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Photography Question 
amy choate

Taking Night Photos

  At the Zoo
At the Zoo
© amy choate
Olympus Evolt E500...
I can't figure out what to do when taking night photos, especially as Halloween approaches. We went to the zoo last night, and I am not happy with the grainy-looking photos, I did set the ISO to 1000 and the pictures still didn't turn out very clear. Any suggestions?

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10/19/2009 10:33:34 AM

Christopher Budny
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/3/2005
  Hi Amy,
The higher you set your ISO, the grainier your images will become. Lower ISO values produce less noise (but also bring slower shutter speeds, which can allow camera shake to blur your images).
If shooting kids at night is the goal, you may not have many options other than flash at reasonably close range, since a longer-exposure, low-ISO shot is probably out of the question, as your subjects won't be sitting still. But, I'm not a photographer of people, so someone else may chime in with more info.

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10/19/2009 1:19:25 PM

Dan W. Dooley
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/28/2005

Using a higher ISO setting would not affect the "clearness" of the picture so perhaps you did not mean that in terms of focus and sharpness. The fact of life is, at night, you are going to have to use higher ISO settings. If the resulting pictures are not clear, it is more likely due to the increased difficulty in achieving good focus under those conditions.

Many cameras offer some noise reduction capability when using high ISO settings as well as for slow shutter speeds. Those noise reduction settings will help. You should be able to achieve very good results with ISO settings even above 1000. I'll have to make a qualifying statement to that though. It depends on the camera. I don't know yours so I can't judge. A good quality SLR will give you good results well up in the ISO range. A small point and shoot (I know that is not yours, but just for the example) will be horribly grainy at even ISO 400.

You should be able to produce decent nighttime shots using high ISO settings which result in, if not grain-free shots, pictures where the amount of grain is not bothersom. The more you have to dig the picture out of the dark, the worse will be the grain. In other words, if you have to crop deeply to bring the desired subject in closer, and the more you have to up the brightness and exposure settings in your editing software, the worse will be the grain affect.

If you are close enough to the subject, flash will help. You will need external flash to give enough light. Don't rely on the camera's auto settings (program settings or full auto) for those will not make the best settings choices for those shots. You may have to use a tripod, larger aperture size and certainly a slower shutter speed.

Sometimes the affects of underexposed subjects, if accented by other lights within the scene, or just outside, can cast some interesting affects on Halloween subjects.

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10/27/2009 5:45:11 AM

Tim Poitevin
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/5/2006
  Amy - In addition to the fine comments above, I will add that when you use an external flash, set it to "rear curtain" so it flashes at the very end of the exposure. By doing so you can get away with slower shutter speeds and keep your ISO a bit lower, resulting in less grain. The slower shutter speed will record the background light, but the flash will pop at around 1/250 to freeze the kid in the foreground. Joe McNally talks about it in his wonderful book "The Hot Shoe Diaries". It's my go-to guide for lighting ideas.

Good luck!

If you can get 1/80 - 1/125 at ISO 800, you'll

If taking your ISO down to 400 or 800 will

That will freeze the children in place even if you have a slower shutter speed (anything below 1/250). This way you

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10/27/2009 11:28:26 AM

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