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Author Topic: Advice needed: shooting at an animation festival (low light conditions)  (Read 2408 times)

Dwee8le

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Hi,

I am looking for some advice from more experienced photographers than me: I was recently asked to take some pictures during a short animation festival organized by a friend of mine in October for their website and other promotional material. The shots schould give an impression of this festival and its visitors, et cetera.

I am a novice photographer and my current gear is a Canon 450d with a Sigma 50mm f1.4 and a Canon 17-40mm f4 (I also have a yongnuo 560-II manual flash). My friend is not expecting very professional quality work, it's unpaid and it's just a favor.
I am not that worried about my shots themselves, but I am completely not used to the situation: shoting during the showing of the short animations means no flash, but (obviously) the whole situation will be pretty dark (it will be in a movie theater or a big room rebuild to look like one). I will also not use a tripod.

And that is my problem: what kind of gear do you use or would you advice to use for such a situation. My Sigma is f1.4 and pretty good, but it is also 50mm on a crop-sensor so it is very tight (equivalent of 80mm). The 17-40 is the right length I think, but f4 does not really work that well in low light conditions. Also, because  my Canon 450d can't really do high ISO; 800 is allready pretty bad.

I am absolutely willing to rent gear, I just don't know what to rent exactly. I was thinking of a Canon 5d mark II or III with a 24-70mm f2.8. Is that good enough to shoot in low light without flash?

I am also interested in your stories on such a project. What worked for you and what should I try to avoid.

Thanks for all your help!

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Mt Spokane Photography

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Re: Advice needed: shooting at an animation festival (low light conditions)
« Reply #1 on: September 08, 2012, 09:14:42 PM »
Realistically, you can't expect good photos in the dark.  The best Canon camera for low light is the 1D X, the 5D MK III is 1/2 to 1 stop behind it.
Are you trying to take photos of the screen and have it readable at the same time you get good images of the attendees?
I'd stick to taking photos of the group before lights go down.  You can try it with only light from the screen, but don't depend on it to work out.
 
Here is a example from a local college play from a rehersal.  Actors are in the seating area waiting to appear onstage.  As you see, lighting varies considerably from the front to the back, so a wide angle view like this one does not work well.
This was taken with a Nikon D800 at ISO 12800, f/2.8  .  A Canon 5D Mark III might be just a shade better, and a 1D X will do much better.  Its pretty dark in the seating area, but likely a lot more light than from a screen.


 
I've tried capturing images of the sound and lighting crew at our local high school plays.  Its dark in the theatre, but they do have good enough lighting to see what they are doing.
 
Canon 5D MK II at ISO 3200  f/1.4
 
« Last Edit: September 08, 2012, 09:29:16 PM by Mt Spokane Photography »

dmills

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Re: Advice needed: shooting at an animation festival (low light conditions)
« Reply #2 on: September 08, 2012, 10:54:57 PM »
Your biggest challenge to shooting during the show is that the audience will be really dark. The thing about renting camera bodies is that they are expensive, and it takes time to get used to the features. If you are used to a 5 year old entry level camera, it's going to take you a decent chunk of time (days or weeks) to get used to the 5d enough to reliably shoot. Now, knowing that this is just as a favor for a friend, maybe that's not that big a deal, but since you'd be paying money to rent a camera, you'd want the shots to be great. If I were in your situation, with your equipment, I would look at lenses rather than a body. I'd simply rent an 85mm 1.4 for reaction shots of your audience, and I'd rent a 15mm 2.8, and get permission to get as close to the screen as possible.

You have a camera body, and the odds are that you aren't going to go out and drop $7000 on a 1dx when you currently have an older entry level body. My advice is to use what you already have, rent a couple of lenses, and figure out how to take great shots with your equipment. Yes, you can get a 5d3 or a 1dx, and get great shots, but the next time you're in a difficult situation, you'll want to go out again and drop a few hundred dollars on renting a camera body too. You can do these shots with your 450d.

Your main limitation is that you're not going to be able to get a shot of the screen showing what's going on while ALSO showing reactions from the audience. Since this is just for fun, and to help a friend, I would recommend trying things you don't normally do, it's a license to play!

If it were me, I'd be looking at these shots:
  • People reacting positively to the show, laughing, smiling, crying, especially two people together with a similar reaction.
  • Shots from the back of the place with the screen exposed well, and rows of peoples heads
  • Wide angle shots from close to the screen that are exposed for the screen. (the rows of people will be pitch black)
  • Wide angle shots with the screen AND some of the people in the front rows. (Same perspective as before) Later, you can composite shots of people watching with shots of things on the screen.
  • Any sort of detail shots that are pertinent to the situation. Tickets, popcorn, heads on the shoulder of their date, etc.
  • And most importantly, talk to your friend, and figure out what shots he's hoping for and expecting.
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Wilmark

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Re: Advice needed: shooting at an animation festival (low light conditions)
« Reply #3 on: September 09, 2012, 02:00:48 AM »
I encountered a similar application albeit a different type of event and have written about it in my blog. Its not that technical and you may find that you already know what I am talking about:

http://www.wilmark.johnatty.com/blog/2012/8/harts2013NightPhotography

You can see the resulting gallery here:

http://www.wilmark.johnatty.com/harts2013/h356af3bf#h356af3bf

Dylan777

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Re: Advice needed: shooting at an animation festival (low light conditions)
« Reply #4 on: September 10, 2012, 11:33:23 AM »

Body: (2) 5D III - better AF in low light

Lens: L PRIME(s)  24, 35, 50, 135, 70-200 f2.8 IS II - you choose, these are SUPER

To avoid missing shots, rent two bodies.
Body: 1DX -- 5D III
Zoom: 24-70L II -- 70-200L f2.8 IS II
Prime: 40mm -- 85L II -- 135L -- 400L f2.8 IS II

RLPhoto

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Re: Advice needed: shooting at an animation festival (low light conditions)
« Reply #5 on: September 10, 2012, 11:41:23 AM »
Fast Primes, 24L or 28 1.8

50mm is covered

100mm F/2 or 135L.

Rent an 5D series body and with your XSI and these primes, you'll be fine.

paul13walnut5

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Re: Advice needed: shooting at an animation festival (low light conditions)
« Reply #6 on: September 10, 2012, 12:26:26 PM »
No need for you to rent gear, especially as the job is unpaid, a favour etc.

A few things you can do..

Keep the 50mm at 1.4 or f2.0.
Shoot ISO 800 but use RAW and use DPP or ACR carefully (chroma noise NR as far as you can push it,followed by slight sharpening where required)  This should be no problem for the XSi at 800, if you do some work in RAW.

Shoot manually.  When you are using the 17-40 your exposures are going to need to be 2-3x longer than with the 50mm.  So I would recommend a monopod, or one of those beanbag pods you can rest on the back of a chair.

Use the exposure scale as a quide, but remember, some of the shots are just going to be dark, and should be dark, so make them dark.

If in doubt, bracket.  Shoot lots. 

Use live view, use MF with live view zoom.
Use WB presets.  Tungsten will be best before the lights dim, the projector may be daylight balanced, may be tungsten balanced, a couple of shots will confirm which.  And even if you get it wrong in cam, it's easy to fix with RAW.

Your XSi is up to the job.  Yes a 5D3 would be better and a 1DX better again...  but they are unncessary.
RAW can save your bacon here. Digic 3 at ISO 800 will be absolutely fine.

I get annoyed at these folks prompting you hire the most expensive and greatest gear.. you are looking at at least two or three hires to get used to them... they are very different to operate from an XSi.  Also why would somebody tell a novice to hire two unfamiliar bodies? Defies understanding.

A lesson I learned ages ago was plan your shoot and carry the minimum required.  The more time you spend fiddling and swapping,the less time you spend shooting.

Go in with a plan, all the kit you absolutely need and no more.  You'll get better results with the XSi you know how to work than with a 1Dx that will flummox you if you've never used that style of body before.
« Last Edit: September 10, 2012, 01:10:54 PM by paul13walnut5 »

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Re: Advice needed: shooting at an animation festival (low light conditions)
« Reply #6 on: September 10, 2012, 12:26:26 PM »

RLPhoto

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Re: Advice needed: shooting at an animation festival (low light conditions)
« Reply #7 on: September 10, 2012, 12:41:08 PM »
Don't forget that renting gear also give you the chance to try out new stuff... Which is always fun. 8)

emag

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Re: Advice needed: shooting at an animation festival (low light conditions)
« Reply #8 on: September 10, 2012, 02:07:42 PM »
No need for you to rent gear, especially as the job is unpaid, a favour etc.

A few things you can do..



+1 

Well put, I agree completely.  This will also give you a chance to think about what you might want to rent/buy in the future if you're interested in going further.  5D3 is nice but well beyond the price range for many of us not making a living at it.  60D and Magic Lantern was the 'upgrade' path I chose to augment my still-used and astro modified 40D.  No regrets and my wallet is happy.

Mt Spokane Photography

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Re: Advice needed: shooting at an animation festival (low light conditions)
« Reply #9 on: September 10, 2012, 09:45:05 PM »
Hi,

I am looking for some advice from more experienced photographers than me: I was recently asked to take some pictures during a short animation festival organized by a friend of mine in October for their website and other promotional material. The shots schould give an impression of this festival and its visitors, et cetera.


I am absolutely willing to rent gear, I just don't know what to rent exactly. I was thinking of a Canon 5d mark II or III with a 24-70mm f2.8. Is that good enough to shoot in low light without flash?

Rent what you can afford, at least a 5D MK II and a fast prime, like a 35mmL  Forget zooms, f/2.8 is too slow unless you are willing to rent a 1D X.
You should be fine between a 35MM L (or 24mmL) and your 50mm lens.
With FF, you may be happy with just the 50mm.  Be prepared to AFMA a wide aperture prime, it can make a big difference. At Least check it carefully by comparing a full aperture liveview live focus shot and a quick focus shot.

Dwee8le

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Re: Advice needed: shooting at an animation festival (low light conditions)
« Reply #10 on: September 13, 2012, 03:30:15 AM »
Wow, thank you all very much for your input. There is a lot of good advice given here. What a great forum!

I will try and see what seems to work best for me. I have a few weeks to decide, because the event is planned for the 12th of October. I will try to shoot some pictures during the evening and see where I end up. i do shoot in RAW, so I will try some programs to clean up images to see if the result is acceptable. I do fear renting a very fast prime though: the very small DOF could really ruin your shots if you're not focussing right. I'll have to test if focussing with a 450D works in those low light conditions.

Again, thanks to all for your input!

charliewphotos

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Re: Advice needed: shooting at an animation festival (low light conditions)
« Reply #11 on: September 13, 2012, 06:21:46 AM »
I agree with the guys suggesting not to rent the really high end gear. If you're going to rent for an unpaid job rent something lower down the scale, anything APS-C will work great with your Sigma lens, think about 7D or 60D, both of which do fine up to about ISO 1600. Why spend a tonne of money on something you're not getting paid for??

TexasBadger

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Re: Advice needed: shooting at an animation festival (low light conditions)
« Reply #12 on: September 13, 2012, 07:58:22 AM »
I also recommend a monopod.  I use one all of the time for shooting bands, etc.  I picked up a Dynex one at BestBuy for ~$50.00.  They also make a great walking stick when hiking.  If push ever comes to shove, you can always whack somebody with it! :P
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Re: Advice needed: shooting at an animation festival (low light conditions)
« Reply #12 on: September 13, 2012, 07:58:22 AM »