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5D3 Low Light + Manual = Black Photos Please Help

ReviewFever
Occasional Contributor

Below is a link to a Flickr gallery i just created and put in 4 low light examples and one daytime photo so you can see what i'm getting.  I will try my best to sum up my issues as succinctly as possible, but thank you in advance for any guidance.  I am more than happy to take advice and upload my results and respond regularly, but i need the help of more experienced photographers in order to learn where my problem exists... so far i'm thinking somewhere within the 12 inches behind the lcd screen.

 

πŸ˜•

 

http://www.flickr.com/photos/95477213@N06/

 

I'm a super-noob when it comes to this camera... I know DSLRs but this is a leap for me, i learn fast, but need help.  Guidance and test and revise are readily accepted...

 

I just purchased a 5d3 and it is a huge step up from an old olympus evolt i purchased 9 years ago... I had gotten a hold of the camera well enough and needed a step up into a dslr that produced good video so after a VERY long time put into research i went with the 5d3. 

 

Well, sadly, I am quite disappointed with the results I am getting with low light and night shots.   After writing out about 11 pages of settings to use in manual mode to produce similar, wonderful shots -to online photogs-, I am getting nothing but black or dark and noisy shots.  Every time.  I have reproduced the exact shot styles and lighting doing research into footcandle information and seeking areas that are exactly the same as sample photos taken from a plethora of different sites online and different artists and I cannot duplicate anything nearly close to what I am seeing online. and even after putting my photos into lightroom 4.4 and manipulating them for a lot longer than i would like to, i still can only turn up with maybe a pile of grain.

 

so i will try to explain my issue very quickly.  -and by no means do i consider myself anywhere near a professional not even a knowledgeable novice-  i'm a beginner with this amount of depth and control, plain and simple, and this camera is WAY over my head at the moment, but what i can say is:t I learn expremely quickly and retain everything i learn much better than most people so even with a very steep learning curve, I know that with proper direction i will have this camera nearly mastered in few months...

 

and i am now fairly certain that the issue lies with myself as i must be overlooking something somewhere and i just started on the manual and am up to page 100ish but i havne't come across the fix yet...

 

i preface saying i want to shoot in manual mode, because i want complete control... but setting it into manual mode is NOT giving me complete control because the camera still is doing things on its own.

 

so my issue:  i set the iso, wb, +/-, and shutter speed as I want them and try to take a static shot of a rather dark area with very minimal lighting and as i depress the shutter half way the camera attempts to autofocus and while it does... (in live view to give me an idea of what's goin on) the screen immediately comes alive with colors and beautifully well lit images as it focuses and shows me a picture exactly as i want it taken and when i fully depress to capture the image i am left with MAYBE one highlight of the most well lit area and the rest is just black.  The gallery i linked to in the beginning of this post shows only a couple of the results of what i have going on.  in the street and desk with candle shot, -both cases- the camera at half depression of shutter release button while autofocusing lights up showing me an absolutely clear and beautiful picture and it locks focus, then, well you see the exact results. 

 

i dont understand why the liveview is showing me the picture as i hope it to be taken then giving me something that is absolutely unuseable.

 

i've tried in P mode and with minimal +/- adjustments I am ending up with very well lit night shots at a shutter speed around 1/200 or 1/400 but i can only seem to bring about a well lit image in manual mode with a shutter speed of maybe a half a second to an eighth of a second or even longer... but the clarity isn't there in many cases.

 

I can't understand why i set my camera to the same settings i am seeing other peoples' photographs which turn out very nice at night and in very dark areas and when i try i get utter junk...  the serial number's 6th digit is a 7, and it came to me with firmware 1.2.0 so i know it isn't an old model and i DID clear all the settings first as soon as i turned the camera on for the first time.  I fiddled with a few of the menu options, tried different settins for WB as well (custom, kelvin, automatic) in case it was a warmth issue which made no difference.  I think it's somewhere in the exposure value... but i am not sure...  as i go into that setting and move the dial it just either goes to one point in the middle or expands from both ends at the same time encompassing a larger area say -1 to +1  or -4 to +4 etc... though on the back of the camera when i select it using the Q menu option and adjust it there it doesnt give me a live view different scene showing a changed compensation.  On the top lcd it will still move itself around as i aim the lens toward a lighter or darker object even when on manual mode.  Even after fiddling with all the menu options and trying out different things i've gone back and reset the camera to default now 4 times and each time i reset it and then change the settings i still get shots that are all black and dark and grainy and noisy.   i put one daytime shot in the gallery to show that the lenses i'm using are picking up a lot of nice clarity in well-lit areas but for anything dark or even dark-ish, nada.

 

i have to be missing something somewhere... the settings i've tried most are (as many photos i saw which looked very nice on different blogs had these exact settings) :

 

ISO  ...  F/ ...   SS

 

  800   ...  6.4  ...  1/12          very dark

1600  ....  2.8  ...  1/60          black with one barely visible highlight  1/50  black  1/100 black

1600   ...   4     ...  1/200       black   1/60  black with one highlight

3200   ...  2.8   ...  1/1000     black with a pile of noise

 

and i went to the only camera shop anywhere near me (60 miles away) and explained my situatioin and received a little chuckle from the owner because i knew he was thinking i was over my head and i know at the moment i am, but once i learn a little more i know i will be proficient, i didnt spend almost $8000 on equipment with a thought that i couldnt learn this camera and all the lenses and balancing system.

 

He told me i had to try a moon shot at  ISO 400, F/ 16, and SS 400 then just step it down until i got a shot i liked but it's all just black or when stepped down to around 2.8 I'm getting a moon that looks like a yellow fuzz ball and a sky full of purple and white noise.

 

Currently i'm up to about 400 or so shutter actuations and i'd say that about 85% of them are of me failing to figure out how to get any good low light shots.  I live on a resort island and have a large amount of lighting types to pull from so if ANYONE out there is kind enough to give me some guidance or ask some questions that I can answer about my setup. Please, lend me your knowledge. 

 

Throw me a bunch of settings to try... give me some scenes to try to capture from stars to brightly lit amusement park rides to the pitch black of the ocean and dunes at night, just after sunset, or at sunrise.  I will do anything you guys can suggest.  Give me something similar to what you do and I would be very happy to correspond my settings to yours and see what i get and then upload my shots online for your critiquing and suggestions.  If i get the time this weekend, maybe sunday, i will try to make a recording using one of my phones and upload it onto youtube showing exactly what's going on and i can cycle through all of my menus so you can see what all the settings are, but i just reset them back to default once again and tried out another 50 or so shots at work taking photos of a cabinet under a desk and it's still just all junk. noisy and/or just black.... but as it focuses, well woo baby it does look so crystal clear and lively... then bam- capture of what looks like i left the lens cap on.  i will make this camera work, i just need a little guidance.

 

sorry for being SO long winded, but i had to explain everything in as much detail as i possibly could... and believe me, i could have made this easily three or four times longer.

 

thanks, very much...

 

jon

reviewfever

reviewfever@gmail.com

 

Be proud of your work and you will always find someone who appreciates it more than you do.
1 ACCEPTED SOLUTION

ScottyP
Respected Contributor

Hi, ReviewFever,

 

Read this:

 

http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tutorials/camera-exposure.htm

 

but first watch this:

 

http://www.adorama.com/alc/0013688/article/Which-Exposure-is-Best-The-Correct-One

 

I think these two brief sources are really excellent, and would address all the problems you are having in Manual mode. 

 

Manual mode takes practice and a bit of patience.  Until you feel comfortable in Manual, and even afterwards really, you probably want to be shooting in Av (Aperture value) or Tv (Time [shutter] value) a lot more than you would be shooting in M mode.  Those modes are better than the noobie modes like "green box" or even P mode, but they make sure you retain a correct exposure as you are dialing in the creative DOF or shutter effects you are looking for.

 

Good luck!

Scott

Canon 5d mk 4, Canon 6D, EF 70-200mm L f/2.8 IS mk2; EF 16-35 f/2.8 L mk. III; Sigma 35mm f/1.4 "Art" EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro; EF 85mm f/1.8; EF 1.4x extender mk. 3; EF 24-105 f/4 L; EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS; 3x Phottix Mitros+ speedlites

Why do so many people say "FER-tographer"? Do they take "fertographs"?

View solution in original post

31 REPLIES 31

ReviewFever
Occasional Contributor
yep camera is in manual mode but the auto light adjustment on the liveview happens as it draws autofocus. it never happens when i perform manual focusing. i was thinking my settings were accurate for the certain scenarios in which i tried to replicate other posted photos from different forums i have visited throughout march and april and even like the posted photo i tried to replicate a few posts back using the exact same fstop ss and iso but returning no exposure. as for the metering i dont believe i managed to hit that section of the manual yet, hopefully tonight, and i am fairly certain that i will pass out immediately after getting home around 1am but i did manage to swing tomorrow off and i can create any lighting scenario in my studio from.pitch black to a whiteout and i will try to take a full video scrolling through all of my menus showing quickly the complete settings and also showing the camera doing the "hey while i focus this for you enjoy this lovely scene you want to shoot" followed by the capture that says "ha ha fooled you" the fastest lens i have is a 1.8- if i can get this camera to work for me the way i want it to or rather kind of expect it to eventhough i am rather unlearned in its intricacies, i really plan on expanding my lens collection to some very fast primes and one 400 or 500 zoom, but i dont want to put out any more money than i already have until i know this will perform as i wish when i need it to.

i will be really only using this camera for videography, but i have only turned on video mode twice because i am afraid that if my video mode recordings output similarly to the photos, i will be even more disappointed.
i honestly should just try the low light video tonight at work and see what happens since video will be 80% of its function in the long run, might as well stop worrying, cast the fear aside, and see what happens.
Be proud of your work and you will always find someone who appreciates it more than you do.

Oh, one other point, none of these settings would I consider very good for a very low light (candle light) setting.

 800   ...  6.4  ...  1/12          

1600  ....  2.8  ...  1/60          

1600   ...   4     ...  1/200  <----?     

3200   ...  2.8   ...  1/1000     

 

Try 1600 @ f4 snd 1/2 sec

      1600 @ f2.8 and 1/2 sec (one stop faster)

       3200 @ f2.8 and 1/2 sec (one stop faster)

EB
EOS 1DX and 1D Mk IV and several lenses!

ScottyP
Respected Contributor

Hi,

 

You can't write down a lot of exposures that someone used on a shot somewhere else, and then go out and expect them to work where you are shooting.  You need to use the meter in your camera and see what the light actually is, where you actually are, at the moment you are there.

 

If you dial up a setting and the in-camera meter says you are underexposed, your shot will be underexposed.  You have to make it up in aperture, shutter or ISO.  Avoid going above 3200 or 6400 ISO unless there was a really important reason you couldn't instead widen the aperture and/or lengthen the shutter time, or else you will start to see grain and loss of detail when blown up.

 

Get a tripod so you can shoot longer exposures when you need to.  Even with a short lens, you can't really expect consistent success shooting handheld slower than 1/60th, or maybe maybe 1/30th or a bit slower with an image-stabilized lens, and good shooting technique.  The slowest exposure you list was 1/12 second.  Try 8 or 30 or 60  seconds on a tripod, as long as your subject is not something that is moving.  That is much better than upping the ISO 8 stops or something.

Scott

Canon 5d mk 4, Canon 6D, EF 70-200mm L f/2.8 IS mk2; EF 16-35 f/2.8 L mk. III; Sigma 35mm f/1.4 "Art" EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro; EF 85mm f/1.8; EF 1.4x extender mk. 3; EF 24-105 f/4 L; EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS; 3x Phottix Mitros+ speedlites

Why do so many people say "FER-tographer"? Do they take "fertographs"?

ScottyP
Respected Contributor

Hi, ReviewFever,

 

Read this:

 

http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tutorials/camera-exposure.htm

 

but first watch this:

 

http://www.adorama.com/alc/0013688/article/Which-Exposure-is-Best-The-Correct-One

 

I think these two brief sources are really excellent, and would address all the problems you are having in Manual mode. 

 

Manual mode takes practice and a bit of patience.  Until you feel comfortable in Manual, and even afterwards really, you probably want to be shooting in Av (Aperture value) or Tv (Time [shutter] value) a lot more than you would be shooting in M mode.  Those modes are better than the noobie modes like "green box" or even P mode, but they make sure you retain a correct exposure as you are dialing in the creative DOF or shutter effects you are looking for.

 

Good luck!

Scott

Canon 5d mk 4, Canon 6D, EF 70-200mm L f/2.8 IS mk2; EF 16-35 f/2.8 L mk. III; Sigma 35mm f/1.4 "Art" EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro; EF 85mm f/1.8; EF 1.4x extender mk. 3; EF 24-105 f/4 L; EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS; 3x Phottix Mitros+ speedlites

Why do so many people say "FER-tographer"? Do they take "fertographs"?

ReviewFever
Occasional Contributor

thanks for the information scottyp, i will watch and read tonight at work. i will try a few different settings tonight if i get the opportunity. i hope that i can get at least one shot of the sky where i get actually clear blackishbluepurple space with white stars and not a huge pile of noise with a yellow cotton puffball completely out of focus for a moon and nonexistent stars eaten up by rainbow noise. im so tired and all i want to do is sleep but off to work i go. hopefully i will have the mental acuity to retain all i read and see. i think tonight will be a notepad and review kind of a night.

an aside... anyone have tips for settings to use regarding shooting a clear sky with very no ambient light and very visible stars with moon at it's smallest crescent? thats how it will be tonight and i can take a mile walk out of town down to the ocean's edge and where it is pitch black and photograph out over the atlantic toward the open ocean. ill take a tripod with me and a remote shutter control unit that gives me up to 2 hour exposures... not sure how long the 5d will allow standard. havent tried any lengthy exposures yet.

Be proud of your work and you will always find someone who appreciates it more than you do.

ScottyP
Respected Contributor
Camera in manual mode.
Set the aperture to f/11.
Autofocus on the moon, and then switch the lens from autofocus to manual focus and don't touch the focus ring. Now the moon will be in sharp focus.
Set a low ISO; either ISO 100 or 200.
Point the camera at the stars, not the moon, and press the shutter button halfway down. see how underexposed the picture is by looking at the meter. Start lengthening the exposure time, by which I mean set a slower shutter speed, and keep lengthening it until the exposure meter says you have a good exposure. In other words it will be on zero or close to zero.
Snap the camera onto the tripod, recompose the shot to suit your artistic vision, and activate the shutter with your remote.
If you were having trouble using the meter to find a correct shutter speed, then just go by trial and error. Try one second and see how that works. If it's too dark to see stars, try longer. If the moon is too bright and looks blown out, then you have set a sugar speed that is not short enough.
If you find that you cannot get the stars bright enough without blowing the moon out by overexposing it, then just settle for having the moon looking good in the picture.
Scott

Canon 5d mk 4, Canon 6D, EF 70-200mm L f/2.8 IS mk2; EF 16-35 f/2.8 L mk. III; Sigma 35mm f/1.4 "Art" EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro; EF 85mm f/1.8; EF 1.4x extender mk. 3; EF 24-105 f/4 L; EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS; 3x Phottix Mitros+ speedlites

Why do so many people say "FER-tographer"? Do they take "fertographs"?

ReviewFever
Occasional Contributor

well i've completed the video, scottyp, and half way through the article and already i've put a few things together...  when the camera was auto-focusing and giving me a bright screen i was noticing the metering was throwing itself waaaaaay off the chart and i'm fairly certain i, without knowing it, was forcing the camera to underexpose when thinking that i was setting it properly per other peoples' settings but not taking into account that the sky could look like junk and with proper manipulation i can bring out the beauty but instead i was trying to change the sky to suit my camera's needs which is impossible and forcing me to get all black shots by not slowing the shutter to bring the meter back to center.

 

i'm very eager to try out different things tonight, but i'm not going to even make an attempt at taking any photos until i finish the article AND read the last 300 pages of the manual that i have left.  i possibly could get it done tonight, but it may not be done until tomorrow morning and i may have to wait until tomorrow evening before i can make a more knowledgeable attempt at lower light shooting.

 

i miss the much more simplified shooting of my old evolt which just couldnt shoot in any low light at all, indoors use a flash or forget it...  but i am excited to learn this more complex form of shooting.  as they say the devil is in the details and the minutiae seems to be what got me... i hope. 

 

 

 

*update*  done with article and every link to another article through it that my brain can handle. Time to study the book but at about 1.5 hrs sleep in 37 hrs i'm having difficulty doing my job without falling asleep at my post...  I think tomorrow is going to be a book study day and i will put off the remainder of my video editing training until monday.  thanks for the information and guidance.   I will update probably within 30 to 35 hours and see if things have changed for me... 

 

zzzzzzzz

Be proud of your work and you will always find someone who appreciates it more than you do.

cicopo
Esteemed Contributor

I know you're doing more homework on this & i'm sure you'll get a handle on it too but because I don't have a 5D3 I can't just set my camera up & give you my basic settings with a sample SO I'll go about this from another angle after I say those setting charts you posted make no sense as good starting points for this task. I use the viewfinder & not live view & I cheat whenever I can by using PROGRAM mode to start things like this & if I need to I'll use the settings P chose as a starting point for manual settings or use Exposure compensation with Program mode.

Frame your shot in P, see what settings the camera chooses, take the shot & see how it looks. If it's too dark either switch to manual using the same aperture but LONGER shutter speeds until you like the shot or leave it in P & dial in POSITIVE Exposure compensation

If you're using a tripod the camera can get the shot if there's any light out there, but the really dark areas will stay dark unless you overexpose the bright areas somewhat. There's no cost to experiment other than your time.

"A skill is developed through constant practice with a passion to improve, not bought."

cicopo
Esteemed Contributor

These were shot a few trips ago & are all with natural light & NO tripod. I used balcony railings or table tops to support the camera & most likely P mode + EC as necessary. The shot of the ship is hand held. This is from the 1Ds2, ISO 800, f8.0 & 5 seconds. The lights in the distance are Playa Del Carmen which is 12 miles away.

VZ1Q7579.JPG

 

Also 1Ds2, ISO 1000, f4 (24-105 IS lens & IS on) at 1/4 sec.

VZ1Q7702.JPG

 

And this is from my first DSLR the 20D ISO 400, f7.1 and 1/16 sec using the kit lens and the camera held tightly on the railing.

IMG_9439-1.jpg

 

Just remember that if an image is too dark it's underexposed & will need either a longer shutter opening, a wider aperture opening or maybe some of both but you may also be able to raise the ISO but as you do you introduce noise. Unles you're shooting things that move keep the ISO as low as you can & use longer shutter speeds, BUT if there's movement you need the faster shutter speed & are basically forced to up the ISO as necessary or until it's all in.

"A skill is developed through constant practice with a passion to improve, not bought."

ReviewFever
Occasional Contributor

thanks for the advice, as i was falling asleep at work i had my wife travel to the land of dunkin donuts and bring me a large extra strong coffee... and for a person who drinks about 6 to 10 cups of coffee a year, i feel like i just injected myelf with adrenaline.  Hopefully i can power through the rest of the manual in the next few hours and get a couple nice test shots done which i will upload and see if you guys have any suggestions on tweaking my tactic at that point.

 

 

Be proud of your work and you will always find someone who appreciates it more than you do.