Ambient only inside cons : am I the only one ?

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#1 Ashurachan on 5 years ago

Hey guys
I wonder whether some of you shoot with ambient light only at cons.
Bringing tons of equipment is not my cup of tea. I'm a pretty short girl (4'10"), and really not athetic, so I try to have minimum gear when going to cons. I very often never bring any sort of lighting equipment, and shoot with ambient only (including in halls).
Have any of you ever tried to spend a day like this at a con ? Did you enjoy it ? What kind of photos did you take ? Did you like them in the end ?

#2 Av4rice on 5 years ago

I always keep some lights and grip ready in the car in case I want/need it for something more involved. But yeah, very often I'll camp an area with good light and shoot ambient-only all day.

Recent ambient-only sets:

[url]http://www.flickr.com/photos/shotwhore/sets/72157639314098683/[/url]

[url]http://www.flickr.com/photos/shotwhore/sets/72157634516019424/[/url]

#3 nathancarter on 5 years ago

It really depends on the venue. If you look for a place with good light, and just set up camp there for a bit to get passers-by, then you can certainly some good stuff.

The Orange County Convention Center (MegaCon) has a few places like this; the atrium areas with high glass ceilings, and some of the lobby areas with tall glass walls. The down side of these areas is that they can be very crowded. It's easy to make some great portraits to document the convention and the costumes and the ambiance, but they're still nothing like a dedicated photo session.

The inner halls and ballrooms are a different story; for photographic purposes, those are like dungeons.

#4 brucer007 on 5 years ago

Some Cosplays would look good in dungeons.

I did two days of shooting at Anime LA this weekend. I brought off-camera flashes, but I did not use them at all this time. I brought fast prime lenses, just in case. I was lazy to bring set up the strobes, but I found ways to get great lighting wherever I was.

Doing the action photos I tend to do can benefit from the flashes to freeze the motion, but I got my shutter around 1/500th, so it was fine.

#5 Access on 5 years ago

Hotel lighting is generally quite awful, I've done some harsher shoots in and around parking garages or other underground places that turned out well, but that's it.

Indoors is honestly kinda stuffy, and spending too much time indoors is a good way to catch the plague... so not recommended really.

The portable lights I carry on my person are mostly for nighttime use to create their own ambient, I've pretty much given up on flashes or strobes, they rarely get used when I do bring them so why bother.

#6 TykeJack on 5 years ago

I'm a natural light shooter. To get the shots I want, I usually have to ask the cosplayer to relocate to another more secluded location so that we don't get interrupted. This works out because I can find places that have good ambient lighting and I can work without much interference.

#7 Surfsama on 5 years ago

As others have said, it depends on the venue (some have fantastic natural lighting) and what you're attempting to create. The last con I attended I used two lenses; a 35mm and 50mm.

Almost all shots were natural light.
[IMG]http://i233.photobucket.com/albums/ee91/surfsama/1535510_787015541313024_1028015198_n_zps07b263cf.jpg[/IMG]

I did use a strobe in areas that were back-lit or if the shot would result in a "dead eye" (no highlights):
[IMG]http://i233.photobucket.com/albums/ee91/surfsama/1545141_787014614646450_353144444_n_zps0fe563f6.jpg[/IMG]

I've become a minimalist and enjoy interacting with people much more over humping gear all around the event. So, yes I do like how my pictures look with just natural light.

#8 Hcoregamer00 on 5 years ago

I actually don't do strobes and flashes because I don't own any, and because I have a bulky arse Canon 70-200mm f2.8L II strapped on my neck. So I am a natural light photographer.

Don't get me wrong, I want to get flashes and start exploring the wonderful world of flashes, I just need to get a job to buy them D:

#9 Flinn on 5 years ago

[QUOTE=Ashurachan;4811111]Hey guys
I wonder whether some of you shoot with ambient light only at cons.
Bringing tons of equipment is not my cup of tea. I'm a pretty short girl (4'10"), and really not athetic, so I try to have minimum gear when going to cons. I very often never bring any sort of lighting equipment, and shoot with ambient only (including in halls).
Have any of you ever tried to spend a day like this at a con ? Did you enjoy it ? What kind of photos did you take ? Did you like them in the end ?[/QUOTE]

I saw pictures on flickr from one guy who did that on an Nikon D800. I think he had a 2.8 lens and he simply let his iso climb as high as 3200 to get a lot of his shots at nycc. Many others were in the 1000-1600 range. I can tell you right now that the D800 was never meant to take pictures at high iso. Even at iso 1000 noise is noticeable around the edges. Many of his shots were ruined when you view them at full resolution. When I go to his flickr page today I noticed that he actually took down a number of these same noisy pictures, although I am uncertain whether they were for the reasons I just stated. So, no, I would never shoot with just ambient light, unless I wanted blurry pictures. If I owned a Canon 5d III I'd definitely consider it.

#10 WonJohnSoup on 5 years ago

I really liked surfsama's samples of ambient lighting. I'm a big fan of natural found lighting and try to use it as first line whenever I can. For cosplays in hotels and conventions, though, I've personally found them lacking other than maybe in select hallways or hotel rooms with large windows to one side or something, so 90% of my cosplay photos end up supplemented. There's also inherent drama that cosplay brings and I like to match the lighting to that.

Natural lighting always seem to look more, well, "natural" to me in still photography (funny enough, that seems to be less true in cinematography but I digress). And even with natural lighting, you have the option of some selective contrast control in post, as surfsama's samples show.

I'm personally not offended at all by noise unless its ridiculously egregious. I shoot with Canon bodies and regularly bump them to max ISO with little hesitation (for still photo. Motion picture I'm more conservative). Most casual viewers are immediately struck by composition than by image quality and if they begin to nitpick image quality, I would be a little disheartened that my composition wasn't good enough to distract them from that.


And you can never beat that catchlight from natural lighting.

#11 Access on 5 years ago

I agree I think the days of worrying about noise are long over, since about 5 years ago. Hotel or indoor areas don't suffer so much from lack of light as much as just plain bad lighting. Too much overhead, different light sources that don't quite match up in white balance, bad backgrounds, not enough space to compose the shot you want, etc.

Sometimes I can find a good place or two within a hotel to take a good photo or two, but if you and your friends are going to move there, you might as well go outside. I can link to a few good photos I've taken indoors just ambient / no added light or flash, but for me it's more like the exception, not the rule.

#12 figment1986 on 5 years ago

[QUOTE=Ashurachan;4811111]Hey guys
I wonder whether some of you shoot with ambient light only at cons.
Bringing tons of equipment is not my cup of tea. I'm a pretty short girl (4'10"), and really not athetic, so I try to have minimum gear when going to cons. I very often never bring any sort of lighting equipment, and shoot with ambient only (including in halls).
Have any of you ever tried to spend a day like this at a con ? Did you enjoy it ? What kind of photos did you take ? Did you like them in the end ?[/QUOTE]

now your making me wanna challenge myself again... I've shot using a flash attatchment on my camera for ages, only recently have i got into manual mode and raw format... so now i wanna bring both of my low light lenses and take some experimental shots during megacon and possible orlando anime day.

#13 Ashurachan on 5 years ago

[QUOTE=Flinn;4811928]I saw pictures on flickr from one guy who did that on an Nikon D800. I think he had a 2.8 lens and he simply let his iso climb as high as 3200 to get a lot of his shots at nycc. Many others were in the 1000-1600 range. I can tell you right now that the D800 was never meant to take pictures at high iso. Even at iso 1000 noise is noticeable around the edges. Many of his shots were ruined when you view them at full resolution. When I go to his flickr page today I noticed that he actually took down a number of these same noisy pictures, although I am uncertain whether they were for the reasons I just stated. So, no, I would never shoot with just ambient light, unless I wanted blurry pictures. If I owned a Canon 5d III I'd definitely consider it.[/QUOTE]

Photos are not meant to be seen at 100% zoom though. Sharpness is not my personal measure of a good photo (and it never was before digital...)
If the noise is not distracting when viewing the full photo, it's fine in my book. It means most of the noise I remove is colored noise, and I keep most of monochrome noise and with it, details.

I think that there are much more important problems with low light shooting
- autofocus is less accurate because of lower contrast (so you have to be extra careful with focusing)
- white balance is less accurate too (which means you have to shoot RAW and post-process carefully), if not problematic because of mixed lights
- colors are dulled down, both because of light quality and sensor limitations

Here are a few examples of photos taken at 800-1600 ISO with my 50D, settings that I find workable but for which processing is rather necessary :
[url]http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7041/6918644625_9bf6cccde8_o.jpg[/url]
[url]http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3704/9431920168_4ce1c2837b_o.jpg[/url]
[url]http://farm5.staticflickr.com/4012/4627838642_ba40b0facf_o.jpg[/url]
[url]http://farm5.staticflickr.com/4024/4666488907_fa608139ff_o.jpg[/url]
[url]http://farm5.staticflickr.com/4102/5448575279_507032c318_o.jpg[/url]

I plan on getting a 5DIII in the future, and I think I'll enjoy the high ISO capabilities quite a lot ^^

#14 nathancarter on 5 years ago

[QUOTE=Access;4811976]I agree I think the days of worrying about noise are long over, since about 5 years ago. Hotel or indoor areas don't suffer so much from lack of light as much as just plain bad lighting. Too much overhead, different light sources that don't quite match up in white balance, bad backgrounds, not enough space to compose the shot you want, etc.
[/QUOTE]

Agree entirely.

People too often say that ISO noise ruins a picture or makes it unusable. I say that sensor noise is almost always preferable to excessive motion blur (due to inadequate shutter speed), underexposure, or no picture at all. Appropriate exposure in camera, coupled with judicious noise reduction in post-processing, can make sensor noise much less objectionable.

If you go pixel-peeping for sensor noise, you'll find it even in ISO100 images, especially ones that were not exposed properly in the first place.

Of course, good high-ISO performance is one of my top factors when choosing a camera body. I shoot low-light stage shows a LOT, and I'm not afraid to push the 5D3 up to ISO25600, if that's what I need for the right shutter speed.

#15 WonJohnSoup on 5 years ago

[QUOTE=Ashurachan;4812856]Photos are not meant to be seen at 100% zoom though. Sharpness is not my personal measure of a good photo (and it never was before digital...)
If the noise is not distracting when viewing the full photo, it's fine in my book. It means most of the noise I remove is colored noise, and I keep most of monochrome noise and with it, details.

I think that there are much more important problems with low light shooting
- autofocus is less accurate because of lower contrast (so you have to be extra careful with focusing)
- white balance is less accurate too (which means you have to shoot RAW and post-process carefully), if not problematic because of mixed lights
- colors are dulled down, both because of light quality and sensor limitations

Here are a few examples of photos taken at 800-1600 ISO with my 50D, settings that I find workable but for which processing is rather necessary :
[url]http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7041/6918644625_9bf6cccde8_o.jpg[/url]
[url]http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3704/9431920168_4ce1c2837b_o.jpg[/url]
[url]http://farm5.staticflickr.com/4012/4627838642_ba40b0facf_o.jpg[/url]
[url]http://farm5.staticflickr.com/4024/4666488907_fa608139ff_o.jpg[/url]
[url]http://farm5.staticflickr.com/4102/5448575279_507032c318_o.jpg[/url]

I plan on getting a 5DIII in the future, and I think I'll enjoy the high ISO capabilities quite a lot ^^[/QUOTE]

You might want to reconsider the mobile speed lite route. With the Chinese in the market, prices have plummeted and you ca. Build a one light setup for less than $100 including remote riggers, light stand, head adapter and e sped lite itself. I went whole hog with the high end features and built a two light setup with a brolly box and grid set for about $270, but it could've been done for under $200 if you go with more basic triggers. More than anything, a single lite setup is more cumbersome than heavy nowadays (I immediately dump all my gear away in the car after my scheduled shoots at cons haha).

One big bonus with a remote trigger is that they often have an IR range finder that lets you focus lock in near pitch black.

Were those samples you posted already post processed? I think doing some selective feather selection on the important highlights of the images and just pulling the curve up would've mimicked a lot of the benefits of off cams flash. Good images as they are, though. Accurate color rendition I rarely care about much, but I lean heavily towards narrative rather than editorial. I also shoot raw so there's that haha

And you might want to consider the Canon 6D if you're cash strapped. It's got basically 95% th firepower of the 5Dmk3 in still photo mode but at a much lower cost. Some of the menu and control features annoy me coming from the 7D, but its certainly got the image quality thing locked down. I appreciate the smaller and lighter form factor a lot, too.

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