How do I get sharper images of performers in dimly lit cafe?

18th March 2018
by Lamar Francois

An extended take on a question I saw at the Sheffield Photographers social media page.

Firstly I would begin at using shutter speeds above 1/250s. Firstly it will stop blur because of the motion in the singers. Also , it will also stop blur arising from you holding the camera.  The gain (ISO) of the camera will have to be raised up a fair notch for this , but I would take noisier images , which can be rescued much easier then images degraded through blurred edges.

You can use strobes (speedlights) to clean up the lighting if practical , but I prefer in nearly all cases to stay true to the ambient lighting with this sort of thing.In the example I posted above ,seen at Emmanuel House recently I needed to go as far as ISO 6400 , but it was worth it to preserve the pink mood lights , installed for a special night time opening. Judicious editing of RAW files , especially with regard to white balance and colour options really helps.

Another thing , which will also help would be to engage continuous servo autofocus for your camera system , which will keep on tracking – looks as if you might have set focus , then had the singers move fractionally out from their original position , and therefore out of focus. Doesn’t always work with narrow depth of fields as you open up wider then f/2.8 – you are dealing with smaller margins of error , and the AF servo won’t always keep up , particularly in low light!.

To implement this I’d suggest using automatic ISO with a minimum shutter speed set to 1/250s , and camera set to aperture-value mode. This frees you to decide focus and then fire the shutter at the appropriate moment . I also use  Easy Exposure Compensation (check custom settings)  to quickly increase/decrease exposure compensation for best capture of data.

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1 comment

  1. |

    All good advice. But it kinda helps to use D4, too!

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