Last week, an SPS student asked the following:
A: Hey Jillene,Â
- First and foremost, gymnasiums and auditoriums are notoriously dark spaces.Â Â Most people think that gyms are well lit.Â Â After all, a sporting event is going on in there.Â Â But keep in mind that our eyes are so very efficient at adapting to low light levels.Â Â You’ll likely see very quickly fromÂ blurry picturesÂ that gymnasiums are dark. Â The lesson linked goes through this in detail, but the bottom line is that when youâre shooting in automatic in a dark space, thereâs a good chance youâre going to end up with some motion blur and/or camera shake.
- While you could invest in aÂ speedlightÂ you still might not find this to be a good solution.Â Â For one, it will still likely not be powerful enough shooting from the bleachers.Â Â And in the case of dark auditoriums for music programs, flash will often be strictly prohibited. Indeed, you’ll likely find better results from marrying a great camera body to a “fast lens.”
- Let’s start with the camera body.Â Â When we’re shooting in dark spaces, the single biggest thing we need is a camera that can give great results at high ISO’s.Â Â Remember, shooting at ISO 800 will soak up 8 times more light than shooting at ISO 100.Â Â That said, by “high ISO, I mean at least ISO 1600, and preferably 3200.Â Â If you bought a new DSLR within the past 2-3 years, you’re more than likely good to go, as this has been a large focus of the main players (Canon, Nikon, Sony, etc) in the past few years.Â Â Just also know that just because your camera goes up to ISO 3200 doesn’t mean that 3200 will give “usable” results.Â Â Remember that the higher the ISO, the more “noise” the final image file may exhibit.Â Â But in general, the absolute highest ISO your camera goes to is probably pretty noisy.Â Â So if you’re camera goes up to ISO 6400, 6400 will be pretty noisy, but 3200 will look a lot better, and 1600 will look great.Â Â Also, know that all of the fundamentals of this paragraph is explained in step-by-step detail in theÂ exposure module.Â Â Specifically, I talk about ISOÂ here.
- Remember that by “fast” lens, I don’t mean fast focusing, although that helps.Â Â I mean a lens that let’s in a LOT of light all at once. Â I mention this concept moreÂ in this postÂ (which is open to non-members). Â In short, fast lenses are those with large maximum apertures.Â Â Remember, your lens primarily functions to Â focus light into your camera.Â Â If one lens let’s in twice as much light as another lens, you’d rather have that one, right?Â Â Well, that’s what happens when you go from f5.6 (your standard kit lens) to f2.8.Â Â That 2.8 aperture is letting in 200% more light in the same given amount of time.Â Â f1.4 let’s in twice as much as even the 2.8 lens!!Â Â
- Combine HIGH ISO’s of 1600 and 3200 along with FAST lenses, and you can start capturing moments in these dark spaces without the use of sometimes cumbersome, slow, flashes.Â Â
- Not to mention, just about every other pic you take will look better with that fast lens.Â Â The bigger aperture not only means faster shutter speeds, but it also means better background blur (“bokeh”). Â I talk more about fast lensesÂ hereÂ andÂ here.
One other thing I thought of after I sent this reply is that most of the entry level dslr’s have an “action” mode. Â This attempts to keep shutter speeds above a predetermined threshold, and can thus help avoid some motion blur. Â That said, I still wholeheartedly recommend learning the basics of exposure. Â When you can control it, it’s always better.
Have a question? Â Submit it in the comments. Â Perhaps it’d be a great next blog post!