each other and their meanings to each other.  And also the meaning of this event that is taking place.  So it is up to you as a story teller to capture that dynamic as a story, not as a news reporter (i.e. you are not documenting EVERYTHING, but how YOU see the story unfolding).

Some things you can't control are the planned events (i.e. is there a planned gift giving, a speech, cake presentation, group sing along...etc)  It is up to you to find out what planned events will take place.  And then you can pick and choose which event would be relevant to your overall story.  Events are vital to story telling because it gives your characters something to do, and therefore brings them to life (i.e. gives you something to storytell! If your character were just standing there doing nothing, then there really isn't a story to tell...etc).

Being friends also gives you an advantage in that you know how they are going to react within these events.  Lets say it is a birthday party and you have an idea how your friend will react when she receives a gift.  This gives you lots of ammo to plan how you want to plan the shot...etc.

Also once they see you as a friend, they won't see you as "that photographer"...etc.

If you are truly ambitious, you can take advantage of your friend relationship by offering up suggestions of things they can do (ahead of time, not during the party).  For instance, if I know that Fred loves Gucci watches, but I also know he isn't getting one for his birthday, you can ask the party organizer to put his actual gift into a Gucci box as a play prank.  This scene would have double meaning in that it would tell the story of his fondness of everything Gucci but also provides for a potential funny reaction from Fred and all the friends around him.
« Last Edit: October 26, 2012, 12:18:44 PM by ectobuilder »

Juliuslepetit

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Any thoughts on how to capture a moment without actually having to interrupt it?

I think with your 50mm lens (80mm) it gives you more chance to get these shots as you're not standing right in front of your subject with them staring at you like "oh sh## he's about to take that picture".

It think it is also the atmosphere of the party that will dictate the results. If those guys are partying hard and much are extroverted then they don't care you're taking photos of them even straight in the action, in front of them, it can be easier. If the atmosphere is like everyones standing quietly with a drink in hand and they are getting rigid as you point your camera to them, it could be more challenging... Maybe then you could use a telephoto zoom like a 18-200 more versatile for indoor and outdoor.

I suggest to vary your lens as the party goes as you will want to get some overall scenes instead of all your photos at 50mm (80mm) half body shots.

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TriGGy

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With the 7D I use manual mode with 1/30, f4, and ISO 800 as my default - with a 430EXII capped with a Stofen diffuser at 45 degrees. I would sometimes go at 1/60 f/4 at ISO 1600 if wanted less motion blur from my subjects, but I have to contend with noise reduction. For the 5D3 my default would be latter settings, and I may go to 3200 when the need arises. I am quite pleased with the results because I want to catch more ambient light, and if the front subject is a little overexposed I would stop down to f5.6. If you normally post process, you can adjust the exposure for the ambient light and then the highlights.

However for Rebel cameras, I would think the treshold for ISO noise is lower - as the ambient light depends on the shutter speed and ISO I think you're going to have to make do with slower shutter speeds afforded by ISO 400, and use Flash exposure compensation/aperture to control your flash exposure (which can be harsh when the flash gun fires straight ahead). With bounce flash without a diffuser, there would be lots of dark shadows under the eyes, nose, lips and probably it will be darker around 2/3rds down the photo. I found that the hard way after a birthday party photo shoot (I took that as a hard lesson and looked for ways to get around that, which resulted on the settings I mentioned above). With a Stofen diffuser your foreground subject can be well exposed but the ambient light might be a little darker. So it's a difficult situation I know.

vlad

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I don't think anybody mentioned off-camera flash yet.  On-camera flash, even with a diffuser or a softbox, illuminates straight ahead, and although you can make the light softer, it still has a very cliche look in my opinion.  I almost always use a flash with a diffuser off-camera using the OC-E3 TTL cord in a party situation.  I use just a simple sto-fen omnibounce (lately I've been messing around with a LightSphere that a friend gave me), and hold it in my left hand as I shoot.  It's a bit more cumbersome, as both of your hands will be full, but I think the results are worth it, just because they look different from most other head-on flash party shots.

Gelled flash is another great technique that takes some experimentation.  Again, even if you get the lighting down and are able to capture good moments, some environments just look boring, and I sometimes use gelled flash to give a color tone to the background.  In a nutshell, you have to think about what color you want the background to be tinted, and then gel your flash with the "opposite" color.  If you want a green background - go for magenta gel, if you want it to be reddish, use a green gel.  Then in post, you can use white balance and other tools to bring your flash-lit subject back to "neutral" light (and it's up to you how natural you want them to look), as the background gets colored.  (You could also use manual WB in-camera, but I find that these photos almost always need color adjustment in post anyway).  If you are really pushing the color, Lightroom might not be enough - its WB sliders will max out.  Photoshop and LAB mode are your friends for this approach.  It can be laborious, but again, the result will be a more unique look for even a generic space:


Agreed with others to bump up the ISO, open the aperture, and slow down the shutter to get maximum ambiance - then dial them back as needed.

First two photos are just bounced flash in my left hand.  The second two illustrate the gel method.
« Last Edit: October 26, 2012, 03:16:20 PM by vlad »

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