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Production Photos

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by lighttechie5948, Mar 29, 2009.

  1. lighttechie5948

    lighttechie5948 Active Member

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    Hey Everyone,

    I was wondering what kind of camera would be good for taking production pics of my lighting designs, I would want some thing with a fast shutter so i can take pics of people moving, and I would want the picture to correctly represent the real lighting, not make it 20 times brighter or 20 times darker. And I want the color to be about the same as the live show. (I took pics of my Sweeney Todd lighting design last night, and the cyc was lit red by 5 scoops and all you saw in the pic was a pink cyc with 5 white circles)

    Also, my budget is like under $300.

    Thanks for everyone's help!!!

    ~Joe
     
  2. Omega

    Omega Member

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    If you will be using a tripod, you can use any semi-decent camera but go for the manual settings for more control.

    If you don't have a tripod, the problem is more of the light-intake rather than the actual manufacturing. Even some of my favorite cameras can't handle performance pictures. When you're shooting at somewhere around 1/1000fs, your camera will hardly be able to take in any of the light without a flash (which is why in automatic mode, it opts to give you that brighter, non-realistic impact from artificial light) and the stage lights will not be enough to fill this need. Any $300 camera won't be able to handle these lighting conditions without a tripod or a slower shutterspeed. But if that's what you're up against, I'd suggest at least seeing about taking in a monopod (which is what sports photographers use as it gives you balance but is still very mobile) or for a really low budget, I sometimes take a bean bag with me when I want to take photos and just put in on a ledge and position your camera on that. As long as you have support, you'll be able to slow your exposure to something like 1/125 or lower which will still capture the detail and action but will let in a lot more light. If you just have to do it free-hand, hold the camera as steady as you can and bring the speed down as far as you feel comfortable with.

    But if these are production photos, I assume you will have the house more or less to yourself? And then I would opt to buy a tri-, or mono-, pod. As for the camera, I might suggest the Sony Cybershot H9. You can probably get it for about $300 these days and its a wonderful, and very fast, model. Or you can get its sister model, the H7, for a little less and its the same camera without a couple features, like nightvision and a bit smaller of an LCD screen. However, the type of camera isn't all that important. I'm a firm believer in its more about knowing how to use a camera than the camera specs. So if you have a camera, play around with its settings and determine whether or not it will do the trick. If not, just buy something you think looks nice and read its manual to become familiar with its settings. Then when you get there, depending on the light, movement, and distance, you can play with its ISO, aperture, shutter speed, etc. And find something that works for you. No camera will automatically give you what you're looking for and there's no setting built to fit your performance, so I can't give you a short answer as you're just going to have to play around with what you can get.
     
  3. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

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    First off, I think you need to be willing to expand your budget to a minimum of $500. For shooting low light subjects (i.e. anything in a theatre) you are going to really hate life if you have a point-and-shoot camera. I would start looking at DSLR cameras like the Nikon D40 or whatever the equivalent Canon is (as a Nikon person, I don't really know the Canon line). You can pick up a D40 kit with a decent lens for about $410. That kit will get you pretty far, but eventually you will find that you will want a different lens.

    The real key to shooting in low light and theatre, as has been mention, is a good tripod and fast glass. You need to let as much light get to the sensor as you can. What you are looking for is lenses with a low number f-stop rating. The lower the number, the "faster" the lens, and the more expensive it will be. Next time you have money I would look into a lens like this. The best thing about getting into the DSLR world is that you can upgrade lenses as you need them.

    Other advantages to DSLR cameras are larger sensor size (thus better light sensitivity), faster power up, interchangeable lenses, faster shooting speed (no lag between when you press the button and when the photo is taken). If you are serious about getting into photographing your work, the DSLR will be your friend. Plus, you will love to have it for every day use!

    EDIT:
    It just occurred to me that if you want to go P&S you should look at the Canon G10. This is a very full featured camera yet it is compact and easy to use. It functions almost like a DSLR.
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2009
  4. ScottH

    ScottH Member

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    This reminds me of an exchange i had with a friend recently.
    Friend: "Wow Scott. Your camera takes really good pictures."
    Me: "No. I take really good pictures."

    Its tru though. You can take great picture with a fairly inexpensive camera provided you know enough about photography as well as how to adjust the settings on your camera.
    Ive got a Canon Powershot A540 that is a few years old now and Ive shot almost everyone of my shows and have gotten some great results. The things to look for are the different shooting modes. Full auto is nice and can sometimes give you what you want but most average auto modes were designed for mom taking the family photo at little billys first birthday. On the otherhand, full manual gives you all the options in the world, but unless you know exactly what to do with them in any given lighting situation (and have the time to set all of them during your photo call for every shot) that wont be helpful either. Some cameras (like mine) have a program mode. It allows you to set the iso, the white balance and the color mode and then adjusts the shutter speed and aperature automatically. This usually works best for me. Sometimes if i am taking action shots, ill take over shutter speeds and aperatures, but i prefer not to meddle too much with that (if you waste all your time tinkering with your camera, you miss all the good moments). If im really having action shot problems, I set it to multi shot and just hold the button down (it will shoot one shot/second until i release) theres bound to be a good shot in there somewhere.

    Canon's newer versions of my cameras, like the PS A2000 sport more megapixels, longer zoom range, more iso settings, faster shutter speeds and alot more.

    Thats just my experience with my camera. Im sure everyone will tout their own cam so you really have to do some shopping. (Spec sheets are your friends)

    I cant stress enough: buy the biggest memory card you are willing to spring for!
     
  5. Sony

    Sony Active Member

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    I agree with [user]icewolf08[/user] 100%

    I've been into photography heavily since grade school and I can say with all honesty, taking photographs in a theatre is one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do. Most cheap camera's do not like to take pictures in low light conditions and you really need a camera with Manual controls which you can personally adjust then a full auto camera with limited features. I agree with the above post, I am myself a Nikon user and do not know much about the Canon DSLR's but I can vouch that the Nikon D40 or D40x are great cameras. Two of my friends have them one has a D40x and the other has a D40 and they both love them. You can find them for cheap now as the newer D60 is now taking their place in the low end of Nikon's DSLR range. Try and save an extra $100 or so and grab a D40.

    If you really can't afford a Nikon D40 then icewolf's suggestion of a Canon Powershot G10 is also adequate as it is an advanced point and shoot camera which does have the option for mostly manual control.

    The great news is the D40 with the 18mm to 55mm zoom lens is on sale right now at B&H Photo/Video new for $450 and used for $350 check it out! If I didn't already have the Nikon D80 I would go for that!

    http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/used/471716/Nikon_25420_D40_SLR_Digital_Camera.html

    I was in the same situation about 2 years ago. However I personally went with the Nikon D80 (Which is now being replaced by the D90 :drool: ) and I haven't looked back since! I love my D80 and it takes wonderful low light pictures. Try and find some photography classes, they will help you learn how to use the manual controls on your camera to get the best pictures you can!
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2009
  6. aemeeich

    aemeeich Member

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    I have been taking pictures of the shows that I've been in for the past 5 years. It was a bit of a learning curve at first. I started with film so I didn't know if my settings were even working until a couple days later. Now with digital, you can instantly see if your settings work.

    In order to take pictures of a stage, here are my recomendations. You want to shoot at 800 or 1600 ISO (current DSLRs are pretty noise free at these high of ISOs - Compact P&S cameras are very noisy at these high ISOs, so it should be avoided on them.) You also want a lens that has a large apeture - which is the f/ number. You really want 2.8 at a minimum for best results. To freeze normal actor's movement, you need a minimum shutter speed of 1/80 to 1/100. Preferrably you want 1/160 or 1/250 to freeze faster motion. When you are shooting at these shutter speeds, a tripod isn't really necessary. The rule of thumb to eliminate camera shake is a shutter speed that is equal to 1/focal length. So if you are shooting at 55mm, you would only need a tripod if you are shooting at 1/60 or slower (1/100 if you take into account the crop factor). If you get a lens with IS, you gain around 3 stops of hand holdability which would get you to about 1/15 or so. But then you would run into blurred actor motion.

    I have always used Canon equipment. My current gear is the 40D, 17-55 2.8 IS, and 70-200 2.8L IS. If I am at the back of the auditorium, I use the 70-200. I set it at ISO 800, 2.8, and shutter speed of between 1/80 and 1/320 depending on stage brightness levels. If I am in an empty house and can get closer to the stage, I use the 17-55.

    For buying a new kit, I would start with the Canon Digital Rebel XS with 18-55 3.5-5.6 IS lens. It is $500 at B&H. You'll get the best results with this lens at the shorter focal lengths (since at 18mm the apeture is 3.5, whereas at 55mm the apeture is 5.6) Set the camera at ISO 1600 (800 if the stage is bright enough). Adjust your shutter speed to whatever gives you the desired exposure.

    Eventually if you want to get more in depth to photography, I would save up for better lenses. For a great all purpose lens, get the 17-55 2.8 IS - however it is $1,000.

    Michael
     
  7. rwhealey

    rwhealey Active Member

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    I have been taking photographs in caves for a while, which shares a bit of the same limitations as taking pictures in theaters.

    I use a Nikon D200 - got it used for $750. I'm limited by my lens, which the Nikon 18-55 F3.5-5.6

    I have found that the biggest help is manual control. I'll take a picture in apature priority, look at it in the LCD screen and then adjust from there. I usually set ISO between 800 and 1250 and don't see too much noise. Tripods are great for pictures without movment.

    I also find that taking black and white pictures can turn a poor photo into a good one. That might not work here (can't see lighting design too well).
     
  8. TheDonkey

    TheDonkey Active Member

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    On the Canon side of things, I can vouch for the Rebel XS (D1000 In Japan I believe), I got it on a sale for $500CAD, this is $100 off sticker.

    You get the full manual you need, and it's an overall great camera to work with.
     
  9. Sony

    Sony Active Member

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    I do believe the Canon XS and Nikon D40 (or D60) are equivalents! So whichever you choose you would be well off with. I love both Canon and Nikon equipment, I shot with Canon before I got my Nikon and it was great! I am however a huge Nikon fan now ;) I love my D80.

    I got my D80 2 years ago when it first came out, it cost me $1400 total and it was on sale, but it was the best thing I have ever done! Completely worth it! It was a kit deal from B&H Photo and with that I got the Nikon D80, a Nikon 18mm-135mm F/3.5-5.6 ED IF AF-S DX Lens, two 2GB SD Cards, and a pack of generic lens filters. Definitely get at least a UV Lens filter, it helps protect the lens and the sensor.
     
  10. erosing

    erosing The Royal Renaissance Man

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    Have a look at this thread, http://www.controlbooth.com/forums/lighting/9607-photographing-your-work.html .

    If you can wait, save up some money to get a decent dslr with a fast lens. Otherwise, yeah, I'll third/fourth the G10, it's not bad for a Point and shoot.

    EDIT: Wait, are you in highschool? If you are, save your money for an dslr, you might find that photography is something you really enjoy, spending a few hundred more dollars now would prevent you from having to spend money to buy a better camera later, plus a decent dslr will last you many more years and you'll only need to buy new body's down the line. If you don't like it, yeah you spent a little more money, but you got a better product that will last longer and have the ability to take better pictures.
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2009
  11. JD

    JD Well-Known Member

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    Here's the deal; The human eye can see a bright-to-dark ratio of almost a million to one. Film is about 1000 to 1, Video is more like 100 to 1 (And can go as low as 10 to 1 if you add the regular noise in broadcast.) In other words, much of what we see ends up outside the range of the camera. Adjust it to not wash out, and much ends up below the black level. Adjust it for dark detail, and the brights wash out. Even with the best of cameras, it is still a compromise.

    The other compromise is what you want to give up in the live performance for the sake of film or video. Equipment these days is a LOT better than it was in the 1980s when I used to scream at the thought of having a show videotaped.
     
  12. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

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    Actually, along with what [user]JD[/user] said, if you really want to photograph your work and do it justice, you have to have a real photo call. Shooting during a performance or rehearsal will only ever yield mediocre photos. Since generally you have to shoot at wide apertures and slow shutter speeds when in the theatre, you want your subjects to be as still as possible. This allows you to get the best focus and little to know motion blur.

    You need to know how to effectively use the light meter on your camera to get the best exposure as the exposure latitude of digital is no where near that of the human eye. Don't hope to capture every nuance of lighting. You will have to compromise on what you expose correctly for as often the actors are the brightest things on stage, you either have to "blow them out" to see what is going on behind them, or you have to let the background drift into darkness. Cameras are getting better, especially with the new CMOS chips, but you have to spend at least $1K right now for a CMOS chip camera, and even they are still far from matching what you see with your eyes.
     

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