Low light photography questions

kat.hayes

EOS M6 Mark II
Nov 25, 2014
76
0
I'm using a 5DM3 and a EF 24-70mm 1:2.8 L in a low light environment. I'm trying to get photos of a toddler playing.
I'm shooting wide open, though I'm still not getting enough light.

1. I could use a tripod and make the shutter slower, though this will likely cause a problem with my subject moving.
2. What is a good ISO range to use for this? I'm not sure what range I should be staying within.

Any other advice?

Thanks.
 

neuroanatomist

I post too Much on Here!!
CR Pro
Jul 21, 2010
24,647
2,167
Based on what I've seen, the 1D X gives about a stop more 'usable' ISO vs the 5DIII. When taking pics of my kids for personal use (printing up to ~12x18, digital sharing), I go up to ISO 25600, so I'd say you could get away with 12800. Of course, noise tolerance is a personal thing. I shoot RAW and use DxO with Prime NR, I suspect that gives me 2 stops over in-camera jpg.
 

Don Haines

Beware of cats with laser eyes!
Jun 4, 2012
8,265
1,927
Canada
neuroanatomist said:
Based on what I've seen, the 1D X gives about a stop more 'usable' ISO vs the 5DIII. When taking pics of my kids for personal use (printing up to ~12x18, digital sharing), I go up to ISO 25600, so I'd say you could get away with 12800. Of course, noise tolerance is a personal thing. I shoot RAW and use DxO with Prime NR, I suspect that gives me 2 stops over in-camera jpg.
I agree with Neuro.... 12800, or if resembling it smaller, 25600.

And shoot in RAW! Post processing of RAW files beats in camera jpegs hands down!
 

slclick

Pinhole
Dec 17, 2013
4,194
2,205
Higher ISO, faster glass. Either or both. For instance my 135 f/2 does a far better job in low light than my 24-70 Mk2. It's that one stop difference that makes all the well...difference.
 

Valvebounce

EOS R5
CR Pro
Apr 3, 2013
4,460
359
53
Isle of Wight
Hi Kat.
If this is your toddler in your house, add more ambient light, change the 40w bulb to a 60w, turn on any table lamps etc. If this is someone else's toddler and house these may not be an option, but still worth asking!

Cheers, Graham.
 

Don Haines

Beware of cats with laser eyes!
Jun 4, 2012
8,265
1,927
Canada
Valvebounce said:
Hi Kat.
If this is your toddler in your house, add more ambient light, change the 40w bulb to a 60w, turn on any table lamps etc. If this is someone else's toddler and house these may not be an option, but still worth asking!

Cheers, Graham.
That is about the best advice possible!

If you want to bring some light with you, head to your local camera store, pick up a 250W or 500W daylight bulb and a reflector that you can mount to a light stand (or get an adaptor to fit your tripod) and away you go! Just make sure that whatever you mount the bulb into can take the heat of the bulb.... ordinary light sockets are usually limited to 60 or 100 watts.

option 2 is head to your local hardware store and pick up a 500Watt (or more) work light.... You might even be able to borrow them from a handyman friend.... The LED ones look sexy, but they cost way more and give out a lot less light. A 1250 lumen LED panel is about the same as a 75W bulb......

Whichever route you pick, either set your white balance appropriately (custom is best) or shoot in RAW (best option!!!!) so you can get the colours right.
 

sanj

EOS R5
Jan 22, 2012
3,621
479
ISO 3200 is my personal limit but confused as to why there is not enough light. Does your house not have windows? Lamps?
 

timmy_650

EOS RP
Dec 20, 2012
293
26
A blurry picture is no good for anyone. So if you shoot at 3200 and have little noise but a blurry picture from movement, that is a useless picture. If you shoot at 128000 and it is a noise image but not blurry, that image can still be used.
 

Alex_M

EOS RP
Oct 16, 2015
345
2
Kat, electronic flash is something that you should consider adding to you photographic equipment set. You can get inexpensive and powerful speedlite for $120.00. This unit is powerful enough for you to take photos even at ISO 100. No need to sacrifice image quality. You can bounce flash of the ceiling or neutral colour wall to achieve a softer light on your subject. It isn't hard. Canon ex430 speedlite is a good starting point. There are quite a few third party options as well. I have extensive experience with Yongnuo 600RT flashes and these units are good value.

http://yongnuousa.net/products/600ex-rt
 

JPAZ

If only I knew what I was doing.....
CR Pro
Sep 8, 2012
958
52
I've had the same issue. The kids just don't stand still so you need a fast shutter speed. And f/2.8 can be useful but it often does not give me the depth of field I want for a little one on the move (even with the superb focusing of the 5Diii). I concur that a noisy but focused image that is not blurred by movement is better than a quiet but blurry shot. I will easily go to iso 5000 (and higher but I try not to) and add all the ambient light I can muster into the scene where I am shooting. But, the best shots are those where I add a Speedlite, even bouncing off the ceiling or wall to this setup. Just today I was at my kids house and I was shooting my 23 month old grandson with the 5Diii and the 24-70 f/2.8 ii. While some "natural light" images will be OK, any time I added the flash, it helped. For example, today I was shooting f/5.6, iso 2400, 1/250 with a 430EX angled up to bounce off the ceiling (tuck a card in to give me eye-light) and that seemed to work pretty well. The flash "freezes" the action somewhat. This was in a family room but these settings will vary with the location. I take a couple of random shots to adjust the settings then focus on the kid playing. More formal toddler portraits are a different animal and frankly, not one I have much expertise in taming. My photos are of the toddlers doing their thing. I keep the camera ready to go after I set it up and can quickly grab it and take some images.

And, be prepared to take a lot of shots. The little ones don't exactly pose or stand still for us. There will be some keepers and some not so much. Definitely shoot RAW and use the NR software of your choice.

And, above all else, have fun with the little ones (assuming this is your family). While a great image that looks incredible at 13 x 19 is a work of art, I'd rather get some decent images for the family and me but spend my time playing with the little guy. My memories of time with the family are what counts for me..
 

Besisika

How can you stand out, if you do like evrybdy else
Mar 25, 2014
721
142
Montreal
Given that you use a 24-70mm I assume that you can get close to the kids.
The 5D3 has difficulty in managing shadow in high ISO, so if your scene involves dark background, high ISO with that camera is not a good idea. This has been improved greatly in newer version.
But I own and use the 5D3 as my secondary and still quite happy with it.

On the other end, moving subject requires a lot of light. You can get away with continuous light (window light, bulb, LED lights) as long as that movement is not "big". But as soon as they begin to run, or jump or even clap their hands flash is the best solution as it has the ability to freeze movement (as many already stated).
Besides, flash is portable, easy to gel and has TTL. These 4 advantages made them popular. Not to mention that you don't have to change the existing light (sometime impossible to change), and you can position the flash almost wherever you want.

In beginning of your flash journey focus on freezing the movement, and later on as you get better, adjust your configuration to incorporate ambient light.
My preference is to put the flash on a small light stand and move the stand wherever I want. If wall/ceiling is white then just bounce it, if not then use a diffuser of some sort (a very portable and work nicely in small space is flashbender).
In the beginning, ignore ambient light and use lower ISO so that flash is mainly your light source, but if you put it far enough it will lighten the whole room. Its advantage is that it freezes every movement. Your ISO depends on the distance, you could start with ISO 400 at 1/160th sec, 2.8
After a while increase your ISO to around 1250, 1/100th sec, 2.8 but you will get more and more ambient light in your photos and then it is time to gel your flash to match the color of that ambient light. Gelling a speedlite is very easy, learn to see the color of the existing light and use corresponding gel.
You will begin to pay attention to the movement as well and switch back to the original method when that movement is big, by lowering your ISO to 400 so that ambient won't contribute much.
Later on, you will add another light as background light to give the scene more interesting look.

Remember though, that if subject is far, 24-70mm won't make it and your flash may not be strong enough, then it is time to use/rent prime lenses and high ISO, like 135 2.0
 

Mikehit

EOS R6
Jul 28, 2015
3,313
502
kat.hayes said:
2. What is a good ISO range to use for this? I'm not sure what range I should be staying within.
What ISOs have you tried?
I was talking to a guy recently who goes to the Amazon every few years to photograph wildlife and regularly uses ISO 25,000. I have not seen any of his images so I do not know his tolerance to noise but it shows some people are happy with it but some people will not be.
The best I can say is 'try it' under different circumstances - for example it may be better in some situations to overexpose by one stop and go to ISO 6,400 and push back down in post processing than to shoot at 3200 in the first instance.
If you are shooting for web use you may find 12,800 OK. If printing to 20x12 and/or recovering shadows it may be less helpful. Suck it and see before you spend hundreds of dollars you may not need to.
 
kat.hayes said:
I'm using a 5DM3 and a EF 24-70mm 1:2.8 L in a low light environment. I'm trying to get photos of a toddler playing.
I'm shooting wide open, though I'm still not getting enough light.

1. I could use a tripod and make the shutter slower, though this will likely cause a problem with my subject moving.
2. What is a good ISO range to use for this? I'm not sure what range I should be staying within.

Any other advice?

Thanks.
sharp & grainy is better than clean and blurred: Get enough shutter speed, live with the consequences. A sharp grainy shot of the perfect moment is superior to a posed "perfect" shot.

Use flash, use off camera flash, use manual flash.. I used to be scared of flash though wouldn't admit it, I bought two Yongnuo guns and played and it's comming together, Manual is definitely easier than Auto.

Put off cameras flash into objects that are in frame and make them part of the game (globes etc)

use fill flash with available light to fill shadows so as play develops and the moment appears it won't matter that the child is sitting in the shadows.

Get a wider lens, like the 50STM or the 85f1.8. which will buy you a stop.. I wouldn't reccomend any faster as getting focus on a fast moving child with a really shallow DoF lens is a nightmare, though I'm sure some can make it work.
 

Besisika

How can you stand out, if you do like evrybdy else
Mar 25, 2014
721
142
Montreal
rfdesigner said:
Use flash, use off camera flash, use manual flash.. I used to be scared of flash though wouldn't admit it, I bought two Yongnuo guns and played and it's comming together, Manual is definitely easier than Auto.
Many people are (scared).
As long as you don't use it on camera as a direct flash it is the best solution for many scenarios.
It is really worth learning it. Just start with simple bounce flash with TTL.
Manual flash is simple as well, if you have time. Just start somewhere and adjust accordingly.

Many have changed their mind when they saw their own results. Just avoid pointing it directly to subject - that's it!