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Nic
01-19-2012, 08:00 PM
Hi all,
As a mum of a 2 yr old I often find myself shooting indoors in poor lighting conditions. My problem is I need a fast shutter speed to freeze my daughters continual movement & I don't like the effect of the in built flash. I'm a novice, does anyone have any tips (other than go outside) to get better quality shots. I like grain, but hate noise. My previous experiences was with film processing, so I don't know a lot about digital post processing to reduce noise.

Thanks for your help,
Nic

Iguanasan
01-19-2012, 10:06 PM
Photography is an expensive hobby :) My recommendation is that you go out and by the Pentax SMC FA 50mm f/1.4 lens for your K-r. It retails for around $250 to $350 in Australia if I've done my research correctly. Taking the aperture down to f1.4 (or even f1.8 or f2.0) is going to give you a lot more light gathering ability. This should let you increase your shutter speed with only a minor increase ISO thus avoiding the grain. Note that this is not a recommendation for that specific lens... I looked it up because I know you are shooting with a Pentax K-r. There may be a Sigma or Tamron lens which works just as well for less.

The other option, of course, is off camera flash. I picked up a Yongnuo YN-467 for $52 (currently being sent back because it died) and a YN-560 for around $75 off of eBay. The YN-560 is still going strong and I have my fingers crossed. I'm hoping they'll replace my 467 as soon as it finished taking the slow boat back to China. In any event this is the least expensive way to add light to the situation. Oh, that and the wireless remotes rf-603s for $40 solve many lighting problems but add complexity of understanding and using flash.

Nic
01-19-2012, 11:14 PM
Thanks for the quick & detailed reply Iguanasan! I had thought about getting a prime lens previously as someone suggested it was a good way to improve your photography. Do you think that helps? It's tempting if it would give me a stop or so of extra light. My current lenses I'm afraid are kit lenses - Pentax 18-55mm & 50-200mm. The 18-55mm ranges from f3.5-f32. I recently saw a sigma 18-200mm & was wondering if that would b better than having the two lenses. I read zoom lenses aren't as good, but I've also read neither are kit lenses. I have so much to learn. I also don't want to over invest in equipment when I really need to invest in my skills.

I also have a very basic flash that was part of my deal. I suspect it's not the best, but again I really want to improve before I spend too much. It's a Sigma EF-530 DG ST. I've been playing with it & reading the manual, but it's my first flash & I suspect there's some obvious basic knowledge I don't have. I can't get it to fire. It says to put it on ttl & set the camera to p. I don't understand what the numbers mean. It's lit up at 50. It doesn't seem to be warming up at the moment, maybe it needs new batteries?! It still lights up the numbers though. I've found even when I get it to fire it drives me crazy how long it takes to warm up. Is that just a problem with cheap flashes or is that just something you deal with flash photography? Sorry these are probably really silly questions. I really appreciate your help.

Regards,
Nic

Mad Aussie
01-19-2012, 11:33 PM
Aside from a couple of strong lights ready to shine on her I can't really add to what Iggy has suggested.
You simply lack light so you simply must find a way to get more light to the camera sensor, whether that be via adding physical lights/flashes or getting a faster lens is your call.

Another thought is you might have to get more creative. You won't get as many candid moments but if you were find ways to get her to the brighter parts of the house ... such as the kitchen table if it's near a window for instance, you might get some very nice ambient light/shadow of her. These often convert very well to B&W also.

mbrager
01-19-2012, 11:44 PM
My first thought about your flash problems is that you need new batteries. With fresh batteries the flash should be ready within seconds of turning on or firing. If the batteries are weak they will power the readout only. Definitely try new batteries. Rechargeables work great for me.

Mad Aussie
01-19-2012, 11:47 PM
Thanks for the quick & detailed reply Iguanasan! I had thought about getting a prime lens previously as someone suggested it was a good way to improve your photography. Do you think that helps? It's tempting if it would give me a stop or so of extra light. My current lenses I'm afraid are kit lenses - Pentax 18-55mm & 50-200mm. The 18-55mm ranges from f3.5-f32. I recently saw a sigma 18-200mm & was wondering if that would b better than having the two lenses. I read zoom lenses aren't as good, but I've also read neither are kit lenses. I have so much to learn. I also don't want to over invest in equipment when I really need to invest in my skills.

I also have a very basic flash that was part of my deal. I suspect it's not the best, but again I really want to improve before I spend too much. It's a Sigma EF-530 DG ST. I've been playing with it & reading the manual, but it's my first flash & I suspect there's some obvious basic knowledge I don't have. I can't get it to fire. It says to put it on ttl & set the camera to p. I don't understand what the numbers mean. It's lit up at 50. It doesn't seem to be warming up at the moment, maybe it needs new batteries?! It still lights up the numbers though. I've found even when I get it to fire it drives me crazy how long it takes to warm up. Is that just a problem with cheap flashes or is that just something you deal with flash photography? Sorry these are probably really silly questions. I really appreciate your help.

Regards,
Nic
Without doubt in my mind, the Sigma 18-200 would be a better choice than the two kit lens overall. However, there's no reason why the kit lenses can't take a great photo in the right situation either ... i.e enough light.
However, how fast is the Sigma? In case you don't know ... this means how low will your fstop go on that lens? Your 18-55 goes down to f3.5 which is still considered part of the normal range by most I think. f2.8 or lower is starting to get fast. f1.8 and f1.4 are fast.
No point buying the Sigma for the indoor shooting if it's not going to be quicker.
Better quality lenses do have other advantages such as quicker, more precise focusing, and better glass with reduction in chromatic aberration (fringing).

You can get some very cheap f1.8 primes Nic ... they might be a low cost alternative to start with. They are plastic-ee but produce surprising results.

The ttl is a reference to the way the camera talks to the flash. There should be a setting on the flash for that. I don't get why you'd have to set the camera to p (program) though but what the hell ... try it.
I'd definitely try the batteries if warm up is taking too long. Although many flashes do take a few seconds (but not 10 or more) to warm up with good batteries.
Again, better flashes have advantages of more control over flash power, stronger, adjustable heads and more.
Your camera may have a section in the menu to control flash output to some degree. You may find that will reduce the over flashing and shadows you hate.

Nic
01-20-2012, 02:13 AM
Thank you for the advice everyone! I've put some batteries on the charge. Definitely sounds like the issue, it's taking a lot longer than 10 secs to warm up. I'm going to learn how to use the flash first & then I might look into a faster lens. Mad Aussie the sigma 18-200mm is f3.5, so no better than the two lenses I already have. It would be easier to have one lens instead of two. I don't think I'll worry about it though. I'm more interested in the faster prime lens. Where can you pick up cheap prime lenses Mad Aussie? The faster prime lense would also help with my other issue of background. Not always the best back drops in my house. Not that I limit myself to indoors, it's just where I have the most difficulty getting a nice shot.

I don't understand why I would have to set the flash to p either. I never shoot in p. I've probably misunderstood the manual. Will be doing more research about flash operation, I haven't got a clue.

Thanks again everyone!

Mad Aussie
01-20-2012, 02:25 AM
I got my 50mm f1.8 prime for about $120 from Cameras Direct I think. I have no idea if there's a version to suit your camera though.

I do think that learning to use the kit lenses before spending big bucks on the Sigma is probably a wiser way to go. You can have all the great gear and no idea and still end up with crap shots. But with cheap gear, you can still get great shots if you know what you are doing.

Another thing is learn post processing! And learn to shoot in RAW. With those two elements, you'd be surprised what you can do with what looked like a crap shot due to exposure.

Mad Aussie
01-20-2012, 02:29 AM
Just did a very quick search and found in the pentax forums these options for the K-r ...
SMC Pentax-FA 50mm F1.4 $221.44
SMC Pentax-FA 50mm F1.7 $120

Dunno whether those prices are US or AU ... but maybe search around a bit

theantiquetiger
01-20-2012, 03:35 AM
Nic,
As a beginner, I too am learning how to get good ambient light indoors without a flash. I don't care for flash because of harsh light (and I haven't really learned to use my flash correctly yet). So, from a beginner to a beginner, here are some tips that helped me(other than buying a 50mm f/1.8 lens)

Set a custom white balance before shooting or make sure your white balance is set to the correct type of lighting you are using. This is not really helping the lighting, but your image maybe lit well enough, just your white balance is off, making your whites too dark. Setting a custom white balance is pretty simple, you just need a white sheet of paper.

Another VERY simple way is to take shades off of lamps in the room you are shooting (just make sure they are not in the frame :-) )

A third method I use is that if your camera has a small pop up flash like my Canon has, take a ping pong ball, cut it open to were it fits completely over the flash. This will soften the light of the flash. Be warned, when you use this, the flash also shoots back towards you, near blinding.

***any experts on the board, please let me know if any advice I just gave is bad***

vyeko
01-20-2012, 07:18 AM
I am also Pentax user and I agree with all what they say about lightning.I have old Pentax 50 mm f/1.7 and my experiences is unbelievable. Is dead sharp sometimes too much (portraits). I use for mid night walk in my town for night shots.It is so fast that I can take image handhold too.For concert shotting too.Hope that will help you for easier decision.

Nic
01-20-2012, 07:39 AM
Thanks for ur research Mad Aussie. I'm going to check Cameras Direct out after I attempt to learn how to use my flash. I'm still very tempted by a faster prime lens. I appreciate ur time & advice. I currently shoot in RAW & jpeg, although I have to admit to mostly using the jpeg images. I haven't played enough with RAW. I found a great vodcast that shows photoshop techniques for the digital photographer & have been playing around with high pass sharpening etc. I still have a lot to learn though. I have a graphic design background so I'm familiar with photoshop, but not so much the techniques used by photographers. I'm quite enjoying expanding my knowledge in that area. So far my post processing includes (if necessary) levels, high pass sharpening & some spot healing. If you don't mind sharing, what do you do?

I did manage to get my daughter to do an activity on our deck so I could shoot something for the one assignment. Much better with some extra light, although it was quite late in the day. The light is quite warm, I'm not sure whether it's too warm or not.

theantiquetiger, thanks for ur tips. I'm particularly interested in ur ping pong idea. A lot of the time I want to shoot my daughter I don't have time to attached my portable flash etc, so that would b perfect. I'm definitely going to try it. I've been using the custom settings for white balance since hearing on a number of podcasts that AWB is evil :), but I haven't tried setting it with white paper. I'll give that a go too.

Thanks again for all your help! I've made a New Years Resolution to put more time into my interests & this forum is a perfect way to develop my photography skills.

Marko
01-20-2012, 09:29 AM
Aside from a couple of strong lights ready to shine on her I can't really add to what Iggy has suggested.
You simply lack light so you simply must find a way to get more light to the camera sensor, whether that be via adding physical lights/flashes or getting a faster lens is your call.

100% agree. You could also try used video lights and bounce them. Those are way cheap if u can find them and they will add a good amount of light.
I have a smith victor 650 watt halogen bulb in a small smith victor head. The thing is ancient, but throws a lot of light. The bulb gets 3rd degree burn hot so you have to be careful, and the bulb is 25 dollars - but aside from that it works great in the situations you describe in the first post.

Mad Aussie
01-20-2012, 03:46 PM
I have a graphic design background so I'm familiar with photoshop, but not so much the techniques used by photographers. I'm quite enjoying expanding my knowledge in that area. So far my post processing includes (if necessary) levels, high pass sharpening & some spot healing. If you don't mind sharing, what do you do?
I share all the time! :) Having a graphic design background (as I do) will help you in learning the photography side of photoshop for sure.

I used to use Lightroom, as many do, and that's a good program for sure. I used to use HDR software, as many do, and they can give some great results as well. Nowadays though, I use Adobe Bridge and Photoshop exclusively.

Bridge helps me view my RAW shots, arrange my photos and add keywords and other data I want. I can stack multi-exposures together etc and then launch the photo into Photoshop. The only downside is the preview is a bit soft.

When it opens in Photoshop I can then use all the RAW adjustments available to me, including adjusting the white balance as though I did it before shooting, sharpen, adjust 8 different colour groups in 3 different ways, levels, rotating, reduce chromatic aberration, and much more. All on the RAW before actually opening the photo completely in PS for further work or saving as a Jpeg etc.
Once in PS, and assuming the photo is pretty good to start with, I often do very little unless I want to really do something dramatic with it. Then I often use layers and layer masking to achieve the effects I want.


I've made a New Years Resolution to put more time into my interests & this forum is a perfect way to develop my photography skills.
Good decision. This is the best forum I've found for learners in years of visiting photography sites.

Where in Aussie are you Nic?

Nic
01-20-2012, 05:44 PM
I'm in the Blue Mountains, NSW. I'm definitely going to start playing more with RAW. I don't currently use bridge as my camera shoots jpeg & RAW so it's easy to preview, but it sounds like a better way to organise my images.

Thanks again for ur help, I have lots of tips to play with.

Nic
01-20-2012, 05:51 PM
Thanks for video light advice Marko. I've been listening to ur podcast for a while so I went back to ep. 71 to learn about my portable flash. Thank u for ur podcast, it has taught me a lot.

Mad Aussie
01-20-2012, 08:17 PM
Blue Mts! Well ... I do hope we can convince you to get out and shoot that awesome landscape around you too then!

Marko
01-21-2012, 09:50 AM
My Pleasure Nic!

MA - how come you switched from LR to Bridge?
( I use LR mostly for the cataloguing, and I still use Bridge to do the basic corrections before I bring an image into Photoshop. I know I can use LR to also do what bridge does, but I learned Bridge first.)

Mad Aussie
01-21-2012, 03:12 PM
MA - how come you switched from LR to Bridge?
( I use LR mostly for the cataloguing, and I still use Bridge to do the basic corrections before I bring an image into Photoshop. I know I can use LR to also do what bridge does, but I learned Bridge first.)
When I switched to Mac I didn't have any editing software at all, or the money to buy any to start with. We didn't want any pirate software on our computers.
We bought the CS5 suite so I made do with Bridge instead of LR with the intention of buying Aperture or Lightroom at a later date. Now I won't bother with either. After loosing all my adjustments from LR with the change to Mac I'm over the, what do they call it ... non-destructive ... non invasive ... whatever it is that doesn't permanently write to your original files. I'm having to go back and add all my keywords etc to the files but at least they'll stay with the files from now on.

In terms of LR vs Bridge ... LR has a few features I liked but overall I never did a lot in it anyhow, preferring Photoshop.
As far as HDR software goes, I'm really quite over it because of the un-natural results. It steals the shadows which are an integral part of light in an environment. I like photos, not painting like photos. A very, very good HDR is stunning though but only in the hands of someone very good with something like Photoshop to correct all the issues created.

Marko
01-22-2012, 09:43 AM
Thx MA.