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I know this is quite vague and that some of you might say the setting depends on how much lighting the place has. However, I want to know what "default" settings I can use for shooting pageants, float parades etc where the subject can bypass me quickly (ramp models can walk past me before I get a good shot, etc.

I tried using Manual to shoot but it takes too long to adjust both shutter speed and aperture especially if the lighting can change quickly.

I tried Aperture and Shutter Speed priority but they produce mostly overexposed shots at most times especially when the lighting is quite strong.

Auto mode is out of the question but I tried it and it is more unreliable, often giving me slow shutter speeds.

What can I do about this?

EDIT: I am using a Nikon D7000 with an 80-200 AF lens. Here are sample pictures I took in a dance competition, which is quite the same as the scenario I am asking: subjects are constanty moving and the lighting is quite dynamic and I can't maintain proper exposures

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Seems to be a metering problem - one of the narrower metering modes might help here. –  ab.aditya Jun 28 '12 at 5:18

6 Answers 6

up vote 8 down vote accepted

In such situations i would usually be in Aperture priority mode instead of Manual

I set my ISO setting to Auto to let the camera compensate for any wrong settings for aperture or shutter speed (refer to this question for the advantages and disadvantages of auto ISO).

Also i would set the metering mode to spot metering to get what i want in the right exposure no matter what is in the rest of the frame, this really depends on the size of your subject and how important the rest of the frame is.

Continuous focus with burst, and a smaller aperture to get more stuff in focus. Careful with this point because if you are in Aperture Priority the camera would set the shutter speed and it might be too slow, although the auto ISO really helps here.

Setting the white balance to a preset or manually would also help to get more consistent shots, keep in mind that if you set the white balance while outdoors the sun will change and clouds could move and setting the white balance would mess things up unless in auto.

for the over-exposure that is happening use the exposure compensation that always works for me, i wont go less than -1 personally

its helpful for editing the photos later to set the "picture style" to "Neutral" (I'm not familiar with cameras other than Canon so I'm sorry if those names make no sense if u don't have a Canon)

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ramp models can walk past me before I get a good shot

I'm not sure if this is auto focus issue or exposure you are referring to. If the AF is the issue try to predict where the subject will be, pre-focus on that spot and turn off your auto focus whether on the lens or the camera body.

Also, look into continuous focus for your particular camera and the technique called panning.

I tried using Manual to shoot but it takes too long to adjust both shutter speed and aperture especially if the lighting can change quickly.

If you are shooting moving subjects decide what shutter speed you need to freeze the motion, then decide what aperture you like to get the desired depth of field, then based on those two factors adjust your ISO to get proper exposure. Don't be afraid to bump up ISO if you need to. From this point on only setting you need to change if lighting changes is ISO.

Also, look at exposure bracketing for your camera.

Next time it would be nice to see what kind of results you are getting. Example of some sort with settings included so we can see exactly what is going on.

EDIT:

sample images are added

So you have the stage lights constantly changing. The only way you can solve this issue is to shoot bracketed exposure, see your manual. Or add flash and let the flash expose the subject correctly and draw in some ambient light to create mood. Off camera flash would be great. Check out strobist.com if you need to learn how to shoot off camera. Hope that helps.

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I tried Aperture and Shutter Speed priority but they produce mostly overexposed shots at most times especially when the lighting is quite strong.

That's what exposure compensation is for! If you're consistently over-exposing by a stop, just set your exposure compensation to -1.

You can also use exposure lock, but it's a bit slower since it requires pointing the camera somewhere else, locking the exposure, then moving the camera back to point at the subject, so it probably won't work well for the situation you described.

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What I do:

Use a high ISO, of course one that still produces good outcomes in terms of noise.

Is depth of field important? If so, use shutter priority and and use exposure compensation to work out the overexposed you mention.

If there is no preference for a specific depth of field I prefer to go with Aperture priority and let the machine adjust the shutter speed accordingly to the ISO and aperture that I set.

Use manual focus, the auto focus step might still you time from your shot and your targets have moved away. This requires some preparation since you should choose a focus spot where you know tour targets are going to fall into.

Finally shoot in burst mode!!!

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In addition to the other suggestions so far, I'd recommend shooting in RAW if you're not already doing so. This will, among other things, give you more ability to compensate for changing lighting by adjusting the white-balance during processing. You can adjust white-balance for JPGs, of course, but edits to JPG files will cause a loss of quality, whereas white balance changes to RAW files will not affect image quality.

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The answer to your question lies in your compositional priorities. Which is most important?:

Fine grain/detail: choose your iso first. Smaller iso # = smaller grain/less pixelation

Depth of focus: choose your aperture first. Smaller f# = bigger aperture = shallower depth of focus

Stopping or blurring of motion: choose your shutter speed first. Faster shutter = less motion blur

Based on this initial setting, adjust your other two setting to allow the correct amount of light to reach the film/sensor for the exposure level you're seeking.

In low light situations where you want to stop motion, you may have to sacrifice fine detail by using a higher iso (what those of us who learned on traditional cameras call "fast film") and/or a bigger aperture (a shallow depth of field can be hard to work with on a moving subject, especially if you are having other focusing issues) in order to get a shutter fast enough to stop the motion you are trying to capture.

In the first and last example photos, your white balance is off (using the wrong film for a particular type of light - daylight, fluorescent, incandescent - in the traditional world). If this is a situation where the lighting is changing at such a pace that you cannot adjust the white balance each time, this can be done in the GIMP (or photoshop if you swing that way) using Levels or Curves. Traditionally, we'd either buy different types of film if we knew in advance what kind of light we'd be shooting in, or use the correct coloured filters on the lens to fix the colour.

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