Taking photos in large rooms


Apr 16, 2014
31
0
6
Singapore
#1
Hope somebody can help me out here.

What is the best way to take nice pictures with flash in a school assembly hall that is too large and ceiling too high for bounce flash? I would also prefer not to crank up the ISO if possible.

The subjects are fairly fast moving - children and their performances on stage.

I have the 70d and a fairly powerful flash (600ex-rt), but it is a struggle to take nice pictures especially when the night falls the hall becomes darker. I have been using ISOs of up to 6400 on some instances and image quality isn't that great.
 

richiemccaw1

Senior Member
Feb 21, 2013
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#2
Low light and fast moving dont go that well together. You need as much light gathering ability as you can, via fast lens and/or good sensors (likely FF). Otherwise you wouldnt be able to freeze motion at all.

Best bet for a telephoto zoom is a 70-200 f2.8. As for the camera, ISO6,400 sounds quite high already. What lens were you using to shoot?

If you need even better high ISO performance, you may have to look at a 6D, D750, D3s or even the a7s.
 

Apr 16, 2014
31
0
6
Singapore
#3
Low light and fast moving dont go that well together. You need as much light gathering ability as you can, via fast lens and/or good sensors (likely FF). Otherwise you wouldnt be able to freeze motion at all.

Best bet for a telephoto zoom is a 70-200 f2.8. As for the camera, ISO6,400 sounds quite high already. What lens were you using to shoot?

If you need even better high ISO performance, you may have to look at a 6D, D750, D3s or even the a7s.
Thanks for the quick reply! I usually use the EFS 17-55 f2.8 and a Sigma 18-200 f3.5-6.3.

To freeze motion, I had to go to 1/80s with the f2.8, that means an ISO of about 1600 or sometimes 3200 depending on the scene. The 6400 (auto iso limit) is reached when I use the Sigma lens at about 100mm zoom and above with 1/60s and above shutter.

Other than going FF, are there any flash diffusers or modifiers that would work well in a large room?
 

SkyStrike

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Staff member
Nov 29, 2010
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#4
Since you are referring to stage performance, other than pushing your iso AND using large aperture lens like 70200 f2.8, there isn't much choice you have left.

Going ff will bring about another issue. The reach... 200mm on crop, is 300mm (or 320mm) and on ff, it's really 200mm. Which I find it abit short in focal length. But all this depends on your distance from the stage and your framing.

How far you are away from your subject ?
 

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catchlights

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Sep 27, 2004
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#5
simply put it, you need more light to reach the camera sensor.
to increase the power of flash you can go closer, when you cut the distance of camera to subject into half, you gain two stops of flash light. so try go as close as possible to shoot.
btw, if you are shooting a wide scene, your human subjects will be quite small in the photo, some motion blur on the subjects is acceptable, if you are not pixel peeking.

and FYI, using any of the flash diffuser or modifier, it only cut down the flash power, since you already have inadequate flash power, why you still want to use these?
 

Zeisser

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Jul 12, 2008
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#6
Like what bro Catchlights mentioned 'to increase the power of flash you can go closer, when you cut the distance of camera to subject into half, you gain two stops of flash light. so try go as close as possible to shoot'

Just sharing an example this was taken at Suntec Convention Centre Hall using f3.5 1/50sec ISO 400 @ 29mm wide. The ceiling height
is high as we know it. Bounced flash was used.

 

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#7
alternatively, remote trigger with the flash nearer to the subject (most likely set on the lowest power for short flash to freeze motion).
any fast lens, preferably on a crop sensor would be good for stage performance. at the widest aperture and shutter speed if probably 1/125, the lowest power should be sufficient to light up the stage and give pretty good frozen moments.

Also, if you're using direct flash for 600ex--make sure its at maximum zoom for it to reach further as well.
 

Oct 26, 2009
459
2
18
Red Dot Island
#8
Hi, I shoot a lot for my old school. If it is a stage show there should be enough lighting for the stage. Normally the lighting is better than the flash can provide. Just that you may need a higher ISO to be comfortable.

I must say the stage show I took mostly also move about like Taiji show or stage show with some moving about, but not to the extend for students to run about on the stage. Never use flash because normally I will stay at the middle of the hall staircase and not running about myself.
 

#9
Nicely lit photo example by Zeisser there but that example is a special public event with ample lighting of running spotlights and some fill ambient light. But I think when TS is talking is his typical SCHOOL HALL where lighting may no be as elaborate? ( a photo from him would help) Also don't think he is asking what gear to upgrade as the option. If so, think some here had already covered that.

Something to add In general for all in similar situation and not just directly for the TS using EXISTING gear before considering buying better gear or accessories:

Learn to know the camera gear you bought including the pitfalls of limitations. What it can or can't do under different lighting situation. You need to know well within those limits, there will be types of shots you NEVER be able to capture well so focus your effort on not getting frustrated and concentrate on what's possible for clean captured shots. Get upset later in your postmortem of editing your shots.

Know the school hall stage and lighting in advance if possible and how it's being used for the event. This is a no "brainer" if you are the designated or one of the key photographer of events in your school.

Scout the best locations to shoot. Be it stationed at one point or multiples. Know the pitfalls of shooting from there. Notice the focus of lights positioned, be it ambient, fixed or follow spotlights..etc? Notice the hot spot areas. This knowledge is your bonus for getting good shots.

Note, lighting is not just about illumination. It can compliment the person(s) face or feature or make them look flat and bad. Especially panel speech, debates..etc where no one is moving about unlike a full stage performance event. It's like taking portraits using existing light to paint' your shot. Use the lighting in the hall like an extension of your flash. ( whether you use your actual flash or not ) When you use your flash, think of where you are, how far the "throw' of your flash is from where you stand. I tend to think of the flash as my fill light if I can help it. But that is my style and I like using ambient light to balance for a nicer shot. To think of it as my main illumination, again there are limits good and bad. I think most already know or shared. Now unless you are allowed to get up close to the stage to shoot the kids, you have very little options using flash. ( lots of batteries for sure but then the recharge time between flash? )

Do test setting shots to check the range of exposures of the stage at it's brightest, mid range and darkest, What exposure setting for ambient lights only, when spotlights are use..etc on stage? These steps helps you better anticipate setting changes on the fly without wasting time thinking about it.

Don't just concentrating on fiddling with your camera setting ( you should have figured it out by time the event is starting if possible ) but be aware of the event to clue you in on what might happen next so you are focusing there before it happens especially for performances. Go to the rehearsal if the event you are shooting is that important or you are the main photographer for the school. You need to do your homework before the event. If you are just part of the audience, that is another story but you can still try to anticipate. And you can only do that if you don't keep fiddling around with your setting and not watch the event unfolding before you.

Focus on situation, people on stage are moving or gesturing with the LEAST amount of movement or posing still. ( if you have seen the rehearsal and know where they will be position etc even better)

The more spotlights are used to focus on the people with the less amount of ambient fill lights, you should take time to figure out keylight shining on them for proper exposure. Don't worry if background gets too dark for details or little illumination on the props. Sometime you want to keep the focus on your main subject more then trying to capture EVERYTHING about the scene to make sense. Isolating is a great way to draw attention to the subject. Let it be. The importance is capturing a good story composition on the person is just as important. Knowing the intensity of the spotlights are important if they are mainly use to light up key person(s)

I stress knowing stage lighting in advance because, for myself, I try to shoot in MANUAL MODE in tricky light situation to prevent light sensor in my DSLR from going crazy trying to compensate for the changing dark/bright portions of my composition. You'll be surprise the options your shutter or aperture setting can get once you figure out that out. Like a music stage performance where main lights are on the performer(s) and the rest of the stage is almost in the dark or low light, your DSLR light sensor does not know that. So it thinks it's too dark and will try to slow down your shutter or widen your aperture ( when in A or S modes or auto modes) to let more light in thus you are reduce to using slower settings. Take control, shoot manual if your DSLR keep turning out exposed shots badly.

Example of exposing for key lights: https://www.flickr.com/photos/sammytan/14913642194/in/set-72157648760489595

With any scene too bright or dark, I use a photo editing software like PS or Lightroom to tweak exposures in the shot. Better still, to get a good amount of exposure 'latitude' in POST EDITING I say shoot RAW. JPEG will lose you fine details each time it compresses and save the shot. Compressed file images already lost too much details in shadows or highlight to "resurrect" later in post edit. RAW files get as good as 2-3 stops pushing up or down exposures. That can save you some shutter speed or f-stops.

ISO are getting better with each progressive DSLR entering the market, you keep pushing the ISO higher to try to get higher shutter speed or bring out details from dark subject. While you are doing that, don't forget about the story you are shooting. A good story trumps a slightly bad exposed or blurred shot. And sometime there is a beautiful shot in keeping certain things in the dark where it should then try to capture everything in bright light and details.

Don't be overly worry about grain or 'tack sharp' even pros don't always get it right. Pixel peepers will always bitch about it. But seriously, you shoot for 99% of people who look at the photo and can't tell the differences. If those majority did, they will not be holding up smartphone taking blurry grainy shots at a concert. Who are your photos for? Yes a certain standard is important but you have to know where it starts and stop with what makes a good shot. And that comes from experience and learning.

Only after you have done everything you can with what you have THEN do you justify buying more pricey gears then you ( or they ) think you need or worst only for shooting just a few of those 'rare' situations and you are not paid to do it. So that is money going to waste. If your school expects you to shoot nice shots at every school event then MAKE THE SCHOOL BUY THE GEAR. Or are you shooting for fun?
 

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catchlights

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Sep 27, 2004
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#10
Thanks Sammy for the long post.

Just to add, secondary schools have infocom club, and they have very decent DSLR and Video camera at their disposal, their students using such gears to take school events.
for primary school level, some schools do have photography clubs, but they are too young to handle this, so is either school teachers or parents volunteer to shoot such events.


anyway, we don't know TS shooting events at school is under what type of capacity, as an official photographer, or just as a parent taking photos of his child preforming on stage.
whatever it is, getting addition / "better" gears (upgrading the hardware) is not always the best solution, unless you have already explored all the other solutions, like upgrading the "software".
 

Zeisser

Senior Member
Jul 12, 2008
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#11
'Nicely lit photo example by Zeisser there but that example is a special public event with ample lighting of running spotlights andsome fill ambient light' Thanks for the complement bro Sammy.

But just to share another image taken at the Singapore Polytechnic school hall using a f1.4 50mm standard 1/40sec Iso400 flash bounced
to hold true bro Catchlights statement about distance between camera and subject. I have to admit my flash was the Metz 60CT4 but given TS says he's using the 600EX-RT it's suffice to say should be able to lit up the stage.

 

Apr 16, 2014
31
0
6
Singapore
#12
Thanks very much for all the wonderful advice!

To answer some of the questions, I am taking picture of mine (and other's) kids in a primary school hall and parents are usually there on invitation of the school so it is not so nice if we go stand right by the stage to take pictures as it'll block other students and some teachers. As Bro sammy888 mentioned, they do have an infocomm club and students taking pictures as well but of course parents can't choose what they focus on and being an amateur photographer, it makes my fingers itchy when I see them take pics when I can't.

Thanks again for all your replies. Even though I have been trying to find excuses to upgrade to either the 7dm2 or the d750 (Haha!), your advice will form my key considerations when I take pictures of another school event so that I can upgrade my "software" first before upgrading my equipment.
 

Apr 16, 2014
31
0
6
Singapore
#13
By the way, just to add, I do use Lightroom (and DXO optics for nicer colors and noise processing troublesome pictures) for post processing as well so that gives me more latitude to shoot at lower ISOs or faster shutter speeds.
 

#14
as much as I would like to agree that making full use of you equipment for such occasion prior to justifying for a gear upgrade--the is the reason why shooting concerts, performances, fashion shows and motorsports (or even indoor sports) require better equipments. these are the things that technical skills would not be able to help.

in a way, this is the part where we decide if we're shooting this for a reason or plainly for keepsake. if it purely for keepsake, it would depend on your personal preference and standard you wish to uphold.

of course if the event is well planned with intention to produce great photos and videos, it would be lit appropriately. an upscale fashion show / renowned fashion event would have even lighting across the whole stage. Singapore's F1 night-race has excellent lighting across the track. I was overly impressed with how the organizer improved the lighting overnight--the first night back in 2008; drivers, videographers, and photographers were coming back with comment of the uneven lighting and certain dark spots. on the next night, everything was made to fit all the criteria needed.

i suppose it boils down to how nice of a shot you wish to achieve or what is the type of shot you want to provide. if its purely viewed on your tablet or maybe computer screen + facebook. pushing your iso beyond the recommended would give you surprising improvements. however, that is about the best you could do. most of the school halls are lit in a way that a human eye could see but not meant for photography.

just purely from experience. i could be wrong. :)
push your gears to a point it wouldn't be able to satisfy you and go for the next best thing. :) alternatively, go rent some of the suggested equipments and try.
 

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