Recently I photographed an event for a friend as a favour using my Canon 750D, my 18-55mm stock and the 50mm f/1.8. The event was indoors, followed briefly by outdoors and then back indoors in a restaurant.

Whilst I did get lots of good photos, I immediately ran into two problems with the 18-55:

  1. It wasn't so good in low light (such as both buildings) to the point I had to crank the ISO up (3200 in many cases) in order to get any kind of decent shutter speed in Av Priority. As a result, many of my photos were very grainy which needed work in Lightroom.

  2. Any kind of wide aperture photography was extremely difficult. The widest setting of f3.5 was hard enough, but throwing in the high ISO to compensate for the low light meant that the shutter speeds were often too slow and capturing blur.

As a result, I switched to the 50mm f/1.8 prime and managed to get some great photos - except that the fixed focal length meant that many photos simply couldn't be taken (or had features clipped) because I couldn't physically get far enough away from the subject.

Given that I enjoyed that kind of indoor photography, what do I need to do to resolve these issues?

  • Buy a different prime that means I don't have to be in another room to take the photo?
  • Invest in a decent flash which I can bounce off the ceiling?
  • Something else?

3 Answers 3


You've pretty much figured out your three options.

  1. (Something else). f/2.8 zooms are the preferred choice for many event-shooting professionals for the reasons you state. So, this is probably the most effective route, but also the most expensive.

  2. Flash (and many pros will do this in combination with f/2.8 zooms) can also help immeasurably with this type of shooting by giving you a tool to create good exposures in lower light with smaller apertures and higher shutter speeds.

  3. A wider fast prime, such as the EF 35mm f/2 IS USM, might also be worth considering.

Of these three choices, the best bang for the buck is actually liable to be the flash. But for event shooting, you probably do not want to gt an all-manual cheapie like a Yongnuo YN-560, but rather a TTL-capable flash with 360-degree swivel, because bounce is going to be your go-to technique to diffuse the light and not get that harsh on-camera look most people associate with flash, and because you may not have time to dink the output light level in Manual, and having eTTL-II automation to get you in the ballpark can be a lifesaver if you're moving in and out of changing lighting situations.

See Neil van Niekerk's Tangents blog for information on using on-camera flash for event shooting.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Great advice, thanks. Couple of questions on your points if you don't mind! (1) Something like the Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM? (2) Something like the Canon Speedlite 430EX II? (3) If I were to upgrade my f/1.8 in the future, would this be better one to get than the 50mm f/1.4? \$\endgroup\$
    – Richard
    Oct 21, 2014 at 21:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ (1) and (2), yup. (3), depends. You're trading off max. aperture for wider framing. There is also a 35/1.4L which is expensive/big/heavy, a Sigma crop 30/1.4, and the Canon 28/1.8. Lotsa choices. The 50/1.4 USM will be just as tight on framing as the 50/1.8. \$\endgroup\$
    – inkista
    Oct 21, 2014 at 23:49

I had a similar problem a few years back and I purchased the Tamron SP AF17-50mm F/2.8 XR VC Di II LD Aspherical (IF) (Canon Mount) for £346 in UK. The extra stops really helped me at ISO 1000 and less.

I also developed a new style of holding the camera indoors. I would bring my left arm across my face and rest the hand on my Right Shoulder creating a rigid support for the camera to rest on. I would rest the camera firmly pressed against my elbow. that coupled with the IS, I have managed to capture some amazing shots that I have previously not been able to with the Canon 18-55mm Stock lens on my 7D.

My suggestion would be to try the same supporting technique with your existing lens and see how you get on before investing further.

Additionally, I have also tried the Yongnuo 560 Flash guns. Cheap and cheerful, but never failed. Can be run off a trigger or from camera flash wirelessly. alternately, if you have the budget, a Canon flash is the best option.


We ran into the same type of issues with our indoor shoots. We ended up getting a "faster" variable lens, f2.8 17-55, and that has helped. Also getting a lens with IS (image stabilization) can help reduce vibrations and allow for slower shutter speeds, as long as your subject isn't moving too much.

A decent flash is also an extremely valuable tool. You'll also want to use high quality lithium batteries (like Energizer L91, not the E91) so that subsequent shoots won't take a long time to recharge the flash.


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