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07/11/2013 02:43:52 AM · #1
Hi
I have a technical problem, at least I think it's a technical problem.
I wanted to take some Ballet shots and got invited to take pictures at a dress rehearsal. I keep all my images for my own use, in exchange they get some to sell to raise funds/ create awareness whatever. It suited me fine.
I chatted to someone who recently took amazing ballet shots (on stage) and he told me, I would need a f1.4 lens, else I was really wasting my time. OK, so I went to rent a 50 mm f1.4. I played around before and took some lovely Macro shots ... so the lens is fine.

I got to the stage. They "said" they would work on full lights, I am not sure if they did, but I had to cranck up my ISO to 400 and at times even higher. because I wanted to work on about 400 or faster to get the moves nice and crisp.

.... I was so dissapointed with the result :-(. All the images are really "soft", blurry. very little detail in the facse at all. Any idea what went wrong?

I was wondering if there is a problem with the IS (image stabilizer?). My kit lenses have that on the lens, this rented one doesn't have anything on the lens. I have no idea if some lenses come "automatically" stabilised, or if the better cameras have that within the camera, or if indeed MY camera (Canon 550D - Rebel2(?)) would have a setting to do that?

I have shot action before - outdoors, I am pretty "good" at it (I am not saying that to show off, just to point out that I am unlikely to "blur" several hundred pics because I can't take an action shot). My pics are not blurred, I have good timing, its something that seems to come naturally, so I am doubly dissapointed with these results.

Now the ballet company was most accommodating (or desperate). They allowed me to come and shoot more tonight at their "charity event" (a type of unofficial opening night). I won't have as much freedom to move around as I had yesterday, but at least I can get a few more shots - IF I can sort out the problem.

I also went on to "servo" autofocus, I thought that may help. I shot in manual, some images have a problem because of that, I am OK with that, I know that was me, but the "softness" really, really irritates me.

Any help or ideas?

This is one of the BETTER ones!' . substr('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/140000-144999/141319/120/Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_1075239.jpg', strrpos('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/140000-144999/141319/120/Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_1075239.jpg', '/') + 1) . '. It's obviously unedited, and no, the stage floor was not sloping ;-). It looks far worse in higher res. I think the blurriness seems to get "compacted" somehow when I downsize. I don't know, I still don't understand all this resolution stuff.

Argh ... and its my day for technology. The preview button doesn't work, so I can't see if the image is actually there ... will post and see.



07/11/2013 03:16:50 AM · #2
I think someone like matto or allenP would be good help here. I m not sure whats going on for sure but let me take a crack at it:

your shutter speed looks quick enough to capture this. If you really want, you can do a motion blue analysis using the latest photoshop to determine ( i doubt it but) if thats the cause. If you lack this tool, send me a winner and i'll look at it

You're using 1.4 aperture. I only use that aperture when i can control my subjects fairly well and certainly not for moving objects. Its paper thin, and you have to test your lens sharpness carefully (with regards to your specific camera body).

I m also not sure how quickly the 50 1.4 tracks, it may just not be keeping up with the speed - but then if in autofocus, how did you manage to shoot? I'd pay close attention to your focus points to ensure they're tack sharp. In general primes do a quick job of tracking, but there's no comparison between a 85mm 1.8 and a 50mm 1.8 so that may be part of the issue.

Finally, if you're using the t2i - i m not sure how quickly it tracks as a body either. I haven't used it, but if its anything like the 60d it should be pretty decent at it. You mentioned you're good at these kinds of shots so my mind goes back to the only new element (the lens). Keep in mind that low light indoor tracking is not the same (at all) as outdoor daytime tracking. The system works much harder.

Looking at the picture, theres a definite progression from blue to (relatively speaking) sharp to blur.. I don't see any one point of the image thats really sharp though. Any of the above issues could be culprit. I'd be willing to analyze an original shot for you if youd like - pm me.

Sorry i wasn't more help,

Devinder

Message edited by author 2013-07-11 03:18:18.
07/11/2013 03:38:23 AM · #3
A couple of things. First of all I think the shot example is wonderful. I am a theater lighting designer and I look for shots that show what my lights are doing. so lets examine the photo first. I can make out the direction of the light the colors in the foreground and the colors in the background, the face is lit and recognizable and most importantly the colors look correct and not retouched. First you must recognize that theaters us mostly tungsten-halogen lamps at aprox. 3000K-4000K so I would make sure your white balance is set to that. Most lighting designers then put gels in the lights to give us colors but also reduces the intensity that hits the stage. This is especially noticeable in the Blue color range. and I see that in your photo below. The girls in the background look blurry because of movement but also the intensity of the light on stage in that area. We also tend to use what are called gobos in our lighting fixtures. This breaks up the light and to the naked eye might not be noticeable at times but can appear soft and diffused on camera. Basically we are shaping the light and sculpting the body. We love to do this in the background of the scene to help create depth as well. You best bet is to crank up the ISO when shooting in a theater, yes you will get grainy photos but those are better than blurry ones. you are not going to get studio quality shots when doing stills for theaters. As for my settings I usually have mine set to 800-1600 ISO depending on how dark it is mostly 1600 and then a rather fast shutter speed. I usually keep my Fstop at f4.5-f8 remember there is usually background action going on on stage and you want to grab that as well. Oh and one final thing I goes without saying but never,ever ever use a flash.

Recap:ISO 800-1600
Shutter speed: as fast as I can go
f4.5-f8
Stock 18-55mm lens
70mm-300mm zoom

If you know this dance company well, talk to their lighting designer he might let you come in and practice under stage lights. Just to get an idea what is going on with setting with out the pressure of having to get that perfect shot. Set the camera on a tripod put it on a timer or remote and walk across the stage at different speeds. That way when the time comes you can nail it. He also might be able to turn up one light with out a gel so you can white balance off of that.
Good luck and feel free to ask more questions I will leave you with a couple of shots, these are unedited and come directly out of my theatre portfolio ' . substr('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/75000-79999/77577/120/Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_1075244.jpg', strrpos('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/75000-79999/77577/120/Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_1075244.jpg', '/') + 1) . ' ' . substr('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/75000-79999/77577/120/Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_1075245.jpg', strrpos('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/75000-79999/77577/120/Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_1075245.jpg', '/') + 1) . '

Message edited by author 2013-07-11 04:02:06.
07/11/2013 05:14:55 AM · #4
I've done a lot of works during dancing shows, both with video and photos.

You need very high shutter speed and ISO over 1600.

No less.
07/11/2013 05:43:57 AM · #5
Hi

Thank you to everyone so far - very insightful (is that a word?).
OK, so in theory I would be "better off" upping my ISO and closing my lens or using my good old 18 - 55 mm (which I love, I really battled with the prime lens that it forced me to run up and down the theater aisles to take wider and closer shots).

So interesting the whole thing.

07/11/2013 05:48:17 AM · #6
Originally posted by rmhoman:

I am a theater lighting designer and I look for shots that show what my lights are doing. Most lighting designers then put gels in the lights to give us colors but also reduces the intensity that hits the stage. This is especially noticeable in the Blue color range. and I see that in your photo below. The girls in the background look blurry because of movement but also the intensity of the light on stage in that area. We also tend to use what are called gobos in our lighting fixtures. This breaks up the light and to the naked eye might not be noticeable at times but can appear soft and diffused on camera. Basically we are shaping the light and sculpting the body. I goes without saying but never,ever ever use a flash.



Yes, I know, NO FLASH :-) (hey, that would make things easy, why make things easy if they can be hard? ;-))

The lighting is indeed very interesting. I have sequences of pictures of the dancers doing their routine literally withing meters of one another and the light is completely different - yeellow warm to blue cold :-).
I think the small dancers blurred is as much due to the light as it is due to the f1.4 of the lens. But that effect I rather like. If I could just get the main figure sharp.

07/11/2013 07:07:41 AM · #7
i think shooting with that lens wide open will result in shots that are a bit soft to begin with. also, at the that aperture, the focal plane would be pretty shallow...i know you're at a distance from the subjects but still.

i think maybe crank up the iso a bit and stop down the lens to maybe f2?
07/11/2013 07:30:38 AM · #8
dof is a concern at wide apertures and close focus, when your subject is further away that dof get wider.

next time i'd rent any 70-200/2.8, 2.8 at the distance to get a full body shot will be plenty of dof to get most of the subject in focus, plus it wont be soft wide open. you also really need a body that is capable of handling noise better at higher ISO. if you plan to do this often you will best served looking at a full frame camera, any of the 5ds or a 6D. you can easily go to ISO 1600 on a FF, maybe even 3200-6400 if you have good noise removing techniques in post.
07/11/2013 07:34:43 AM · #9
Originally posted by Mike:

dof is a concern at wide apertures and close focus, when your subject is further away that dof get wider.

next time i'd rent any 70-200/2.8, 2.8 at the distance to get a full body shot will be plenty of dof to get most of the subject in focus, plus it wont be soft wide open. you also really need a body that is capable of handling noise better at higher ISO. if you plan to do this often you will best served looking at a full frame camera, any of the 5ds or a 6D. you can easily go to ISO 1600 on a FF, maybe even 3200-6400 if you have good noise removing techniques in post.


A full frame camera is really a huge difference in this kind of photography - HUGE!
07/11/2013 07:35:42 AM · #10
Are you shooting RAW or JPEG?

If JPEG, then the muddies in the shots could be coming from in camera noise reduction..
07/11/2013 07:44:53 AM · #11
Originally posted by giantmike:

Are you shooting RAW or JPEG?

If JPEG, then the muddies in the shots could be coming from in camera noise reduction..


In this case I was shooting jpeg only, because I have found the camera can't handle continuous shots in raw very well.

As it turns out I did very few continuous shots anyway, so could have stayed in RAW, hindsight ... :-)

07/11/2013 07:45:58 AM · #12
always shoot RAW in low light.
07/11/2013 07:50:02 AM · #13
Originally posted by Mike:

if you plan to do this often you will best served looking at a full frame camera, any of the 5ds or a 6D. you can easily go to ISO 1600 on a FF, maybe even 3200-6400 if you have good noise removing techniques in post.


I don't "plan" on doing this often. I wouldn't "mind" doing it. I love theater and film and all that suff, so I enjoyed it, but the reason I did it, again in hindsight, was all wrong. I really wanted some "beautiful" ballerina shots, that was my aim. I think I need to get a ballerina into a studio for that, or at least an environment where I can "blitz" her with flash(es) :-). Great learning experience, but yes, I DID enjoy the theater shots, I think that is why I am so dissapointed with the outcome. If I wouldn't have liked the whole shoot so much I probably wouldn't care that I have a few hundred sub-quality pics.
07/11/2013 07:53:36 AM · #14
Originally posted by Mike:

always shoot RAW in low light.


Thank you - will do
07/11/2013 08:01:00 AM · #15
dont be disapointed. you attempted something you never did before in a brutal lighting environment with less than optimal gear, next time you will do better. if anything you earned something, that is whats important.

Message edited by author 2013-07-11 08:02:49.
07/11/2013 12:21:01 PM · #16
the person that gave you the advice to run out and buy a 1.4 did not have a lot of experience shooting live dance it seems .
A couple of points.

Yes it may seem dark but stage lights "pool" so you have areas that are far far brighter than you think . Look at the girl on the left in the background see where she is lit and where the light falls off . Use the pools to your advantage ... averaging the stage is going to give mediocre results.

Don't be afraid to trade aperture for shutter speed... yep I said it ... take the hit on motion blur as dance is about motion . Use the tradeoff to enhance the dynamic nature of the dance

Get off dead center ... I see it all the time ... photographers rush for the front row and stay there for the entire show and they create only one point of view ... I normally ask the event organizer if they mind if I move around (the never do but I ask anyway to be polite) I pick out 3 or 4 sweet spots around the house in the isles or wings so I have different vantage points for more interesting shots than dead on.

I shoot most dance events with a Nikkor 70-200 VRII 2.8 shutter speeds range from 1/60 to 1/100 add aperture in the 4, 5.6, 6.7 range (gotta meter for the light pools NOT average the stage) I set ASA (sorry ISO) to get those settings. I am shooting D700/D800 so I can crank up the ISO but I used the same technique when I shot the noise machine known as the D70 I do occasionally use a monopod but I have a strange grip technique that is pretty stable with that 70-200.

I shoot raw for EVERYTHING ...No Exceptions Why throw out my Negative :)

In addition in my expiration flash is a no-no for live performance besides hard shadows the flash can cause issues with performers (I saw a girl miss a jump once and she claimed that the flash "blinded" her. Glad it was not mine).

I hope this helps
07/11/2013 03:10:34 PM · #17
I have 50-250mm and canon 1000D...When i do action photography.. i use center focus point ( selective), if Shutter speed is around 1/500, IS is tuned off, Shoot in JPG instead of RAW.

here are images i uploaded in FB folder Action
07/11/2013 08:12:11 PM · #18
?
07/11/2013 09:43:35 PM · #19
Originally posted by General:

I have 50-250mm and canon 1000D...When i do action photography.. i use center focus point ( selective), if Shutter speed is around 1/500, IS is tuned off, Shoot in JPG instead of RAW.


I prefer RAW myself. I feel it gives me greater control over white balance and color correcting,brightness and contrast and enjoy non destructive editing. also when I export it I can export to any other file format with out degradation. Just my preferred mode of shooting unless doing timelapse because my video software doesn't recognize raw and converting 3000+ shots to JPEG is a pain.

Message edited by author 2013-07-11 21:44:17.
07/11/2013 09:55:03 PM · #20
Originally posted by nomad469:



In addition in my expiration flash is a no-no for live performance besides hard shadows the flash can cause issues with performers (I saw a girl miss a jump once and she claimed that the flash "blinded" her. Glad it was not mine).


My biggest problem with flash is it spoils the design of the piece. The lighting designer usually puts the light at a level for a reason. by using flash it spoils the aesthetic for me. I once asked our producer to remove a photographer from our photo call because of the use of flash. She complied because that is not what the piece looked like and most of our photos are for archival purposes anyway, if the photographer asks me for more light (during a photo call not a live performance) I will usually bump it up, but that is because sometime a camera won't pick up the nuances our eyes do. He also was polite and was asked to pick up certain "look". Also most designers I know like to take their own photos ask them what settings they use.
07/12/2013 12:04:32 AM · #21
Gaby, if you get the chance to do another shoot and really think that you need some other equipment, give me a shout and you can borrow some of my gear.
I haven't shot ballet before but have shot a Grease performance by the Barnyard company. Using my 5D3 and 70-200 2.8 I was hitting 6400 ISO often in order to keep the shutter speed fast enough.
Spot metering as suggested earlier is a good idea and I found it helped a lot.
07/12/2013 12:12:04 AM · #22
I did an indoor live performance coverage couple of weeks back and some of the photographs are here

I followed as most of the other folks said, I used 6D with ISO over 6400 to cover some fast movement.

Checkout those photographs.
07/12/2013 12:56:16 AM · #23
Originally posted by pgirish007:

I did an indoor live performance coverage couple of weeks back and some of the photographs are here

I followed as most of the other folks said, I used 6D with ISO over 6400 to cover some fast movement.

Checkout those photographs.


That's where 6D stands out

Edit: Nice pics

Message edited by author 2013-07-12 00:56:32.
07/12/2013 01:58:17 AM · #24
Reason i use JPG is that i want faster FPS...i read this tip in an article "How to capture Birds in flight"
07/12/2013 06:14:52 AM · #25
Originally posted by General:

Reason i use JPG is that i want faster FPS...i read this tip in an article "How to capture Birds in flight"


in a dark arena, where you are pushing your ISO into areas where noise becomes and issue, you want RAW. It is much easier to be reduce noise and pull shadow detail from a RAW than a jpg.

getting the best exposure possible usually takes precedent over burst rate in the OPs case.
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