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Help! Have to shoot in church with no flash...

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  • Help! Have to shoot in church with no flash...

    I have been asked to photograph our pastor's anniversary Mass in a few weeks. I was told no flash at all and am worried about getting any decent shots. I'm a rank amateur for sure and could use any tips I can muster. The church is relatively dark, the only natural light coming through 2 large stained glass windows on either side. The altar has a tan brick back wall and dark green carpeting. The lighting is mixed between high incandescent chandeliers and fluorescent recessed cans. Makes for some pretty sickly skin tones! I have a Nikon D90 and a Sigma 70-200 f2.8 zoom, without image stabilization. I'll need the zoom as I have to stay in the rear of the center aisle to shoot the ceremony. (at their request) I will be using a monopod. I will have the chance to go in and do some test shots before the date, so I can practice anything you all might suggest. I'd really like to do well on this, as it's my first 'serious' photo shoot. I have been gobbling up all I can read on my new camera and low light techniques in general. I really appreciate any help you can give me!
    SCole
    Nikon D700, D90,
    Nikon 50mm f1.8, Sigma DC 17-70mm f2.8-4.5, Sigma EX 70-200mm f2.8, Nikon DX 18-105mm f3.5-5.6 ED, SB 900

  • #2
    I recently shot a wedding with the trifecta of dark church & no flash, mixed lighting and a minister who allowed me to shoot from the back of the church only - congratulations on finding the same combination

    My solution was a Canon 70-200/2.8L IS shooting wide open and ISO3200 (on a 5D2, so I didn't have a problem with noise.

    Your lens is a good start, and the monopod will give you a little assistance in lieu of IS, a tripod would be better, but more clumsy. You'll have to crank your ISO too, but how far you can push a D90 I'm not sure - perhaps this is something you can practice before the day.

    You can pick up a little of the noise with PP, using something like Noise Ninja (just time your 30day trial well ). Of course, b&w covers up a multitude of low light sins.

    The other thing you might suggest (though I've never tried it) is to ask the Pastor if you can set up some additional constant lighting to light the lectern/pulpit? Far less distracting than flash.
    Neil
    www.hargreavesphotography.com.au | Twitter | Blog | email
    Canon 5D2 | Canon 50D | Canon 10D
    17-40L | 24-70L | 35L | 70-200 f/2.8L IS | 100L Macro IS | 135L | 85/1.8 | Sigma 50/1.4 | Pocketwizards & other lighting stuff

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    • #3
      Can you get down there at a similar time of day and do some test shots (ideally with a couple of people to act as models). You might be able to get something halfway decent but don't let them expect you to achieve the kind of results that come from a studio set up.

      It might also be worth getting a tripod, which will allow longer exposures. The disadvantage of that is that people will end up looking blurred but it would be better than everything looking blurred. Here are some recent shots from an art exhibition at my church which used the slow speed / tripod combo:

      Artweeks - 21 Artweeks - 27 Artweeks - 29

      (click for larger versions).

      Wulf
      Wulf Forrester-Barker << Sites: blog / flickr >>
      Gear: Nikon D40, Nikon AFS 18-55mm f/3.5 - 5.6G, Nikon Series E 50mm f/1.8, Nikon AF 70-300mm f/4-5.6G, Vivitar 90mm f/2.5 macro, Raynox DCR-250, Lensbaby 2.0k, SB600

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      • #4
        The D90 can go pretty high with ISO and do it well.

        I'd make sure the customer understands the challenges you're faced with on this shoot. My philosophy is to always lower the customers' expectations so I can wow them in the end (kinda like Scotty in Star Trek). You'd be surprised at what customers expect even when they lay down (unreasonable) ground rules. You want to make sure your butt is covered.
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        • #5
          I'll tell you what I try to do in this situation. I figure that the only shot I HAVE to get under those terrible conditions are shots where their are people in the audience. All of the rest of the shots can be taken either before or after the service with whatever lighting I need.
          Lee R
          http://lucentbydesign.blogspot.com//
          The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.
          -Marcel Proust

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          • #6
            Three things:
            1) fast glass
            2) High ISO
            3) luck

            All the above suggestions are right on. You can try to rent or borrow another fast lens...maybe a F/1.4 or F/1.8 35mm, 50mm, or 85mm...or even a VR lens that'll allow you to shoot at a slower shutter speed. If you time it right with your subjects you may get lucky that they're not too blurred
            Vince "...the law of unintended consequences, sometimes, you get a truly memorable photograph"
            Gear: Canon G2, Canon 20D, Nikon D300...bunch of lenses
            My Flickr
            www.montalbanophotography.com

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            • #7
              Make sure to shoot raw NOT jpeg! You will likely get some very strange whitebalance and will have to adjust it after the fact. Also, raw will give you a lot more lattitude in adjusting the exposue in post processing if you need to. If you are not a pro at raw then shoot in Raw+Jpeg so you have the raw incase you need it.
              Nikon D800e, D300, D5000, NIKON GLASS 85mm F/1.8 D, 105mm f/2.8 Micro AF-S VR, 70-200 AF-S VR f/2.8, 28-300 AF-S VRII,10.5mm Fisheye, 24-70 AF-S f/2.8, TC-20E III AF-S, Sigma 12-24 HSM, Sigma 30mm f/1.4 HSM, Sigma 150-500 OS, 2 SB-600 Speedlights, SB-900 speedlight, 4 YN-622N transceivers, Manfrotto 190MF3 tripod & 322RC2 ball grip head. - NJ, USA
              Flickr Photobucket
              Ok to edit and repost my shots on DPS forums

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              • #8
                Thank you for all the great tips! I was able to get into the church at the same time of day to take some test shots. I found that by cranking the ISO up to 1250, I can shoot at 1/60 using my 17-70mm f2.8 zoom. I will be in the front pew, so the longer zoom wasn't wide enough. The church will be standing room only, so I will remain front and center, but stationary. The monopod worked well, as I have no room for a tripod where I'll be positioned. Setting the white balance to 'incandescent' seems to produce the nicest color balance with no need for post processing. It certainly is some funky combination of light sources there. I also agree with lowering expectations ahead of delivery, something I'm in the habit of doing. I will be sure to post a few of my shots after the event. Thanks again!
                SCole
                Nikon D700, D90,
                Nikon 50mm f1.8, Sigma DC 17-70mm f2.8-4.5, Sigma EX 70-200mm f2.8, Nikon DX 18-105mm f3.5-5.6 ED, SB 900

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                • #9
                  Do yourself a favor and get yourself a gray card. Set a custom WB and be done with the WB. I especially like doing this when I'm in a strange lighting environment like this.

                  One question to the experienced wedding photogs out there. When a church as told you no flash, have you ever proposed setting up a flash (or two) remotely far enough away as to not be obnoxious? I'm sure they just don't want the flashes in everyone's faces but if the flashes are remote, they'll not even be very noticeable. Just curious on this one.
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                  • #10
                    If they don't want flash because of the distraction factor you can always ask if they would object to a set of cheap halogen work lights faced away from the crowd reflecting off cards to lighten the joint up a little. Shoot away in raw and slide the kelvins until people look warm instead of blue.
                    Call me Lex. Most of the other names get marked out by the language filter.
                    Communication 365, the blog
                    flikr

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                    • #11
                      I have a D90 and have been in a similar situation before. Don't be afraid to go up to ISO 3200 - if the photo isn't underexposed, the noise should be minimal at worst. And it'll help you get a faster shutter. 1/60th seems right on the edge of being too slow (at least to me) and could let movement from your subject create some blur.

                      My 2 cents.

                      Good luck!
                      Chip
                      My flickr and My Gear
                      Feel Free to Edit and Re-Post My Pics On DPS Only

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                      • #12
                        I thought about supplemental lighting, but that was poo pooed by the pastor, so I will make do with the light I have. I was talking to a photographer friend and sharing my frustrations. She said "borrow one of mine". So she lent me her Canon 5D Mark II for the week! With only a few days to go, I am shooting like crazy to get familiar with this new toy and loving every second of it. It's NOT a Nikon, but beggars can't be choosers, right? lol Might just have to upgrade after this... Keep your fingers crossed for me. You folks are terrific and I have learned more reading on DPS than in the last 30 years combined. Thank you so much! Will post a few pics after the stress fades from Suunday.
                        SCole
                        Nikon D700, D90,
                        Nikon 50mm f1.8, Sigma DC 17-70mm f2.8-4.5, Sigma EX 70-200mm f2.8, Nikon DX 18-105mm f3.5-5.6 ED, SB 900

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