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Photography QnA: Indoor/Low-Light Photography

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Category: All About Photography : Photographing Specific Subjects : Indoor/Low-Light Photography

Want to discuss low light photography candlelight scenes? How about indoor photography exposure settings? Any questions about low-light photography are welcome here.

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Photography Question 
Neelam Mughal

member since: 8/18/2004
  51 .  Lighting for Shooting in Bar?
Need advice urgently! I have just started serious photography. My studio photos come out great, but my first paid official shoot is going to be in a bar. Therefore minimal lights, neons and spotlights. I'm working with 4 models who will be spread across the bar, all models have to be in full focus, and all the clothes, etc., must be visible as it's a fashion shoot. I've never taken photos other than in my little studio! I'm just a beginner and very young but don't want to lose this amazing opportunity! I'm completely stuck on this shoot. Basically, do I use a flash? If so, what type? Will I need a tripod for the shoot? And how do I set up my lighting? Will I need to use reflectors? And someone mentioned I need a slow shutter speed... ???

8/19/2004 4:49:07 PM

  Neelam: I have shot in conditions like this many times, and it is very difficult if you do not have lots of light and know how to use them. Here is what I suggest for a quick fix, and it should get you close:
First, hopefully you are shooting digital so you can preview the shot and see the effects of the lighting? Go scout the bar ahead of time and find your angle, set up the camera on your tripod, camera on manual, and snap a couple shots with whatever your meter suggests - at least F/8 ... F/11 better. If they are too bright or too dark, adjust your exposure. Record the exposure that looks the way you want. Take you camera OFF Auto White Balance and set on Manual or K. Next, shoot more tests with the exposure you felt was best, but bracket the color balance settings. Or I suggest you set the camera color balance settings to 4000K, 5000K, 6000K, and 7000K. Look at those different color settings on you computer and decide which color balance setting looks best.

Go to a pro camera store and rent four monolights with stands, four of the biggest and softest umbrellas you can rent. Tell the camera store you need Color Correction Gels to change the color temperature of the lights to the color settings that looked best on your computer, from the test.

The overhead bar lights are your main light, and the strobes are the fill lights. Make the overhead as bright as possible. Now set up two lights on one side of the scene, side by side, put the gels on the lights that the store sold you, set up your camera and dial in the exposure settings that you determined from your test. Have some people stand in so you can test-shoot before the models arrive. If you need the other two lights, set them up and have them ready.
Good Luck!

8/19/2004 10:09:07 PM

Neelam Mughal

member since: 8/18/2004
  Charlie, thank you SO much! I've been pulling my hair out over this and checking my mail every hour! I'm SO grateful you don't know. Thanks again!
Neelam
P.S I'm still nervous! But I feel a lot better!

8/20/2004 4:56:17 AM

  Neelam: When you do the shoot, upload a sample for us to see how it went, and I'll gladly give you more suggestions, if you want them. I am currently designing a Lighting course for BetterPhoto to hopefully run in the winter session. I'll let you know in case you are interested.

8/20/2004 7:47:46 AM

Neelam Mughal

member since: 8/18/2004
  I'd love for you to look at my work and advise me later! That'd be great thanks. And, as for the course, is it an online thing?

8/21/2004 11:55:48 AM

  Neelam. Yes, it will be online.

8/22/2004 7:47:50 PM

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Photography Question 
SHeri 

member since: 5/6/2004
  52 .  How to Shoot a Stage Performance
I just purchased a Canon Rebel digital camera. My son is in a stage performance, and we can take pictures ... if we do not use the flash. I used the no-flash setting and a tripod, and the shutter was too slow to get good pictures. Is there a better way to do it?

7/13/2004 10:21:10 PM

Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member
cammphoto.com

member since: 7/17/2003
  Use a higher ISO setting.

7/13/2004 11:29:14 PM

Jon Close
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/18/2000
  What Bob C wrote, but in addition to that ... The performers themselves are usually pretty well-lit by spotlights, but the rest of the stage/theater is quite dark, leading to the camera's evaluative meter to choose more exposure/longer shutter speeds than really necessary. Set your Digital Rebel in one of the creative exposure modes (P, Av, Tv, or M), and with the center focus sensor on a performer, use AE Lock (thumb button marked by '*' on the upper back of the Digital Rebel). This invokes the partial metering mode, which meters just a small area around the center focus sensor. See pp. 78 and 84 of the user manual.

7/14/2004 5:48:50 AM

Michael Kaplan

member since: 5/27/2003
  I love to shoot stage shows and NEVER use flash. I don't use flash for 2 reasons; 1) It will disturb the singers/dancers/band members 2) It will take away all the beautifully colored stage lighting.

I shoot with the Canon 10D so being that close you should be able to get the same great results that I do. You can see my PBase site to get an idea of what I am shooting (link below). Check under Becket Players 2003 or 2004 and Canada Day 2003 and 2004. The Canada Day are outside stage whereas the Becket are all indoor.

The way to get great pictures (or the way I do it):
1) I shoot ISO 800
2) I mostly use a lens that I purchased just for these type events. A Canon 50mm F1.8. It is a top quality lens and only ~$70 USD. The F1.8 will allow you to shoot fast enough to freeze performer movements.
3) I shoot in RAW so any adjustments can be made afterwards as if I had shot it that way to begin with.
4) I have white balance set on auto and adjust after but they come out mostly correct. I find just the odd image out of whack (one of many reasons to shoot RAW).
5) I do also use my 70-200 F2.8L IS for some pictures; the F2.8 is more than 1 stop slower than the 50mm but pictures are generally great as well.

When I use my other lenses which are F3.5-5.6 I get many more bad pictures, blurred movements by performers or camera as it is hand held. I don't use a tripod as I try to get all different angles and I'm all around the stage; front, sides etc. The tripod will help with camera movement but will do nothing for performer movements.

The other thing I do is shoot a lot of pictures and get mostly great ones. The last Becket show I did I have about 2000 RAW pictures taken from a few different nights so I have an assortment and am guaranteed many great shots. One night alone there were 669 RAW pics taken of the 2 parts of the show.

If you have any other questions just let me know and I'll be glad to help.
Michael Kaplan
Canon EOS-10D
http://www.pbase.com/mkaplan

7/20/2004 8:16:57 AM

Michael McCullough

member since: 6/11/2002
  Try a higher speed setting one for lower light images and a faster lens would be a huge help as well but that is a fairly substancial cost!!!!

7/20/2004 9:24:06 AM

Sara L. Tanner
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/2/2003
  I also want to shoot a stage performance. Our dog is playing the part of Sandy in the local production of Annie. I have a Nikon Coolpix 2100. Does anyone know what setting(s) I should use?
Thanks!

7/24/2004 2:34:53 PM

Michael Kaplan

member since: 5/27/2003
  I am not familiar with your model myself so I just checked out the specs at DPReview. From what I see, you are very limited as there is no Aperture or Shutter priority. You do though have ISO up to 800. If you can not use flash (and if you are more than about 9ft at ISO100, a bit more if you up the ISO) then don't bother anyways.

I would use ISO of 400 or 800. 800 is preferable but you have to see how bad the noise is. I would do some test shots in a darkened room at ISO 400 and 800 and see if the pictures come out acceptable. If they are very bad at 800 then 400 will have to do.

After, you can always run the pictures thru Neatimage or similar program if you have one to help reduce the noise. Shoot best quality which is 1600x1200 on your camera. Don't use digital zoom, use only your optical 3x zoon and you can always enlarge or crop afterwards as needed.

Good luck with the shoot and post some pictures after!
Michael Kaplan
Canon EOS-10D
http://www.pbase.com/mkaplan

7/24/2004 3:09:15 PM

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Photography Question 
Rohan Cooke

member since: 6/24/2004
  53 .  How to Shoot Stain Glass Windows
Where would you position yourself to shoot a stain glass window of a church?

6/24/2004 12:00:29 PM

  Rohan: It depends on what you want to achieve. A single glass? Move back as far as you can while still filling the frame with the subject with a long zoom setting.

Position yourself dead straight-on for perfect symmetry.

Then try shooting from angles - from the side, for example.

Using a long zoom setting from a greater distance produces a more pleasing perspective. It won't be as obvious that you were pointing the lens upward.

Cheers!

6/24/2004 12:39:18 PM

Michael McCullough

member since: 6/11/2002
  In front maybe off to the side depending how large the image is to be, remember to use spot or centre wieghted metering for the shot!!!

6/29/2004 7:38:31 AM

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Photography Question 
Julie 

member since: 5/29/2004
  54 .  Shooting Pictures Indoors
Is there any way to take indoor pictures with the absence of a tripod and a flash besides a higher speed film?

6/12/2004 11:47:01 AM

Dave Cross

member since: 4/8/2004
  Hi Julie. You have four variables when you take a photograph: 1) shutter speed; 2) lens aperture; 3) film speed. 4) light level.

To avoid camera shake, you should not use a shutter speed lower than 1/your lens focal length if you are hand-holding (1/50 sec if you have a 50mm lens). If your lens opens wide enough to give you a satisfactory exposure, great. If not (since you don't want to increase the film speed), your only other solution is more light. If you don't want to use flash, you need to get as many ordinary lights on as you can, try putting larger bulbs in the fittings. If you have multiple light sources, watch out for horrible shadows. Cheers, DC

6/13/2004 8:44:01 AM

Gregg Vieregge

member since: 11/10/2000
  I just bought the Nikon 28-120 VR for my Fuji S2 digital. VR stands for vibration reduction. I can now take pictures down to 1/8 second without a tripod and get incredible sharpness. ISO200. I'm very pleased. $535

6/15/2004 2:51:48 PM

Rhonda Kramer

member since: 9/9/2001
  Hi Julie. Get as close as you can to the window. Open all the blinds/curtains, turn the lights on and use a reflector. If you don't have one, a bit of white card or even a car window shade (gold, silver or white) can help. Or you could try aluminum foil too. Just watch with the silver foil that you do not get too much light in one area. Ensure you have the reflector on the shadow side reflecting the light back into your subject. If you do not have a tripod, try bracing yourself by leaning on a chair/coffee table for support. Also ensure your subject stays really still. It might be enough to save the day. If the people need to be moving, I think you need to look at a faster lens (something that can open up wider - F1.4 2.8 etc., flash, and/or a tripod). Hope this helps.

6/16/2004 9:15:50 PM

Scott Pedersen

member since: 11/18/2001
  Under indoor lighting you will need a 80A filter for under toungsten lighting or a toungsten balanced film. you will need a diffent filter for under floresent lights. Pay attention to your meeter, that will tell you if you can handhold or not. You will need to use a 400 speed or greater film to handhold.

6/22/2004 4:36:46 AM

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Photography Question 
Ziyaad Khoja

member since: 3/12/2004
  55 .  How to Shoot Reflective Surfaces
Can someone help me with shooting books? I am having trouble with the glare. To avoid the glare, I am turning off the main lighting and adjusting the exposure setting on my Kodak EasyShare CX6230. Are they any other techniques or methods I can do?

5/12/2004 8:37:08 AM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member
gregorylagrange.org

member since: 11/11/2003
  Have your lighting come from more of an angle - closer to 90 degrees.

5/12/2004 9:57:28 AM

Ziyaad Khoja

member since: 3/12/2004
  1) I'm using regular ceiling lighting. I'm doing low-budget photography. 2) Would 90 degrees be from the object? Wouldn't that be directly on top?

5/12/2004 10:07:47 AM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member
gregorylagrange.org

member since: 11/11/2003
  I meant the angle with camera and the light should be closer to 90 degrees. But since you're using ceiling light, use something to prop the book up at an angle so you don't get glare.

5/12/2004 5:24:20 PM

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Photography Question 
Steven J. Mcnamara

member since: 12/14/2003
  56 .  Shooting In Low Light
Shooting a night or in low light my camera does not want to focus on the subject - so what am I doing wrong

ps - any good book out there to help me in this?

12/14/2003 9:58:55 AM

  If you're using auto focus, the light may be insufficient for the camera sensor to see a subject upon which to focus.

12/14/2003 11:42:05 AM

Jordan 

member since: 12/5/2003
  SLRs usually use the difference in contrast between the subject and the background to focus, so in dim lighting situations the contrast difference is probably insufficient. The best way I've found to solve this problem is to just switch to manual focus.

-Jordan

12/17/2003 1:00:41 PM

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Photography Question 
Eleasha M. 

member since: 12/2/2003
  57 .  Taking Digital Photographs of Lit Christmas Tree
I am using an Olympus C-4000 zoom digital camera. I would like to take photos of my christmas tree lit up, but can't seem to get it quite right. Any suggestions? I'm also interested in taking pictures of lights outside at night.

Thanks!

12/2/2003 4:41:05 PM

Gregg Vieregge

member since: 11/10/2000
  You need to allow the ambient light from the light enough time to be recorded. Slow your shutter speed and check the preview.

12/2/2003 5:33:44 PM

Jon Close
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/18/2000
  Try the Night Scene shooting mode (star & crescent moon symbol), explained on p. 51 of the camera's Reference manual (free download available from http://www.olympusamerica.com/index.asp ), or Aperture priority, or Manual. Be sure to turn the flash off, unless you have people in front of the Christmas tree, in which case you want them lit so set Slow Sync (p. 76).

12/3/2003 6:21:21 AM

Jay 

member since: 11/22/2003
  don't forget that the shutter speed will be to slow to hand hold the camera. A tripod or support is needed.

12/5/2003 2:15:49 PM

Mike Hawkins

member since: 6/1/2003
 
 
 
I spent a couple of hours photographing Christmas lights last night with an Olympus C-5050Z. Here is what I learned that may be of use. The only light in the room was the xmas tree.
1) Must have a tripod. The shortest exposure time I used was about 3/4 sec. The longest was 16 sec.
2) Don't forget the white balance! The auto selection. I got the best results using the tungsten (incandescent about 3000K) setting for both colored and clear lights. Other settings were to red or to green.
3) To get that sort of starburst effect from the lights set a long exposure time (> 2 sec).
4) Have fun. Try a macro shot of a reflective xmas ball. Try making it a self portrait.
5) Be patient and practice. I took about 100 shots, kept about 20, and like about 5.
Attached pictures- The tree was taken at a relative fast shutter time 0.77 sec with a wide open apeture f/2. The self portrait (I copying M.C. Escher) was taken at f/8 for 13 sec.
Thanks,
Mike Hawkins

12/6/2003 10:58:07 AM

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Photography Question 
Karla  M. Vargas

member since: 10/9/2003
  58 .  How To Shoot Inside Pool Pictures
I need help shooting sports pictures. I need to take pictures of swimmers in an inside pool and I am having trouble balancing the need for a flash with the water glare. Are there any filters that can help? I have a circ. polarizer. I have a nice zoom lens and a pentax 2x-7 and a zx-l. Thanks in advance.

10/9/2003 3:59:23 PM

  Try avoiding flash. Use faster film and don't use a polarizer. A polarizer will probably remove all glare making it look like the person is floating in outer space! Glare is not always a bad thing and in this case is needed to show that the person is, in fact, in water.

Good luck!

10/11/2003 7:50:50 AM

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Photography Question 
Mike 

member since: 7/16/2001
  59 .  Shooting Indoors where Flash and Tripods not used.
Hi, I recently went to the Oriental Institute in Chicago. I was told before going that Flash and Tripods weren't allowed. With that in mind I took my light meter, 800 ASA film and shot at 60 speed and most of the appetures settings were 5.6. Now question what film, speed, lens would you chose for such a project. What filter would you use. There wasn't a lot of available light in the museum. I plan to go again next month so any help appreciated. I had thought about 400 film but without a tripod I thought would make it difficult.

9/30/2003 2:41:00 PM

  Mike, these situations are almost unshootable because of the minimal light. You could try using Tmax 3200 rated at 3200 or push to 6400. That will result in a grainy image, which could be nice and different. What I do is ask the public relations person at the Institute if there is any time available, however short, when you can use your flash for a short time. Maybe they will let you in a half hour before opening to get your pictures.

Good luck!

10/1/2003 2:29:21 AM

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Photography Question 
Hannah Y

member since: 3/4/2003
  60 .  Troubles with Shooting a Concert
I have recently shot a concert using a Canon EOS 3000 N camera and a Kodak ultra film. The result was terrible. Because the singer and his band were constantly moving and I wasn't allowed to use a flash, the photos came out to be very blurry! Someone suggested that I buy a digital camera because it will provide great shots even if I don't use a flash. Please advise. Also, I am not very familiar with professional terms so could anyone please explain to me what I can do using the simplest terms and words?

MANY THANKS

9/11/2003 8:11:17 AM

Tim Devick

member since: 11/28/2000
  I'm not sure a digital camera will solve your problem. If you're using a relatively high speed film as it is, I don't see how switching to digital is going to work any better.

You need a faster shutter speed in order to capture the singer without blurring. When the subject is moving, you need for the shutter to stay open for a very short time. You have a couple of choices: go with a faster film still, like maybe an ISO 1600 film. The picture will be more grainy than if you had shot with a slower film, but that's the trade-off with faster film. Your Kodak Ultra is ASA 400 film, I think, and that's too slow for night club photography. Something like Fuji's ASA 1600 film might work better.

The way camera lenses work is you have a shutter speed (the shutter lets light into the lens when you press the button to take the picture) and you have an aperature. Aperature defines how wide the shutter opens to let in light. These two things control how might light gets to your film. Your camera has built-in light meter in it that helps decide how wide to open the aperature and how long to leave the shutter open in order to capture the picture. For pictures like what you're talking about, you want the shutter to stay open for a short period of time and you want the aperature of the lens to open as wide as possible. With a fast shutter speed, the singer won't move very far while the shutter is open and so won't be blurred in the picture, as long as the aperature can open wide enough to let in enough light.

If you're using a telephoto or zoom lens for your picture, you might want to switch to a "regular" (non-zoom, non-telephoto) lens. The "regular" lens will likely have the ability to let in more light at its widest aperature than the telephoto or zoom lens.

With your camera, you can also trick it into thinking that your ASA 1600 film is really ASA 3200 by loading your ASA 1600 film normally but setting the film speed manually to ASA 3200.

The faster film, the "wider" aperature lens, and "tricking" the camera into thinking its using ASA 3200 film should make a big difference.

9/11/2003 3:22:56 PM

Jim Miotke
BetterPhoto Member
BetterPhotoJim.com
Owner, BetterPhoto.com, Inc.
  I agree with Tim - a digital camera will not necessarily solve your problem. It may give you an easy way to switch to a higher ISO equivalent - and that, as Tim points out, can be the best trick for you.

The biggest advantage that a digital camera will provide you, however, is the ability to see a thumbnail version of your image immediately after shooting. This will often tell you whether your technique is working or not.

This is how I got the feedback I needed when shooting a recent concert. To see the pics and read my thoughts on the subject, check out my article on concert photography - Getting Great Concert Photos.

9/16/2003 11:51:36 PM

Sreedevi Swaminathan

member since: 3/14/2002
  I've been shooting a lot of bands, and my favorite films for this are Fuji NPZ 800 which I push 2 stops (rate at 3200) and the Kodak PMZ Pro 1000 Which I rate normally. With the Fuji, the saturation is excellent, and the grain is so fine- I honestly made 11x14 prints off an enlarger from the 35mm negs. and didn't see any grain at all! It's very push friendly. The Kodak has only very slightly noticeable grain, and what's nice is that the colors come out beautifully, but with less saturation than the Fuji- of course, I also don't push it, but I still like how it records color in more subdued, club-type settings.

Just for clarification, when you push a film, you set the camera ASA so it's reading a faster speed than what your actual film's speed is. You meter through the lens just as usual. And when you get the film processed, you would have them develop it a little longer. Usually 30s. extra for each speed higher you set your camera at. So, with the 800 film, the next steps are 1600, 3200- two steps. So tell them to push it +2 and they'll know what to do.

You're still going to get a little blur without a flash, though, because you'll never be able to shoot 1/1000s. but as long as you're still, you get great detail in the movement of the band members. Also, I use a purely manual camera for this- I haven't completely learned digital, but I have been trying, and one thing that bothers me is that the shutter never starts opening the second I depress the release- there's usually a fraction of a second of lag, and it takes a while of getting into the rhythm of it before you stop inadvertently moving slightly- for me at least.

One of the bands I shoot often hate light, and love to play in low-lit, moody clubs and lounges, and really hate the flash, so I've learned how to deal with this situation regularly. If you have any more questions, feel free to ask.

9/17/2003 1:26:00 AM

Megan E. Elder

member since: 3/3/2003
  I wouldn't use a digital camera at a concert. We typically use a Nikon D100 in our news room, but at concerts we revert to film because the crazy lights tend to wig out digital cameras. Listen to the other guys... they've got good advice!!!

9/17/2003 8:03:13 AM

Hannah Y

member since: 3/4/2003
  A BIG THANK YOU TO EVERYONE!

I really appreciate your help!

Best wishes.

9/23/2003 9:04:38 AM

Michael Kaplan

member since: 5/27/2003
  I like to shoot concerts. You can do what the above people said which is get higher ISO film and/or push your film. It is the same with digital or film that you must use a higher ISO but there is another thing which nobody mentioned and that is a lens with a wider F stop.

For my concert pics (You can see some at my pbase site below) I purchased Canon's wonder lens; the 50mm F1.8. It is only $70 USD and is fantastic for low light. The lens alone will add a couple of stops or more depending on the lens you are currently using.

I completely disagree about not using digital for concerts. I have the Canon 10D and shot the concerts at ISO 400-800. Virtually every pic came out perfectly and there were around 1000 pics taken. There are dancers and singers and movement was captured well with the higher ISO and lens combo.

With the 10D noise is virtually non-existant and being able to review your pics as you go along and see a histogram can be a wonderful aid to knowing how you are doing exposure-wise. You don't need a digital for those pics but it makes it much more useable and fun over film and with having no film use costs you can take hundred of pictures with no extra cost involved.
Michael Kaplan
Canon EOS-10D
http://www.pbase.com/mkaplan

9/24/2003 5:31:46 AM

Buddy Purugganan

member since: 8/31/2002
  The beauty of getting wonderful 'gig photos is the availability of real FAST films ( ISO 800,ISO 1200,etc..) that can really capture those stages with subtle colorful lights and sometimes stage camaraderie. ( Think Angus Young leaping, Gene "KISS" Simmons spitting blood or Ozzy Osbourne throwing pails of water to the crowd) Films by FUJI ( Pro Press) which I truly recommend and have really high ISO numbers. Also the KONICA Centuria are quite good. There are actually PLENTY so its a cinch to get them at professional photo shops.

9/24/2003 11:22:56 PM

Anand S

member since: 8/18/2003
  Hi Tim and Sreedevi, your responses are very informative. I don't have any experience in shooting concerts for that matter I am a very amateur photographer. I have a question in pushing the film. When we say that we are pushing the film we make the camera think that it is using a faster film which is actually not true. But the camera will calculate the exposure according to the pushed film speed (say ISO 1600 pushed to ISO 3200) which will actually be an under exposure for ISO 1600 say by 2 or 3 stops (because our physical medium still remains the same ISO1600 and the silver bromide coating on the physical medium still remains the same). Instead of pushing the film can't we just under expose it by 2 or 3 stops and achieve ths same results? Also I read in one of the responses that while processing we should mention that the film is pushed then the lab folks will take care of the rest. How does it all happen an elaborate answer will be of great help? Suppose in a single roll I shoot 20 pics with pushed settings and another 16 without pushing(here in India we get rolls of 36 exposures) will the excess processing not affect the other 16 pictures? Please clarify.

9/27/2003 3:27:32 AM

Tim Devick

member since: 11/28/2000
  Hi Anand,

Let's take your example of pushing ASA 1600 film to 3200.What Hannah wants to accomplish is to shoot at a faster shutter speed than allowed by the film she's using so she can stop or slow down the motion of the performers. If uses 1600 film and can shoot with a shutter speed of 1/15 of a second, she can push this film to 3200 and shoot with a shutter speed of 1/30 of a second. When I'm using Fuji Velvia slide film (ASA 50) on a heavily overcast day, I sometimes will push it a stop so that I can hand-hold shots that should require a tripod, and so I can use higher shutter speeds to stop the movement of the subject when I'm shooting wildflowers yet still retain the depth of field I want. If I shot at the ASA 50 rating on a heavily overcast day, I might be shooting at, say, 1/30 second at f/8 with my 50mm lens. If I push my film a stop, I can shoot at 1/60 of a second at f/8, or I can shoot at 1/30 second at f/11. This gives me shorter shutter speeds or a bit more depth of field. From what I've read, the drawback to pushing film is it can increase contrast and graininess in the film.

If you set your camera to push your film, you have to expose the entire roll at the same ASA rating. I haven't heard of any labs that will process part of your film one way and part of it another way. When you push your film in the camera and you tell the lab to push the film in developing they process it in such a way as to make up for your "incorrect" exposure. I don't know what happens in the lab, exactly, although I think I've read that in this case they increase the developing time of the film. Maybe someone more knowledgeable on lab work can explain the details of the lab part of pushing film to us.

You don't generally have to push negative film, since negative filmn usually has enough lattitude that you can over or under expose the film and still get good prints. You only need to worry about pushing film if you're shooting slides, since slide film has very little lattitude on exposure - if you're off by a half a stop either way, the slide comes out looking bad.

9/27/2003 12:58:39 PM

Sreedevi  Kashi

member since: 6/10/2003
  Hi Anand,
Actually, in B&W photography, pushing film is not only used to enable you to use a faster shutter speed, but is also used to increase contrast- so if you decided to shoot outdoors at a park you were visiting, and you knew the scene would look better if it weren't so hazy (I imagine if you're in Delhi or Mumbai you come across that a lot) then you may decide to push your film. In color you would increase saturation, thereby increasing contrast. See, when you rate the film higher, you do end up underexposing it. Doing that will make the blacks very black, and any highlights will be dimmer, but anything that's very hot will still be bright. So in a sense you increase the contrast a touch, but by processing it the extra time, you're allowing the image to saturate itself further which helps to bring out detail in your highlights, and in areas where there would have been more midtones. So basically what they do at the lab is process the film in the developer a little bit longer than the normal time. For color film it would be 30sec. extra for each add'l stop. For B&W I think it depends, although I usually do 1min. extra for each stop. So to use color as an example, I said above that I like to use Fuji NPZ 800 rated at 3200. So I'll rate it at 3200- which is better so I can keep shooting with my needle in the middle and not have to think about something extra- and then I'll go and process it. Color negative film is generally processed in the developer for 3:15- color is so precise that you must have your times and temperatures be exact. Since I rated my film two stops higher. I'm going to add on a minute making my development time 4:15. The bleach, wash, fix, and stabilizer times will all remain the same as they normally are.

You can also pull film, which does the opposite- it decreases contrast. Your highlights are already bright. So if you rate your film at a slower ISO than your overexposing it. That will get your shadows lighter, making the transition between Dmax and Dmin (basically your highest white and darkest black) much smaller, much less of a difference. Processing for less time allows you to keep the softness and shape of the image without revealing the loss of detail in your highlights from overexposing it. I don't know too many uses for pulling for normal situations, but I do know when cross processing- that is shooting slide and processing it as a negative- that you get a very nice, soft, nostalgic look to your photos (think those images from the 60's and 70's).

Color film regardless of whether it's negative or positive is very unforgiving. I think people tend to forget that it is color, and you're very particular about what color your colors are you'll find that getting the right exposure on color negatives will give you the real color of the image. When your exposure is off, you have to compensate a lot and you don't get the proper separation between your color tones, even when you do get overall color corrected. I guess it depends on how much you care about something like that.

With slide film if you're off, then you can't even try to compensate afterwards, because the slide is for the most part the print. If you were to make an actual print from a slide, meaning making an R print- you would find that it's never exactly quite as accurate and eye catching as a C-print (from a neg.) However, most people just use the slides as the image for all work they do anyway, and if you get the exposure correct that's generally a great image.

9/27/2003 8:20:51 PM

Anand S

member since: 8/18/2003
  Hi Tim and Sreedevi a big thanks to you. May be sometime I will try them and let you know the results.

9/27/2003 11:21:10 PM

Anand S

member since: 8/18/2003
  Hi Tim and Sreedevi a big thanks to you. May be sometime I will try them and let you know the results. BTW Sreedevi I live in Bangalore (Garden City now turning to silicon valley of India). I basically hail from Madurai, Tamil Nadu.

9/27/2003 11:22:31 PM

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