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I want to get nice shots with ambient light (meaning the natural light in the room of restaurants, living room with x-mas tree lights only...) so I can catch the glow of light on people’s faces as they are illuminated.

All I have is the kit lens for the Nikon d7000 for now... looking to get a 2nd lens to help with this after I can figure out what lens that will be. This is the cornerstone of my question.

The problem I see with my current shooting is that when I shoot the shutter takes so long that picture is blurred because the subjects (people) move.

With my basic understanding of photography, I get that there needs to be sufficient light and with low light the shutter will stay open longer, especially since my aperture is not large at all with the kit lens - 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 AF-S DX VR ED Nikkor.

Am I missing something here?

Or am I correct in looking for a lens with larger aperture to get sharp low light images of moving subjects?

Please let me know if I am off base, and if I should require a new lens, please also suggest the lens and reason to me (so I can grow my knowledge as well).

Thanks all

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5 Answers 5

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Unless your subjects are sitting still, slow shutter speeds are just going to have blur. As a general rule of thumb that I use, I tend to be 1/150 of a second or faster for normally moving people, but in indoor ambient light this usually means quite high ISO. Fortunately for you, the D7000 is excellent at high ISO, so the normal concerns with noise is substantially reduced. Because of that, I would suggest setting your camera to shutter priority (Tv), select a shutter speed, and let the camera pick aperture and ISO.

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what is the shutter speed needed to stop motion? lets say a water droplet in mid air, or a jumping dog, or a toy helicopter... what is the shutter speed needed to freeze a clear image of these subjects mid motion? –  kacalapy Dec 29 '10 at 15:08
1  
That varies quite a bit and it's actually more about the duration of light rather than shutter speed. For example, I shoot water drops all the time, but my shutter speed is usually 1 second, the room is very dark, and the flash is fired with a very short burst. This is what freezes motion. In any case, there is no pat answer to that, it definitely varies according to the subject and their current speed, but for moving animals, I generally try to get up above 1/500s or faster, especially if the light is good. –  John Cavan Dec 29 '10 at 15:23
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@kacalapy: that's a good question to post separately... but by and large the answer is "it depends on the speed of the object in motion." –  Craig Walker Dec 29 '10 at 15:25
    
Not sure how the config on D7000 are, but I would assume it has "Auto iso" like the older Nikons. This is a great feature. You configure the max allowed shutter speed and it will automatically increase ISO. Also, under really low light situations I would rather use P instead of S. –  grm Dec 29 '10 at 19:45

Since most of your photography is of your wife and daughter (and not of, say, bands in a dimly lit bar), you could also think about getting an external flash. As in, you either need to increase the low light capability of your camera (ie. get a lens with a larger aperture) or increase the light in the environment. I've been using the SB-600, which is priced comparably to a prime lens (depending on the lens) and it has been giving me good shots in low light, where even my prime lens struggles.

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or am i correct in looking for a lens with larger aperture to get sharp low light images of moving subjects?

By and large, yes. On top of everything @John Cavan said, you could get a lens with a larger aperture (I use a 35mm f/2). The larger aperture means more light coming in, which means you can compensate with a faster shutter speed in shutter speed priority mode.

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I've been using a 50mm f1.4 (Canon, but I'm sure the Nikon behaves the same) for the same purpose - I prefer to avoid flash and when indoors this lens does the trick most of the time.

Some tips I've found useful:

  1. If you have light coming in from a window, make sure you are between the window and the subject (or you get backlit subjects)
  2. If you have light coming from artificial sources, spend the time to get to know what White Balance settings on your camera give you the best skin tones in your house for example.
  3. Don't trust your autofocus fully - when your aperture is opened up to 1.4, you have a very shallow depth of field and your AF will find the first thing it thinks is the subject. In many cases it's a nose - and a focused nose may yield eyes that are out of focus - go for the eyes instead using manual override.
  4. Don't agonize over high ISO when shooting - better to capture the moment at 1600+ and live with some grainyness/noise than to miss it or have a very ungrainy but blurry picture.
  5. Coach your subjects to not move too much, it can be a challenge with kids but they get the idea eventually.

Happy shooting

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You are right in looking for a larger aperture lens. The other benefit you obtain with a larger aperture is the shallower depth of field.

In terms of recommendations for you it would be the 35mm f/1.8G of f/1.4G depending on budget. The 50mm f/1.4G or f/1.8G lenses are also excellent and also full-frame lenses. I own the 50mm f/1.8G and it will compel you to ditch the kit lens for most photos :)

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