Incense

by Bart Arondson

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I'm still new at photography -- really, it is going to be a long while before I can get close to the potential out of the D7000 kit. However, Microsoft recently has been giving me the opportunity to go and photograph things like their Imagine Cup World Finals (which is, incidentally, where I am now).

I'm not really looking at spending lots of money on equipment at this point -- I just bought my first serious camera and it's going to be a long time before I will really be able to seriously use better lenses, or other niceties. However, as long as I get to go to these events, I'd like to be able to capture what I see there.

Consider this failed shot of Team Endeavor_Design from Romania, currently competing at the world finals:

Failed Shot #1

Note how the background is reasonably sharp (indicating correct handholding technique + VR in use).

This failed shot demonstrates the opposite effect -- the subject got tracked just fine but everything except for the one subject is a blur. (This image is also a composition failure but ignore that for the sake of discussion here)

Failed Shot #2

For both shots, the D7000 is about maxed out in terms of sensitivity at ISO3200. As it is I had to throw away a lot of sharpness in order to remove the noise at that sensitivity.

As I see it, the only way to save these shots (the first in particular) would be to somehow get more light into the game. A tripod won't solve my issue here, because as the first shot demonstrates, the camera is perfectly able to capture a sharp image while being handheld here. (And just as important, a tripod is unwieldy at an event) That leaves me two options:

  1. A Fast Lens. This is probably going to be the 35mm f/1.8 or the 50mm f/1.8. (All the fast zooms are in the thousands of dollars range which I don't intend to spend anytime soon)
  2. Some form of flash.

I'm unsure what would be the best place to go from here though. The lens might be more versatile, because many venues won't allow use of a flash, and sometimes there's not a nearby ceiling or wall handy to bounce off for a reasonable shot. On the other hand, going with a faster lens takes away zoom ability. Moreover, a fast lens might get me two stops maximum over my current lens, while a flash would work in pitch darkness. As I've not shot a ton of events before though, I'm not sure which path is the better path.

What should I do?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 2 down vote accepted

You need a faster lens. D7000 is a good camera which is able to produce reasonably clean images even at ISO 1600. If you get a 35mm f/1.8, you'll be able to increase your shutter speed and thus get rid of the motion blur. Using flash could be an alternative to consider but a lot of events don't allow flashes to be used and also sometimes it annoys people, so I'd suggest a faster lens over a flash, if possible something with f/1.4.

Also, shoot a lot of pictures, so your chances of getting a technically and composition-wise sound picture is higher. Event photography is a sector which requires the most amount of pictures to be taken comparing to other sectors, so bear with it.

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Another alternative is the 35mm f/2.0D It's a full frame lens too so on the D7000 you're getting the sharp center for the frame. It is slightly older (D Series lens) which uses the camera body to focus, so that might be a deciding factor. I suggest you read reviews of both and decide which is better for your shots. –  Aren Jul 11 '11 at 7:35
    
I certainly have been doing the "shoot a lot of pictures" bit -- Just for that hour long awards ceremony I think I took about 250. Given the low shutter speed I've been taking advantage of the high speed of the camera to increase the likelihood of getting a non-blurry shot. (As it was, those two pictures I posted are the only reasonably sharp ones out of about 20 :( ) –  Billy ONeal Jul 11 '11 at 17:14
    
Sometimes when I don't have a fast lens with me but I'm forced to take picture in low light situations, I take underexposed (approx -2) pictures with a little higher shutter speed and increase the exposure of the RAW file in post processing. Quality is not the best but it helps to avoid blurry pictures. For example, perfect exposure is ISO 3200, 1/20, f/3.5... I force the camera to a take underexposed pictures at the shutter speed of 1/40 to avoid movement blur and fix the exposure at post processing. You can try. –  fahad.hasan Jul 12 '11 at 4:32

Go for the fast lens.

Contrarily to flash, this will make the entire photos brighter which is more pleasing than having every photo like it was shot in a dark cave and people looking like cut-outs because shadows are being them.

Event photographers also use flash but off-camera flash and they get permission to use them. Sometimes an assistant will follow holding the flash and positioning it. I do not think you will be willing to jump into that direction so soon.

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Consider a fast 50 or 35 (/1.4 or faster).

The nice advantage of a short lens like the 35 is reduced effect of hand motion and it gives your shots a more expansive feel.

If you are allowed to use flash, use it only for fill - always try to pick up as much ambient light in your photos as possible within exposure limitations. You'll want a few warming filters for your flash, too.

Learn how to manage the AF in your camera. In my experience, getting the focus right in low light shooting wide open (e.g. 35/1.4) is tricky.

Whatever you do, avoid the gary fong diffuser crap. Waste of money. Take some white cardboard and fix it to the flash.

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In my experience, 50mm on a crop body is a little more tele-ish for covering events, but I've seen a lot of happy 50mm event shooters as well. –  fahad.hasan Jul 11 '11 at 8:56
    
You're saying the difference between the 1.8 and the 1.4 is big enough to justify the 4x price increase (at 35mm)? (At least the 1.4 50mm is more reasonably priced...) –  Billy ONeal Jul 11 '11 at 16:31

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