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How do I take good action pictures in low light?

This is a discussion on How do I take good action pictures in low light? within the Digital photography forums, part of the Photography & Fine art photography category; Twice now I have had a problem with this. First, I was in a bowling alley and was at the ...

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    sclewin's Avatar
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    Question How do I take good action pictures in low light?

    Twice now I have had a problem with this. First, I was in a bowling alley and was at the mercy of the bowling alleys lighting and today I was taking action photos of friends playing Frisbee around a little before sunset.

    I wanted a faster shutter speed for the action shot, so I found myself with few options to brighten the picture. I put the camera at its maximum aperture, but that was not enough, so the only other thing I could think about was ISO. But, I was forced to bring the ISO up to 1600 or 3200! This, of course, created a great deal of noise in the pictures.

    Is there anything I can do that would allow me to take brighter pictures with lowering the ISO? Something that does not include purchasing more equipment. I do know a lens with a wider aperture and a high end flash (not in the bowling alley) would solve the problem, but I have no budget to purchase anything at the moment.
    Your friend,
    Scott

    Posted from a Linux computer using Ubuntu 10.04

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    tirediron is offline Senior Member
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    Sorry... not much you can do. You have to get your shutter speed up. That means more light. Once you max out your effective ISO, the only options are faster glass or a flash.

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    jellotranz is offline Senior Member
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    I wish there was some super top secret piece of information I could share with you to solve your problem, unfortunately there isnít. Action requires a faster shutter speed, and from the sounds of it, you just donít have enough light. Pushing the ISO on most cameras past 1600 just makes for noisy ugly pictures.

    When all else seems lostÖ Go to manual mode, set your aperture to its widest setting and set your camera to 1/30 or 1/60 and try to keep your focal length as short as possible. Your images will be under exposed. Will they be exposed enough to pull an image from them? Maybe.. Itís always worth a shot. I have generally had reasonable luck with shooting wide open and setting my camera to 1/30. This method will portably produce some pretty flat looking pictures and contrast will probably be poop, but itís better than really noisy pictures.

    On a final note.. At some point when you can afford it, look into a 50mm f1.8 (Assuming you have a DSLR) most of the time you can pick up a new 50 f1.8 for under $100.00 and a used one for around $50.00. It will make life much easier when it comes to low light action.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jellotranz View Post
    Pushing the ISO on most cameras past 1600 just makes for noisy ugly pictures.
    And that is what happened . Here is one photo I cropped a little bit which made the noise even worse.



    When all else seems lostÖ Go to manual mode, set your aperture to its widest setting and set your camera to 1/30 or 1/60 and try to...
    Wow! I was using 1/1000 and 1/500. I did not know that you could get good action shots at those speeds.

    Thanks for the advice, the next time I will try the manual mode as you suggested.

    On a final note.. At some point when you can afford it, look into a 50mm f1.8 (Assuming you have a DSLR) most of the time you can pick up a new 50 f1.8 for under $100.00 and a used one for around $50.00. It will make life much easier when it comes to low light action.
    I am lucky enough to have a Sony A200 DSLR, but the cheapest lens I noticed for the camera was a telescopic lens for $280. I do plan on getting that lens eventually and will take a stroll to my local camera store with my camera to ask about cheaper lenses. I know Sony purchased their line of DSLR's from another company and I think I can use those lenses.

    I am also eventually planning on a better flash as well. The built in flash I know is good only for 10ft.
    Your friend,
    Scott

    Posted from a Linux computer using Ubuntu 10.04

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    jellotranz is offline Senior Member
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    Noise reduction software may help although with really noisy images it does soften them up, but to me thats better than noisy. Here is your pic (Hope you don't mind) after bieng run through Noise Ninja. Its a little better...


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    jellotranz is offline Senior Member
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    This is probably why I have stuck with Nikon and Canon over the years.. It doesn't really appear that there is an inexpensive 50mm lens for the sony. I know the ones for the Nikon and Canon DSLR's are generally under $100.00 which most people can afford, but it looks like in your case you can get a 2.8 in the $300.00 range or a 1.4 for $369.99.

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    jellotranz is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by sclewin View Post
    Wow! I was using 1/1000 and 1/500. I did not know that you could get good action shots at those speeds..

    You can't the person in your photo was moving too fast for 1/30 or 1/60 I would venture to guess that your bottom end for this pic would be 1/250. Also keep in mind that the further away they are (Smaller in your frame) will decrease the minumim shutter speed required to freeze the action.

    When faced with High Noise or under exposing the image, I will generally underexpose and hope I can pull it back in Post. That has always worked better for me than dealing with noise. So in this case perhaps a good starting point would be 1/100 or 1/250 at wide open, and check your display and see what you get and adjust from there. Since you don't have enough light to get those speeds at a lower ISO your going to have to decide where your trade off will be, slower shutter speed, higher iso, under expose etc...

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    Quote Originally Posted by jellotranz View Post
    Here is your pic (Hope you don't mind) after bieng run through Noise Ninja. Its a little better...
    I don't mind, thank you. I was actually thinking about learning how to use some of the noise reduction software on Kubuntu Linux.
    Your friend,
    Scott

    Posted from a Linux computer using Ubuntu 10.04

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    Quote Originally Posted by jellotranz View Post
    It doesn't really appear that there is an inexpensive 50mm lens for the sony. I know the ones for the Nikon and Canon DSLR's are generally under $100.00 which most people can afford, but it looks like in your case you can get a 2.8 in the $300.00 range or a 1.4 for $369.99.
    I took a trip to a local photography store that was recommended to me by a local professional and I found out Sigma makes lenses for Sony camera's and they are less expensive than the Sony's. The young guy at the store said they make a 50mm lens with a Sony mount that is cheaper than the Sony ones, but I forgot to ask exactly how much. I checked out the sigma web page, but could not find the lens, but he said that it was a popular item.

    I also found out they make cheaper flashes as well and I plan on purchasing both when I can save up enough money. Actually, I found so much stuff I want there it will take me a while to save up.
    Your friend,
    Scott

    Posted from a Linux computer using Ubuntu 10.04

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    Now I've seen your photo there I highly reccomend trying 2nd sync shutter and your on camera flash ... external flash is much better though.
    Set your speed nice and slow 1/30th at the highest believe it or not! Then get in close enough to your subject so that the flash can hit them ... still use a high ISO so the sensor is sensitve to the light ... maybe ISO 800 and then pan with the action as you take the shot. The result is a trail of blur and light with a sharp-ish image as the flash fires moments before the photo ends.

    Here's an example of mine taken with a shutter of about 1 sec or more ...


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