Settings in dim light settings

edited February 2017 Posted in » Nikon D3300 Forum
I am new at this and desperately need help with my settings. I am looking for the best settings for a stage picture. My husband is a musician so I like to take stage pictures, and this camera had good low lit reviews. I am struggling with the settings. I want to take pictures on a dim lit stage with colored lights, and lights to light up each musician on stage, so I don't want the flash to brighten the entire picture and loose the colored lights. I have tried various speeds, etc. and they are either too dark and just a blur of color, or too bright as the flash has made the entire stage and musician look so bright. Please can anyone help? Thank you.


  • edited February 2017
    To begin with, you must ditch the flash. Aside from the inconsistency, it is likely to be distracting to the performers.

    Some will depend on what lens you're using. But in general, you're best off going to one of the less automatic modes, such as Aperture priority or Shutter priority. You probably won' t need a lot of depth of field if you're shooting just one musician or a tight group, so keep the aperture fairly wide open (small F number). If you're not sure what's best, try P mode, which allows the camera to set both aperture and shutter speed.

    For focus, you probably will want single point Continuous Servo focus, which will adjust focus for a moving subject, but presumes that the subject will stay more or less in the same part of the frame. For shots of people, it's usually best to try to focus on the closest visible eye. That's where people's attention goes, and if that is blurred, it usually does not work well. There may be exceptions to this - for example if he's a guitarist or a violinist, some shots might do better focused on some business part of the instrument. Keep an eye on depth of field, and if too much is out of focus, close the aperture down a little. That will slow down your shutter speed, or raise your ISO, though, so be careful.

    For metering, you may have to experiment, depending on how much of the frame the subject occupies. If you're getting a lot of person in the frame, I'd try center weighted averaging. If you're fairly far away and the subjects are lit much more than the background, try spot metering right on the subject's face. Generally speaking matrix metering, though fine in usual situations, may not work well where there is a great deal of contrast between lit performers and unlit stage. The matrix meter will try to even it all out, but you are likely not to care about the stage, the spot lights, and so forth. Let those things go black, or washed out, and concentrate on getting the subjects exposed right.

    For ISO you'll have to experiment a little, but you'll almost certainly need it high, in order to allow a shutter speed that you can hand hold. Keep an eye on your readings in the viewfinder or the back screen, and raise your ISO as needed to keep the shutter speed usable. You can use Auto ISO, but if you do you still need to check what level of digital noise you can tolerate. Try various shots in a similar situation, look carefully at them, and decide how high you can go. Set the upper limit of your Auto ISO at that (it's a menu setting), so the camera does not jump into the upper ranges you don't want.

    If you use auto ISO, you can always start at ISO 100, even if it's known to be too low. The camera will take it to where it needs to be. If you use manual ISO, try out various levels, and then set it at what you like. You're almost certain to need it up at 800 or more. If light changes, you can quickly adjust ISO while leaving the other settings alone. On this camera, you can set the Fn button to change ISO - I think that's the default, and it's also the nicest setting. You can't, however, switch in and out of Auto. That requires the menu.

    On a D3300, the noise level should be pretty good up to a fairly high ISO, and people on a stage may look ok even at noisy levels that would look bad for wildlife and such. So be more concerned about getting things sharp and well exposed, and worry less about noise. You also likely have a good bit of room to crop your images later without losing much resolution, so if you can't seem to get the framing perfect, or if your subjects move around in the frame, shoot a little wider. You'll get a little better depth of field wider too, and focusing will be a little less critical.

    I'd shoot in Raw mode always, as it allows compensation in post processing more easily. Programs like Lightroom, View NX2, Capture NX-D and others can read a Raw file and change white balance and exposure without penalty. And put the shutter release in burst mode, so you can take short bursts. You don't need to go wild and shoot lots of wasted pictures, but when things look right, it can help to shoot three or so at a time, with the hope that one will be better than the others. Remember you can delete as many as you want.
  • edited February 2017
    Thank you for taking the time to reply on my thread. All this is a new to me and I hadn't realized I needed to know so much to get going, but with guidance I'm sure I will get some decent pictures. So I will sit tomorrow and try and work out how to set what you advise. May I add you in case I have problems?
  • @Bruto, thanks so much for all the support you offer here on the forum! You are so thorough and excellent at explaining things. I always enjoy reading your response. Thanks for all you do!
  • I couldn't have said it better myself @welliesnbrellas. Thank you @bruto!
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