Challenges… and solutions: Low Light.

I shot a classical concert the other day (Mahler’s second symphony). Performance in a church, by Masterworks of Oakville.

The church had the worst light: dark, with bright back light. Ugh!

Terrible. So what can I do? Not use flash, of course.

But that is what photographers are for! So I use:

  • A fast lens – two, one wide (16-35) and one long (70-200), both f/2.8 lenses
  • High ISO: 1600 ISO
  • A slow shutter: 1/30th second
  • Stabilizer ON, on the long lens.
  • When needed, a little push in post (rather than slower shutter)
  • Patience – shoot the conductor when he is not waving TOO much…

All that gave me:

Not too bad, eh? What do you think?

This shows the importance of the right equipment.. the fast lenses were essential. This is why you hire a pro to shoot your event: you simply will not get the right results if you do it yourself, unless of course you have the same equipment and technique.


5 thoughts on “Challenges… and solutions: Low Light.

  1. So, on the weekend I saw the 5D Mk III was in the camera store at the mall. Will you be picking up one or two some time soon? The review test shots suggest you should be able to get a clean file at ISO 25600 which would let you boost shutter speed to freeze the hands.

      • It will be interesting to see if the 1Dx will deliver. I don’t think it has any features I absolutely must have, so I don’t plan to get one. I did a comparison of th 5D Mk III, Rebel T2i, G11 and 1Ds Mk III to see how they all perform at high ISO. The G11 was no surprise, but the Rebel T2i looks as clean as the 5D Mk III and 1Ds Mk III at ISO 3200, and the Rebel has a higher density sensor. The Rebel at ISO 12800 has about the same noise as the 5D Mk III at ISO 25600. Sample photos are here:

        Any of the Rebel T2i/T3i, 5D Mk II/Mk III or 1Ds Mk III should be able to produce a similar result to your photos from the church, with fast glass, a lens with 4 stops of IS, or both.

  2. Hi Mike
    did you use a monopod (or tripod) to steady your shots since you must have used slow shutter speeds? What are your thoughts on using them?
    Thanks for your blog, I’ve been reading it almost daily.

    • Thanks for the compliment, Martin. No, I did not – I used a stabilized lens and a steady hand. Monopods are great in dark environments; tripods not always practical. But I used neither.

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