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DPChallenge Forums >> Tips, Tricks, and Q&A >> Struggling with indoor photos
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05/08/2005 04:50:09 AM · #1
I'm after a bit of advice after taking a lot of disappointing photos. Yesterday was my grandma's 90th birthday party, and my parents asked me to take a group photo of the family (about 20 people). I've never done anything like this with a bit of pressure before, but it seems to have gone OK. After that I was just taking candid shots, but struggled to chose a setting as there was a lot of sunlight coming in from big windows...

After trying various settings (and stupidly trusting what the images looked like on my camera screen) I though that setting it to Shutter mode, and chosing a 1/25 or 1/30 would allow anough light in but be quick enough to get rid of the motion blur I was getting. On screen the images looked fine, but when I uploaded them to my PC they've mostly come out very grainy, e.g.

' . substr('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/15922/thumb/175405.jpg', strrpos('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/15922/thumb/175405.jpg', '/') + 1) . '

With my limited knowledge, I'm guessing this is to do with the ISO setting? For the group photo I chose 50 ISO, but for some reason after that I put it back to AUTO. (The options in the Z3 are 50, 100, 200, 400 and AUTO). Do you think this was my mistake?

Obviously flash is another issue... I tended to find when I used it my photos looked very dark, so I'm guessing this is because people were too far away and it uses a short exposure with the flash.

(A little aside: I've recently started using NeatImage to reduce graininess, but the file size drops dramatically - is this OK as it's just removing dodgy pixels so the file gets smaller?)

Hope someone can help me out. To cut a long message short, what's the best setting to use indoors bearing in mind I'm using a Z3 with no external flash. And please don't just tell me I need a better camera as I'll get depressed !!! :-)
05/08/2005 04:58:59 AM · #2
Higher ISO is better used for darker settings but noise will increase, so you have to play with it a little.

Tripod and a slower speed setting can also be helpful.
05/08/2005 05:03:20 AM · #3
Originally posted by scales:


(A little aside: I've recently started using NeatImage to reduce graininess, but the file size drops dramatically - is this OK as it's just removing dodgy pixels so the file gets smaller?)


My guess would be a smaller file size is fine for viewing on the PC and/or small prints - maybe you might have a problem with larger print sizes though. Hopefully though someone on this site with much more knowledge of neatimage will reply to your post though.
05/08/2005 05:16:19 AM · #4
What ISO was your sample shot?? I would say that's pretty reasonable grain myself.

As for your final question on what's the best settings. Here's what I would do:

1) Set your ISO to whatever you used for grandma's shot
2) Do you have aperture priority mode? If so, set it to that
3) Set the f/stop as wide open as possible
4) If the shutters get too slow, use the onboard flash

Remember that the wider angle the lens is, generally the wider aperture it is. So shooting wider will help you get faster shutters. Also bear in mind, however, that wide angle distorts facial features, which tends to look unattractive. Also don't stand too close to use the flash.

I think the Z3 has a hot shoe? If so I might try and pick up an old flash from Ebay for a few dollars that's able to point upwards. Make sure it works properly on your camera first though.
05/08/2005 08:19:55 AM · #5
Thanks for the advice guys...

Originally posted by PaulMdx:

What ISO was your sample shot?? I would say that's pretty reasonable grain myself.


I had it set on AUTO for that one, and the camera chose ISO 160. Interested that you think the grain's OK though. Do you think it would be less obvious on a printout than on screen?

Here's another one to show the grain problems... This was taken zooming in from a greater distance - would that have affected the graininess too?

' . substr('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/15922/thumb/175428.jpg', strrpos('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/15922/thumb/175428.jpg', '/') + 1) . '

Also, if I was to follow your advice and use Apertuure Priority mode, would you recommend leaving the ISO on auto, or keep it to, say, 100. I guess a lower ISO setting would limit the amount of light and force the camera to use a longer shutter time, leading to more blurred images?

Thanks again for all the advice!
05/08/2005 09:38:57 AM · #6
Originally posted by scales:

Thanks for the advice guys...

Also, if I was to follow your advice and use Apertuure Priority mode, would you recommend leaving the ISO on auto, or keep it to, say, 100. I guess a lower ISO setting would limit the amount of light and force the camera to use a longer shutter time, leading to more blurred images?

Thanks again for all the advice!


If you're going to shoot handheld and you are indoor, unless it is very bright, you're going to need a high ISO to avoid motion blur (I've been able to manage 1/15 to 1/8 seconds at ISO 400 if my hands are properly braced against something).

The grain is interesting. I've shot at 400 and never had that much grain. My first guess when I saw the picture was that you shot it at 800 or higher, not that your camera is even capable of doing that.

As for flash, since I don't have a fancy one, I simply never use the onboard flash, except once or twice for artistic effect. Flash light has intense dropoff, it lights a small area in front and then it gets dark for further objects real quickly. Because of the brightness of the front objects, your camera has a very short exposure. You can't really expose for longer or else you'll burn out the objects that are properly exposed.

You can use, if your camera supports it, front curtain flash,, where the camera fires the flash at the beginning of the exposure and then remains open to expose the background.

But I think the best solution is, as faidoi suggested, to get yourself a tripod, and shoot at a low ISO to avoid the graininess
05/08/2005 04:00:46 PM · #7
Originally posted by scales:

... After trying various settings (and stupidly trusting what the images looked like on my camera screen) I though that setting it to Shutter mode, and chosing a 1/25 or 1/30 would allow anough light in but be quick enough to get rid of the motion blur I was getting. On screen the images looked fine, but when I uploaded them to my PC they've mostly come out very grainy, e.g.

' . substr('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/15922/thumb/175405.jpg', strrpos('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/15922/thumb/175405.jpg', '/') + 1) . '

With my limited knowledge, I'm guessing this is to do with the ISO setting? For the group photo I chose 50 ISO, but for some reason after that I put it back to AUTO. (The options in the Z3 are 50, 100, 200, 400 and AUTO). Do you think this was my mistake? ...

The noise in the image is likely not the result of the 160 ISO the auto set. With the shutter speed locked in, the camera has to adjust the iso and aperture to compensate -- choosing the ISO for it as well would have severely limited the range of light it could take images in. So setting it to auto was not a bad thing to do at all. Also, ISO 160 is not that high and shouldn't be causing that much noise.

As for the underexposure, it lookes like the camera set the exposure on her hair (it is middle tone in the image) which caused everything else to be underexposed. This underexposure is what I think brought in the noise. What was the metering method used? Was it Spot or Center-weighted by chance?

Originally posted by scales:

... Obviously flash is another issue... I tended to find when I used it my photos looked very dark, so I'm guessing this is because people were too far away and it uses a short exposure with the flash. ...

You are likely right in your guessing, but without knowing how far the subjects were from the flash or how far the flash is rated to reach (it's in the manual) I can only guess as well. ;)

Originally posted by scales:

... Hope someone can help me out. To cut a long message short, what's the best setting to use indoors bearing in mind I'm using a Z3 with no external flash. ...

To cut a long explaination short, it doesn't look like a camera problem. It exposed the image the way it was told to. The problem came from improper use of metering.

The hair is middle grey (or close to it) in the image, but should be about 1 1/2 to 2 stops bright than that. This caused the rest of the image to be underexposed by a couple of stops. You can see this on a histogram by the way the graph is shifted to the left:
' . substr('//img.photobucket.com/albums/v294/David.C/Misc/scaleshistogram.jpg', strrpos('//img.photobucket.com/albums/v294/David.C/Misc/scaleshistogram.jpg', '/') + 1) . '

Here are a few articles that will make the explaination much longer: :D

The Ultimate Exposure Computer
Where Can You Find the Perfect Exposure?
Digital Zone System

Originally posted by scales:

... And please don't just tell me I need a better camera as I'll get depressed !!! :-)

Even the best cameras need proper exposure, and are subject to noise when underexposed -- the better the camera the lower the exposure can be before it becomes a problem.

It is possible you camera introduced noise due the long shutter speeds you were using. I know, 1/30th of a second is not a long time for you and me, but from experience with my camera anytime I go slower than about 1/125th of a second things start getting noisy. You will have to do some experimenting with your camera to find our how long the shutter speed can be without introducing noise. A better camera, with better sensor, would help us both out on that one. :(

David
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