View Full Version : Low light nightmare: Is there a way to improve?

02-25-2011, 04:59 PM
It was at the local drama class and this play turned out to be the worst series, maybe not surprisingly since some kids wore black while some wore reflective aluminium foil outfit. I was far out back. Any suggestion how this image could be taken with better result? No flash used. Thanks for any suggestion.

Image Quality: Compressed RAW (12-bit)
Device: Nikon D90, Lens: 28-75mm F/2.8G
Focal Length: 46mm
Aperture: F/3.2
Shutter Speed: 1/80s
Exposure Mode: Aperture Priority
Exposure Comp.: -0.7EV
Exposure Tuning:
Metering: Center-Weighted
ISO Sensitivity: ISO 1250
White Balance: Auto, 0, 0

02-25-2011, 11:51 PM
Expose for the whites and try and bring the blacks back in raw. Otherwise, in that scene, you.re pretty screwed. White, black and then throw in some reflective silver for good measure.

02-26-2011, 04:22 AM
Basically, you're stuck with a shot that's very difficult to get right. You need a wide dynamic range for the costumes, not too slow a shutter speed for the action, and there's not a lot of light anyway.

So, to get the best you can, you need to maximise the DR by shooting as near to the base ISO (I think 200 on the D90) as possible (according to DxOmark (http://www.dxomark.com/index.php/en/Camera-Sensor/All-tested-sensors/Nikon/D90), you get about 2 stops more DR at 200 than at the 1250 you used). You might manage a slower shutter by using a tripod and getting the "decisive long moment" when they're not moving much.

You could open the lens up to max aperture, but if it's the Tamron 28-75 you probably need it stopped down a little to get maximum sharpness across the frame.

On to the realms of the theoretical, which probably won't be much help to you in practice. Using a Fuji S5Pro with its wide DR sensor would give you nearly 13 stops DR at ISO 800. Using a 50/1.4 wide open would let you drop the ISO by a couple of stops, and might have just enough DoF. Or maybe the 35/2 would give you more DoF and help a little with the ISO.

Good luck!

02-27-2011, 06:48 PM
A tripod used wasn't possible. I was one of the parents and pinned onto my seat from the left, right, front and back by other audiences; topping that off by a tall guy in front with ball head. You can see his shadow in the middle lower of the image.
I thought of a prime lens but with restricted movement it wouldn't be much feasible.

I suspected as much "I'm screwed", when I saw the boys covered in reflective aluminium. Later on I tried matrix metering which seemed to give more balance tone but that would no way help with the reflective outfits; and the red-yellowish beams on the side gave sort of reddish colour cast.

Thanks for your interests and replies.

02-28-2011, 01:24 AM
there's probably 15 or 16 stops in that shot. no camera can do that.

02-28-2011, 01:52 AM
It's a school play. Crap lighting goes with the event.
50mm f1.8 lens shoot away and be happy with anything that is even half acceptable because it will be 1000 times better than the Mums got on their cell phones or $100 p&s cameras.
If you really, really have a need to get decent photos go to the dress rehearsals when the lights are on properly and/or you can move around in front of the stage to get your angles better.


One more thing. If you get closer you don't have to shoot the whole stage. You can shoot individuals or small sections of the stage which will then generally make exposure easier. Think how much better it would have been to be able to shoot just the three aluminium people or even the two boys in the middle of the stage rather than having all those backs turned to the camera.

Dread Pirate Roberts
03-01-2011, 01:04 AM
You're screwed same as the rest of have been for our kids events like this.

Work the composition, try for a better moment. Other than that your settings are similar to what I've settled on ie:

As high iso as can to minimise grain, as open as possible without compromising contrast and sharpness too much. A stiller moment so the kids aren't all blurred by the long shutter speed. Hold as steady as possible using best cam technique.

03-07-2011, 04:25 PM


Exposure Comp.: -0.7EV

03-08-2011, 06:21 PM
-ve EV was to compensate for the brighter spots based on the experienced gained from last time. Last year I shot at 0 EV and most images came out over exposed slightly. The lights were not even.

Dread Pirate Roberts
03-09-2011, 02:51 AM
Have you tried matrix metering? My results improved a lot once a kind person here suggested that to me.

03-09-2011, 03:44 AM
Matrix definitely got me better result as I already said in my second post. I should put some more photos here.
Thanks for all your inputs guys.

03-11-2011, 04:46 PM
VR and dropping the SS would help out some but that's an expensive proposition. Not much you can do in some situations where you're not in control of the environment and this is just one of them. Get the shot and break out PhotoShop. :)