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Photography advice needed

Old 07-07-08, 12:24 PM
  #1  
JoesInBoston
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Photography advice needed

So.....my girlfriend Sue and I are trying to get into the hobby of photography. Last year we bought a Canon S5IS:



To date, it has served us pretty well. Lately, Sue's been trying to photograph some of my inline hockey games and the pictures haven't even come close to what we are used to seeing from this camera.



^^^ Is one example of what most of the pictures look like (that's not me by the way). The lighting inside the arena is pretty dim, and I don't exactly remember the ISO and aperture we used for that shot. I know we've played alot with the settings and this is really the best we could get our pictures to come out. I want to know if it is possible to get better pictures out of this camera if I use an external flash such as the Canon 430 Speedlite. Or maybe this is about as good as we're going to get?

We're looking to get an improvement in brightness, sharpness and being able to take the ISO down a notch or two to remove some noise.
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Old 07-07-08, 12:51 PM
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A flash may help, but you need a powerful, and wide angle capable, light source to properly illuminated subjects at a distance. I haven't used the 430 Speedlite, so I can't testify to it's functionality. However even if it does not preform as well as you wish from across a rink, a good hot shoe flash is still a great accessory to have.
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Old 07-07-08, 12:51 PM
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The S5 is a small-sensor camera like all the compact point-n-shoots, and all small sensor cameras are crap in low light. If you intend to do a lot of low-light photography, you need to get a DSLR, which has a much larger sensor. Also you then have the option of getting a brighter lens, although the f2.8 and bigger lenses get expensive.

A DSLR will also have a shorter shutter lag for action shots.
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Old 07-07-08, 12:58 PM
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A flash might not be allowed in an arena situation because it can be distracting.

Can you open it up a bit and shoot at f2.8 or f4 and change your shutter to about 1/125th?

Another option may be to see if the arena is evenly lit, ( I know you said it was dim), and try shooting in the brighter areas.

Although I have been a cameraman for twenty five years I gave up still photography fifteen years ago and know little about digital photography so I may not be helping at all.

On the plus side, with a digital camera you don't have to wait to get the film developed to see if you shot anything you like.

Good luck.


EDIT........Since you have asked a question on a forum one option is to ask on a photography forum like.......https://www.dpreview.com/........

Last edited by LastPlace; 07-07-08 at 01:03 PM.
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Old 07-07-08, 01:04 PM
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A Tripod might help a bit with the noise, (although the camera seem to have been mostly stable on that shoot. But with high shutter speeds it usaly helps a lot to use a tripod)
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Old 07-07-08, 01:05 PM
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That's actually pretty good for a point and shoot camera.

If you want to improve the quality of natural light images, the next step is going to have to be an SLR with a fast lens (wide aperture; around 2.8). Unfortunately, to get the same magnification you have with that S5, in a fast telephoto lens, is going to cost arond $4k (for a 200mm 2.0 or 300mm 2.8) or even $7k (400mm 2.8).

A direct flash probably won't work so well, because it looks like you have to shoot through glass. I've never shot hockey, but I would guess that an on camera flash would light up the glass instead of the subject. If you can get above the glass or shoot through a hole in it, maybe that would work. You might also make the officials upset and get kicked out.

When sports photogs use flashes to light hockey, they don't use one on the camera, they mount several high powered studio strobes above the rink pointing down and trigger them wirelessly. This is a lot less distracting to the players, and makes much better looking light.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. I would probably look into noise reduction software like Neat Image or Noise Ninja, max out the ISO on the camera, get as close as possible to the glass, use +1/3 stop exposure compensation to make it a little cleaner but blurrier, and keep panning with the action like you did in the above shot.

The cheapest DSLR setup that would be good for low light sports would probably be the Canon 20D (about $500 used) and the Canon 200mm 2.8 lens (about $600) or 135mm 2.0 ($900). The very best right now, would be a Nikon D3 ($5k) and 200mm 2.0 ($4k), which would let you stop motion in much less than hockey arena light.

Frankly though, the best way to get good images of yourself playing would be to hire a professional who has the equipment already, or if there's a photographer at any of the games selling prints, to buy those.
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Old 07-07-08, 01:09 PM
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A 430 would work fine in this situation. Wouldn't be pretty, but as far as on-camera mounted strobes, it's one of the better ones out there and, in general, is plenty strong enough.

The problem here isn't the lack of light as much as it is just a camera incapable of shooting in this sort of situation. You kids may just be graduating to the expensive world of DSLR photography.

Point and shoots are great. They come in all shapes and sizes, let alone prices. The one you've got is one of the better ones and it does what can do very well. I've yet to see a point and shoot, however, that is responsive enough to effectively take action photographs and i have yet to see a point and shoot that can hold it's own to low light photography. I would rather take a 10D and a 50mm f/1.8 to that hockey game....and the price would be about the same.
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Old 07-07-08, 01:15 PM
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Originally Posted by MadMan2k View Post
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. I would probably look into noise reduction software like Neat Image or Noise Ninja...
That's funny, I was just working on the OP's pic to show what Neat Image is capable of. I just did a quick levels adjustment and ran it through Neat Image and got a decent clean image:



.
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Old 07-07-08, 01:19 PM
  #9  
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Speak for yourself...
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Old 07-07-08, 01:21 PM
  #10  
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Crank the ISO up as high as it will go and open the aperture all the way.
On camera flash does not yield the best results for indoor sports.

When I shoot volleyball indoors, I've got my lens opened up to f/2.0 and I'm at ISO 1600 with about 1/500 s shutter speed.
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Old 07-07-08, 01:26 PM
  #11  
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Originally Posted by volleybrad View Post
Crank the ISO up as high as it will go and open the aperture all the way.
On camera flash does not yield the best results for indoor sports.

When I shoot volleyball indoors, I've got my lens opened up to f/2.0 and I'm at ISO 1600 with about 1/500 s shutter speed.
Eeeks. Tell them to put some lights in that dungeon.
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Old 07-07-08, 01:32 PM
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Action shots need a faster shutter speed. If there are not preset scenes for your camera just manually change the ISO and Shutter speed to be as fast as possible.
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Old 07-07-08, 01:59 PM
  #13  
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Whoa, I had no idea that image programs were capable of cleaning up a picture that much.

As far as some of the other comments in here:

- The pictures are taken from the penalty box, with no glass in between (given permission from the team, rink and league to be there).

- Direct flash photography is allowed as at some of my games, there has been professional photographers using a much more powerful direct flash (and it never bothered me or anyone else in the league, as a matter of fact it was barely noticable).

- A tripod was not used though we own one. We are looking into getting a monopod for next season, which begins at the end of fall.

- We probably will join the D-SLR super club at some point over the next year or so.
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Old 07-07-08, 02:05 PM
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If you need to know what pictures were taken with, shutter speed and aperture wise, check the pic's EXIF data, it should be in there.

Edited -- I just pulled the exif data in Photoshop on your pic, it gave me a shutter speed of 1/60 second, f/4.5, ISO 800, focal length 20.7mm, no flash, pattern metering mode, and 3264x2448 pixels in main image.

Meh, I need to get a real SLR one of these days.

Last edited by mlts22; 07-07-08 at 02:09 PM. Reason: Photoshop data
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Old 07-07-08, 02:21 PM
  #15  
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Originally Posted by X-LinkedRider View Post
Action shots need a faster shutter speed. If there are not preset scenes for your camera just manually change the ISO and Shutter speed to be as fast as possible.

We've done that. We don't even use the preset functions. The camera has the ability to manually set ISO (80/100/200/400/800/1600), Aperture (to f/2.7(W) and f/3.5(T)), and Shutter Speed (15 - 1/3200). The problem that I've been having is that with higher shutter speeds, the picture comes out really dark.
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Old 07-07-08, 02:48 PM
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When you adjust the shutter speed, you either adjust the ISO and aperture to match or decrease the overall exposure.

Since you don't have to shoot through glass and they don't mind direct flash, go for it. I might suggest the 550EX instead of the 430 because it has a little more power, but it's also bigger and you'd have to find a used one.

My 550 works well on my dad's powershot pro1, but that camera's pretty poky and I wouldn't enjoy using it to shoot sports much. Use Aperture Priority mode (Av) and the highest ISO setting and the camera will choose the appropriate shutter speed, which will be the fastest possible without underexposing because you've specified the other two settings to give it the most light it can take in.
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Old 07-07-08, 02:58 PM
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If you're going to buy an outdated flash just because of the added power, there are much better options out there.
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Old 07-07-08, 03:04 PM
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Outdated? Do you think the S5 is sophisticated enough to use better than E-TTL? Or supports anything else the 430 has over the 550, which isn't much AFAIK?

Just out of curiousity, what other TTL options would you suggest?
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Old 07-07-08, 03:16 PM
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Originally Posted by MadMan2k View Post
Outdated? Do you think the S5 is sophisticated enough to use better than E-TTL? Or supports anything else the 430 has over the 550, which isn't much AFAIK?

Just out of curiousity, what other TTL options would you suggest?
That wasn't my point. The point is that if you're going to try and A.) save money and B.) get more power, you can get the sigma, or hell a sunpak for $90. I own a 550 and have used a 580...even with a camera that doesn't have ettl-II, i'd much rather have the 580. Faster recycle, slightly more powerful, much lighter. I suspect the same is true regarding the 430. What's more...it will be good for the shiny new DSLR he is going to buy in the next 8 months
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Old 07-07-08, 04:26 PM
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I have the same camera. The noise levels ramp up considerably at ISO 400 and above, which is what your camera is doing trying to keep shutter speed up (assuming you're in auto or sports mode - based on EXIF it looks like Easy Mode and shooting ISO 800). You can clean it up a bit in post-production with something like neatimage as CarbonLife's shown. Otherwise, trying to keep it at ISO 200 is going to severely restrict your ability to get shots like that (high speed, moving across your field of view) without using a flash.

Using noise reduction software, you can get decent results at ISO 400 and 800. I wouldn't touch 1600 at all on an S5, it's like looking through frosted glass.
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Old 07-07-08, 05:43 PM
  #21  
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One of the virtues of digital photography is the ease of working on the picture afterward. There are a number of photo programs available, and you don't need to spend nearly as much as Photo Shop costs to get a decent one.
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Old 07-07-08, 07:08 PM
  #22  
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Originally Posted by JoesInBoston View Post
Whoa, I had no idea that image programs were capable of cleaning up a picture that much.

As far as some of the other comments in here:

- The pictures are taken from the penalty box, with no glass in between (given permission from the team, rink and league to be there).

- Direct flash photography is allowed as at some of my games, there has been professional photographers using a much more powerful direct flash (and it never bothered me or anyone else in the league, as a matter of fact it was barely noticable).

- A tripod was not used though we own one. We are looking into getting a monopod for next season, which begins at the end of fall.

- We probably will join the D-SLR super club at some point over the next year or so.
After checking the EXIF data, a couple of ideas for you. I don't think you used it, but NEVER use digital zoom. your ratio is at one so I don't think you did.

Use less of no zoom, this will enable you to shoot with a faster (more open, lower f stop) lens. If you need to crop the photo you can later using a program like Picasa (free from google), or photoshop express (free online photo editing).

Your camera can have shutter speed as fast as 1/3200, I would start about 1/750 or 1/1000 and speed up from there.

Any dark pictures can be adjusted with one of the programs mentioned above.

And the best advice I can give: Set your camera to a certain level (shutter, aperture, iso) and shoot a picture, pic one setting and change it by one step. Shoot again, adjust same setting again, repeat. After you go through all of one settings start over with another one. Make mental or actual notes on what seems to ork and then start putting those combos together. Sounds more complicated than it really is.

The nice thing about digital is it doesn't cost you anything but time to take alot of pics.
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Old 07-07-08, 08:11 PM
  #23  
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Originally Posted by half_bent View Post
After checking the EXIF data, a couple of ideas for you. I don't think you used it, but NEVER use digital zoom. your ratio is at one so I don't think you did.

Use less of no zoom, this will enable you to shoot with a faster (more open, lower f stop) lens. If you need to crop the photo you can later using a program like Picasa (free from google), or photoshop express (free online photo editing).

Your camera can have shutter speed as fast as 1/3200, I would start about 1/750 or 1/1000 and speed up from there.

Any dark pictures can be adjusted with one of the programs mentioned above.

And the best advice I can give: Set your camera to a certain level (shutter, aperture, iso) and shoot a picture, pic one setting and change it by one step. Shoot again, adjust same setting again, repeat. After you go through all of one settings start over with another one. Make mental or actual notes on what seems to ork and then start putting those combos together. Sounds more complicated than it really is.

The nice thing about digital is it doesn't cost you anything but time to take alot of pics.
All sound advise but, keep in mind that each of these adjustments you recommend comes with a side effect. Hockey is traditionally one of the hardest sports to shoot. Next to gymnastics and high school football, there are rarely darker sporting events to photograph. Then you have to deal with the blown highlights of ice (perhaps not on roller blades) and the darkness of shadows.

The bottom line is that a point and shoot will only get you so far. When you begin to ask it to do sports you are going to notice its pitfalls. When you begin to ask it to take photographs in low light, you will begin to notice its pitfalls. When you begin to demand more dynamic range, you will notice its pitfalls. When you put all these together, you may just have a justification for your wife/girlfriend to buy something from here or perhaps here

Last edited by timmyquest; 07-07-08 at 08:16 PM.
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Old 07-07-08, 08:17 PM
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Originally Posted by timmyquest View Post
A 430 would work fine in this situation. Wouldn't be pretty, but as far as on-camera mounted strobes, it's one of the better ones out there and, in general, is plenty strong enough.
If not used carefully, the 430EX will blind the gods themselves.

Originally Posted by carbonlife View Post
That's funny, I was just working on the OP's pic to show what Neat Image is capable of. I just did a quick levels adjustment and ran it through Neat Image and got a decent clean image:
Wow, impressive.
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Old 07-07-08, 08:21 PM
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Originally Posted by half_bent
Set your camera to a certain level (shutter, aperture, iso) and shoot a picture, pic one setting and change it by one step. Shoot again, adjust same setting again, repeat. After you go through all of one settings start over with another one.
That process is called bracketing. It depends on the particular camera model (and I'm not familiar with OP's), but the more capable Canon SLRs have auto-bracketing settings which, when combined with multiple exposure shooting, increases the range of images to work from (in terms of the amount of light as well as amount of focus/blur).

Shooting images in RAW format helps when adjusting for low light levels and color cast of available light. If that's an available option, then somewhat darker images can produce sharper results. With sports, different body parts tend to move in various directions and speeds, so it's rare that the entire subject will be in focus.

It doesn't look from the photo that there was an attempt to pan (follow the subject by keeping it in the same spot in the viewfinder as the subject moves from R->L or L->R), which sometimes helps at slower shutter speeds (and conversely, allows larger aperture settings). Image stabilization settings might require attention for that technique, if lens is so equipped (some Canon IS lenses can be set to stabilize on one axis, while ignoring the other; some are able to automatically compensate for the effects of tripod mounting).

The focus mode setting might also merit evaluation.

As you get better, you may gain the ability to pre-focus manually at a spot on the ice where you want to concentrate; auto-focus (at least for current Canon SLRs) is largely a process of rounding during quick assessment of differences in the amount of light striking the sensor, not guaranteed to be optimum but approximate.
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