June 9, 2010

The expressive trumpet player in the band at a recent wedding.  A simple portrait of this musician, sweetened with some bounce flash. The light on his face, is by now perhaps predictably, bounce flash with the black foamie thing.  Looking at the light pattern on his face, you’ll see there was no direct flash of any kind.

1/60 @ f2.8 @ 2000 ISO // TTL flash
Nikon D3; Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 AF-S II (B&H); Nikon SB-900 (B&H)

In comparison, here are a few other images.  One with no flash, so we can see the effect of the bounce flash.  Another image with just available light; and another using the light from the videographer’s camera …

The same shot with only available light, as it registered at the previous settings:
1/60 @ f2.8 @ 2000 ISO

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Available light only, using the existing light in the room.  Now we’re really pushing the limits, and a wide aperture on the 85mm lens, and the highest ISO on the camera (Nikon D3) that I’m still comfortable using.  The shutter speed is also fairly slow, and I had to take a series of images to get a few that are sharp enough. Despite the popular belief, 1/60th just isn’t fast enough to hand-hold, and isn’t fast enough either when your subject is moving.  (And no, a  third stop jump to 1/80th wouldn’t have magically solved that problem either, for those who are thinking of a shutter speed in relation to the focal length.)

1/60 @ f1.4 @ 3200 ISO
Nikon D3;
Nikon 85mm f1.4D (B&H)

I changed the WB in raw post-processing to give me the most pleasant tones.

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When the videographer’s light came into play, I changed my settings ..
1/100 @ f1.4 @ 3200 ISO; no flash;

.. but still had to pull down the exposure by 0.6 stops in raw post-production.

 

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Laura June 9, 2010 at 1:08 pm

I’d have to say if I was in the same situation I would need to use flash. My camera is horribly noisy at 3200 ISO. I think most people don’t have camera’s that produce clean images at such high ISO’s so knowing how to use flash is essential. I used to be afraid of flash, but thanks to this blog I don’t hesitate anymore :-) Thanks to you, Neil!

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2 Arnold June 9, 2010 at 2:25 pm

Hello Neil. I noticed you are using the new 70-200 vr2 lens. I am about to push the button to buy this lens. Can you tell me if the new version worth the upgrade from the old one. I know there is some breathing with the vr2 which gives you a shorter zoom range at a given distance. Have you had any issues with that?
Thanks,

Arnold

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3 Neil vN June 9, 2010 at 3:07 pm

Arnold, I do notice the ‘breathing’ in focal length change when I zoom towards 200mm at close focusing distance … but only when I compare it to another lens. But it isn’t a big deal for me.

Here is my initial response to the new Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 AF-S VR II … and I am even more impressed now.

Neil vN

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4 Val June 9, 2010 at 7:36 pm

Neil, how high ISO are you comfortable in using usually? Actually the reason I ask is I wonder how much difference there is between DX and FX sensors. Since I find ISO1600 ‘usable’ on a D90, I would expect that on FX you could get the same level of noise somewhere ISO3200-6400? But I’ve never seen 100% sized pics from an FX.

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5 Neil vN June 9, 2010 at 8:10 pm

Val, when photographing indoors,
– and needing to get some available light to register, or
– relying on only on-camera bounce flash in a large room,
then I start at 1600 ISO as my default low-light ISO.

But this is with the Nikon D3 which excels at this.

As to how the noise looks at such a high ISO, have a look at this entry on the Nikon D700. Click on the image, to see a 100% crop of the 3200 ISO image.

Neil vN

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6 Brian June 9, 2010 at 9:03 pm

Thanks Neil.
Cool trumpet!

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7 Jeremy Miracle June 9, 2010 at 9:19 pm

I love the way the flash cleans up and polishes the image while still retaining the mood of the scene. btw, I assume you were carrying 2 cameras at the time which allowed a quick change to the 85mm f1.4? I forgot to ask you at the flash workshop if you have any tips on carrying two cameras at once. I always feel like a ‘bull in a china shop’, fearing that I’ll spin around and knock a guest’s drink out of their hand with a stray lens…

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8 Neil vN June 9, 2010 at 9:24 pm

Jeremy .. yup, two cameras. I have muscles!

The way to keep the camera from knocking things over when you walk, is to turn the camera around on your shoulder. Have the back face to the front of you … then the lens tucks away around your hip, pointing backwards.

Neil vN

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9 David June 10, 2010 at 11:54 am

Hi Neil,

Love the shot!

Surely with the new processing engine of Adobe camera RAW 5.7 (plus 6) or even Lightroom 3 you should quite comfortably able to use ISO-6400 on your D3, for a large print and possibly even ISO-12800 for a medium size print without even being concerned. Have you had chance to try the updates?

David

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10 Neil vN June 10, 2010 at 12:21 pm

David .. I didn’t do a comparison, but the updated ACR does seem noticeably better with high-ISO noise (like you had mentioned in the email).

All the more reason to keep RAW files forever, so that you can go back and re-edit key images if you ever need to.

Neil vN

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11 David June 12, 2010 at 12:07 pm

Neil, I fully agree about keeping RAW files, a few years ago I didn’t know different and deleted all my RAW’s after developing them, :-( oh dear! :-D

Below is one post I would like to see revisited, if you would like to try a new processing engine noise reduction comparison.
http://neilvn.com/tangents/2009/08/11/dealing-with-high-iso-noise/

Maybe (for that first shot) with the Luminance noise reduction set on 20 or 30 and the Color noise reduction left on the default setting.

I think you will be very pleasantly surprised! :-)

Hope you’re having a great weekend.
David

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12 David June 13, 2010 at 12:12 pm

Actually as an update to my post yesterday!

Would I be correct in guessing “The importance of permanently archiving your RAW files” will be a future blog entry? :-)

David

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13 Neil vN June 13, 2010 at 2:07 pm

That RAW file is so deep in the archives it would take too much time to delve it up. : )

Neil vN

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14 Paula June 13, 2010 at 4:48 pm

Hi Neil,

I noticed you use a high ISO allot, I have a Canon 50d and I hate going past 1600 even at that I see the horrible grain effect. Any tips? I know using a flash, but if I wanted to keep the natural ambient light and use flash as fill, and my camera settings are ISO 2000 or more?

Thanks

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15 Neil vN June 16, 2010 at 4:41 am

Paula .. the good news then is you’re going shopping!

If you don’t want to go past 1600 ISO, then you will have to affect your aperture, or use a larger flashgun for more power.

The obvious thing to do then is use a lens with a wider aperture, like a 50mm f1.4 or an 85mm f1.8 (or wider). With these lenses, you’d be able to keep your ISO lower and still get proper exposure.

Neil vN

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16 Kris July 23, 2010 at 6:45 am

The first one is definitely the best! One question though.. if the trumpet player is facing the crowd (which I presume he’s doing), then how can you bounce off a side-wall with your on-camera flash (to lighten up his face)? The flash would point to the crowd, not to a wall..?

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17 Neil vN July 23, 2010 at 6:49 am

the black foamie thing … catch up. : )

btw, the closest wall was to my right. So I didn’t bounce off a wall.

Neil vN

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18 Kris July 23, 2010 at 10:58 am

Ah ok, you bounced off the ceiling?

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19 Neil vN July 23, 2010 at 2:14 pm

Kris .. I am hesitant to say it like that .. that I bounced my flash off the ceiling, because then the assumption made by 90% of photographers who read it, will be that I bounced my flash directly above me into the ceiling. The usual way for most photographers who bounce flash.

I bounced my flash into the direction that I wanted my light to come from.

Neil vN

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20 Kris July 25, 2010 at 12:39 pm

So a little bit behind you and a bit to the left (and with your foamie thing) ?

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21 Sam July 27, 2010 at 12:48 pm

Neil,
Do you use Auto-ISO for these flash shots? Or did you manually set to ISO 2000?
Thanks

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22 Neil vN July 27, 2010 at 12:51 pm

I don’t use auto-ISO. I usually prefer everything Manual on my camera. (Flash can be either TTL or manual, depending on the situation.) Therefore, the 2000 ISO setting is deliberate.

Neil vN

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