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I'm sort of new to photography and have been successful taking great photos during the day with good light. But anytime that I am indoors/outdoors with low light I can't seem to keep the image in my photo from blurring.

My camera isn't shaking as it is on a tripod untouched, but the object moving is blurred when the picture is snapped and I don't want that. I've read over and over again that I should have 'x' amount of aperture and 'x' amount of shutter speed and 'x' amount of ISO whatever. I set my camera settings to these exact things and now my pictures come out completely dark but no object shake, or light but with object shake.

Here's the example I want to use this camera for for low light. Taking pictures of people on a lit stage and dark auditorium as they sing and move around. Taking pictures of wildlife in the mornings and evenings.

I've spent hours researching how to take indoor photos without the object being blurry, but I can't seem to figure it out. By the way my aperture only goes as low as 5.6 no lower than that (is there equipment I can buy to increase the aperture?).

I want to be able to take pictures of my parents as they sing at indoor venues and have decent photos of family in a living room or other low light setting. But they all turn out terrible. I'm getting irritated that I can't figure this out. Maybe some of you seasoned veterans have some tips? This is my last resort.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Have you tried using the popup flash? \$\endgroup\$ Dec 26, 2022 at 20:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ Possible duplicate: Best ways of photographing at a concert/festival If you can master shooting in theatrical/concert settings, the rest of what you mention will be well within your grasp. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Dec 28, 2022 at 5:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also related; Pictures of dancers on stage and What are appropriate lenses for concert photography? and How to get bright concert photos? \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Dec 28, 2022 at 5:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ You can get longer exposures w/o shake at wide angles than telephoto, and you get the lowest f wide on zooms as well, so that's a start. Shoot at 1600 ISO, crop and cleanup later. Use a tripod or beanbag or even a hat folded on the chairback in front of you to stabilize the shot. Lastly, shoot many many many shots; you might get lucky and happen to nail one that "shouldn't" have been able to be taken in the conditions. \$\endgroup\$
    – dandavis
    Jan 22, 2023 at 6:14

3 Answers 3

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If you don't want motion blur, you need a short exposure time. Typically, for people standing but not moving too much (ie, not dancing), 1/60th of a second or shorter.

To get a properly exposed picture, you need enough light on your sensor.

  • How much light is needed is determined by the ISO sensitivity. The higher the sensitivity the less light. However, at high ISOs, picture can becomes "noisy", and on your camera, this can start at ISO 800-1600.
  • How much light you get is determined by the aperture and the exposure time/speed. If you increase the aperture you can decrease the time. Low light means long times/low speed and high apertures (low f-number).

Taking the pictures in manual mode is a solution, but you have to make a first few shots while checking the results and making the necessary corrections (this requires to know how to correct).

But your camera can do things for you in automatic mode:

  1. There are completely automatic settings, you probably want the one that disables the flash:

enter image description here

  1. There is a "Sports" setting, designed to take moving objects in low light. This may be just what you need:

enter image description here

  1. You can set your camera to exposure priority ("Tv") mode, and set the speed to 1/60s(or 1/100s if you find there is enough light). The camera will then adjust aperture for proper exposure (within what is possible with your lens of course)). You can set you camera to auto-ISO, so the camera can adjust both ISO and aperture to get enough light. You can also set the maximum ISO range to use for this.

Last, you can get a better lens... Canon has a the EF 50mm f/1.8 STM(*) which is a fixed lens that isn't expensive ($120-130...).

  • It has a wide aperture (f/1.8, over 3 f-stops better than you current lens so you can use 8x shorter exposures, which is why wide aperture lenses are called "fast lenses)
  • At wide apertures, the depth of field is reduced, so you need accurate focus, but the AF works better with "fast" lenses, it is even possible that your camera has a more accurate AF sensor that can be used with lenses that can open at f/2.8 or wider (**).
  • As it is a fixed lens it is quite sharp (significantly sharper than your current zoom lens)
  • As a 50mm it acts like a short zoom on your camera (if you have the EF-S 18-55mm currently, it is about the same as your zoomed out lens).
  • There is no image stabilization (hence the price) but you if you take pictures at 1/100s or on a tripod you don't really care.

(*) Not to be confused with:

  • 50mm f/1.4 which is a different lens (better, but much more expensive)
  • 50mm f/1.8 or 50mm f/1.8 II (without "STM") that are earlier versions of the lens (with a slow and noisy AF, so not good for video).

(**) When you use the viewfinder, since a different AF method is used in "live view".

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Wide open none of Canon's 50mm f/1.8 lenses are "sharp". Maybe by f/2.2 or f/2.5 they're beginning to be sharp enough. By f/2.8 they're as sharp as the current crop of 18-55mm kit lenses at f/3.5 (wide) to f/5.6 (long). \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Dec 28, 2022 at 3:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ With an 18-55mm lens, 55mm is the zoomed in position and 18mm is the zoomed out position. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Dec 28, 2022 at 3:51
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My camera isn't shaking as it is on a tripod untouched, but the object moving is blurred when the picture is snapped and I don't want that.

Blur always means your shutter speed is too slow to freeze motion: either subject motion, or camera shake blur from handholding.

I've read over and over again that I should have 'x' amount of aperture and 'x' amount of shutter speed and 'x' amount of ISO whatever.

Well, that's wrong. Every scene may have different amounts of X. There's no magic numbers here that work for every situation. That's why your camera has a light meter in it to tell you what exposure you've got.

I set my camera settings to these exact things and now my pictures come out completely dark but no object shake, or light but with object shake.

You may have hit the limits of your gear. Not every scene can be taken with good exposure, depending on your gear and the scene.

Here's the example I want to use this camera for for low light. Taking pictures of people on a lit stage and dark auditorium as they sing and move around.

Probably requires an f/2 or faster lens (bigger max. aperture) and iso 1600 and above settings. Though a lot will depend upon the stage lighting.

Taking pictures of wildlife in the mornings and evenings.

Depends on what time of day, and how long your lens is and how stabilized. The longer the lens, the faster your shutter speed needs to be to mitigate camera shake blur. f/2.8 lens is probably wanted.

I've spent hours researching how to take indoor photos without the object being blurry, but I can't seem to figure it out. By the way my aperture only goes as low as 5.6 no lower than that (is there equipment I can buy to increase the aperture?).

Yes. A different lens. A lens has two specs: focal length, and maximum aperture. The maximum aperture is what determines how large the aperture can be set. The bigger the aperture, the smaller the f-number. f/4 is sort of the "middle ground", f/2.8 and wider is considered "fast" (faster shutter speeds possible), while f/5.6 and smaller is "slow."

f/2.8 zooms tend to cost closer to four figures. But you can find some lower-cost prime lenses (that don't zoom) that go wider than f/2, such as a 50mm f/1.8 lens. But that might be too short for either stage shooting and is definitely too short for wildlife. But for family pics it could be good.

And you could always add a flash to your arsenal.

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Theatrical/concert photography is about the most challenging there is, both in terms of pushing the equipment you use to the absolute edge of their capabilities and in terms of requiring every bit of skill and experience you might have as the photographer.

Photography is the art of capturing light. Most concerts don't offer much light to capture and what light there is to capture is changing rapidly and the subjects are usually very animated.

  • The traditional solution to not much light (longer shutter speed using a tripod to hold the camera still) doesn't work because nobody on stage stands still for 10-15 seconds while you take a picture.
  • The traditional solution to capturing motion (faster shutter speeds) doesn't usually work because there isn't enough light to capture a good image on a small sensor using a narrow aperture.
  • In the end you have to balance the two as best you can AND use gear that allows you to capture as much of the scarce light that is present in the scene in as fast a time as possible.

That means fast lenses (wide apertures), larger sensors, and cameras that are highly responsive (fast handling).

It also means you must use impeccable timing when you release the shutter. If a performer is jumping you can get by with a slower shutter time if you catch the performer in the instant they stop going up and start going back down. If they're running back and forth across the stage, catch them in the instant when they transition from moving right to moving left or vice versa.

Footloose2 Manual exposure with Evaluative metering at about -1. EOS 5D Mark II, EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS II @ 200mm, ISO 1600, f/2.8 (notice only the front line is in sharp focus), 1/200 second. I'm right on the edge of subject motion blur at 200mm and 1/200 second even when timing the kick at it's apex. But the faces are sharp and that's what counts the most.

I've shot theatrical performances with both APS-C and full frame cameras. With even the best APS-C sensors I wouldn't try to shoot using any lens narrower than f/2.8. With a FF sensor I sometimes will use an f/4 zoom for the wider angle stuff where motion blur from slightly slower shutter times is not as much of an issue. For tighter shots using longer focal lengths I use an f/2.8 zoom or even a wider aperture prime such as a 100mm f/2 or 135mm f/2 to allow fast enough shutter times in such a setting. I often use a monopod with the 70-200 lens just to help with camera stability.

The Wedding Singer
Shot from the orchestra pit during a dance number. EOS 5D Mark II, EF 24-105mm f/4 IS @ 24mm, ISO 1600, f/4, 1/160 second. Shot using Evaluative metering in Av exposure mode with -1 1/3 stop exposure compensation. I timed the shutter when the nearest briefcases were at the apex of their trajectory.

Footloose3
Manual exposure with Evaluative metering at about -1. EOS 5D Mark II, EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS II @ 70mm, ISO 1600, f/4, 1/125 second. The performers who are at the apex of their leaps are fairly sharp, those who were a little early or late show motion blur.

Notice that even though two of the three shots above, all shot in the same facility, were done using manual exposure the ISO, AV, and Tv combination are different for each shot. Learning your camera's controls enough to adjust ISO, Tv, and Av by touch without moving your eye from the viewfinder is critical to successful theatrical shooting. So is paying careful attention to the light meter and knowing which metering mode you are in and how each metering mode will affect the readings you are seeing.

If a large part of the scene is dark, then your meter should show that you're underexposing by one stop or more when you're using Evaluative or Center-weighted metering. The camera wants to make all of those totally black areas medium grey. You need to know how to tell it, "No, I want those areas to be fully black."

For tighter shots the needed Tv (time value i.e. exposure duration or "shutter speed") to freeze motion gets shorter. Sometimes you must concede that you won't be able to freeze every part of a performer's body with the options available to you (light, lens, camera's high ISO performance limits). In such a case the key thing to remember is to place the face at highest priority. Even if you have to pan a little to track the face during the exposure and blur the entire rest of the scene, it will look better than the rest of the scene sharp but the lead performer's face blurry.

Footloose4
EOS 5D Mark II, EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS II @ 200mm, ISO 1600, f/3.2, 1/200 second. (I could have gotten a slightly better result at f/2.8 and 1/250 if I'd been totally on my game!)

Shooting raw images so you will have latitude in adjusting color as well as exposure in post-processing is paramount. Having all the raw data from each image available opens so many more possibilities with regard to color, exposure, contrast, etc. than the much more limited information in a jpeg file (please see this answer to the last question linked below for a fuller explanation).

There are also a few other questions and answers that you might find helpful:
Regarding lenses:
What are appropriate lenses for concert photography?
What kind of filter (if any) should I use when photographing a theater scene? (hint: Lose the filter on the front of your lens!)
Canon 70-200 f2.8 non IS or f4 IS
Regarding metering/exposure issues
What went wrong with this concert photo and what could I have done to make it better?
Blown out blue/red light making photos look out of focus (particularly this answer)

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