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Photos indoors with dim light and no flash

edited July 2015 Posted in » Nikon D3100 Forum
Hi, I am really new to my D3100 and a friend has asked me to take some pictures of his punk band when they next rehearse. The lighting in the garage is dim and they asked I don't use a flash! I have only taken landscape shots in daylight so I have no clue on the best settings and lens. Any help on how to get the best photos would be greatly appreciated.


  • edited July 2015
    Depending on just how dim the light is, and how it is distributed, this will be a challenge, but can be done.

    First of all, use the fastest lens you can find. A 35mm or 50mm prime would be nice. In a garage, a 35mm would probably be ideal. A 50mm might be a little hard to get wide enough depending on the space. Smallest aperture number = largest aperture, fastest lens. Because the kit zoom slows down as you zoom in, you might find it better to use a mid to wider angle, get closer, and crop afterwards.

    You will have to crank up the ISO, and how far you can go with this will depend somewhat on what noise level is acceptable (and how fast your lens is). Bright colors and lit areas will fare better than dark shadows at very high ISO, and often faces will look OK even when they're a little noisy. Digital noise is preferable to accidental blur. If you can, experiment at home with various ISO levels in average lighted rooms, to see what is acceptable. Much depends on how big you're going to print. Smaller prints will not look as noisy.

    If the people are lit up and the surroundings are dark, switch to spot metering, and meter a face. Let the shadows go black, or else the camera will tend to overexpose trying to get the whole scene bright.

    You might try Auto ISO and Aperture priority, or, if shutter speed becomes an issue, Manual and Auto ISO. In manual mode. try to find the brightest likely point you'll be shooting. Set the ISO at 100, and set the aperture as wide open as you can afford without losing too much depth of field (probably wide open here), and set the shutter speed as low as you can afford without too much motion blur. Now take a picture. If the ISO is anywhere between 100 and the maximum, you're cooking. If the ISO is at 100, you can probably afford a higher shutter speed. If it's at the max, you may need lower. If you're getting things about right at somewhere between 400 and 1600, you're in luck.

    Try also a single point, dynamic area focus, aiming at a face. Your depth of field will not be very great, so choose your focal point, a face or whatever, and don't expect much else to be sharp. If you're using multi-point focus, it will look for faces, but will tend to lock onto the nearest one. That may work in a tightly packed band, but you'll have to experiment.

    If the band moves around a lot while performing, there will almost certainly be a lot of shots lost to blurring, but if you can catch them between movements, some will be good. In some cases, you'll get most of a person clear, but blur where instruments are played, or things in motion, and with luck that can convey a certain sense of animation. A guitarist whose face is sharp, but hands a blur, for example. Shoot lots and lots, and erase lots and lots. If possible, save your images in Raw form, and you can fiddle the exposure and the color temperature more easily afterward, using View NX2 or a similar program.

    A live performance on stage can look good even if the images are not tack sharp and perfectly lit, if you get good expressions and convey a sense of what the band is doing. Results are likely to be high in contrast, with people standing out from a very dark surrounding. For variation, depending on what looks good and what is lit, you might try a couple of shots in which the subject and point of focus is the drum set or a closeup of a guitar being played. The lighting is likely to be mellow, and often looks better if you don't normalize it too far toward normal daylight.

    Finally, if it's really dark, and at a point where your ability to get anything at all is compromised, one thing you'll have trouble with is Auto Focus. If the only way you can get anything is with maximum ISO and a risky low shutter speed, you'll probably also find AF sluggish. If the camera keeps refusing to fire because it can't find focus, you'll have to switch to manual or back button focus. Let's hope the band needs enough light to read the music!
  • edited July 2015
    Thanks for your reply. I will have to read through a couple of times. I only got my D3100 this weekend, so I am very new to it all. Fingers crossed I get some good shots.
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