Canon 20D Setup for Stage Photos

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Jerry Shaw, Nov 12, 2004.

  1. Jerry Shaw

    Jerry Shaw Guest

    I'll be going to a bodybuilding, modeling and fitness convention and contest
    next weekend here in Anaheim. There will be stage presentations.

    I just got a Canon 20D with an assortment of lenses (18-55, 28-135 IS, 75-300
    IS), and a 580-EX flash. (The 20D has ASA speeds from 100 to 3,200. The lenses
    are all 5.6 at their maximum zoom)

    I need some quick-and-dirty preliminary settings for the 20D, that I can use
    as a starting point for my photos, so I won't miss the first ones I take.

    Assuming I won't have the opportunity to use the flash (too far away), and a
    5.6 F-stop, what is the best ASA speed to get pictures of the contestants on
    stage, that will give me the best compromise between fast shutter speed and
    pixel noise? I don't know the lighting there, but assume it will be pretty
    uniform and moderately bright (subjectively, of course).

    For the bodybuilding and model competitions, I presume I can use a slower
    shutter speed and lower ASA, as there will be little movement and pauses
    between. But for the fitness routines, the contestants will almost certainly
    be moving, doing their routines. For these, I will need a faster shutter speed
    to stop the action.

    Any suggestions?

    Jerry Shaw, Nov 12, 2004
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  2. Jerry Shaw

    Annika1980 Guest

    From: Jerry Shaw
    I'd start at ISO 800 shooting at the widest aperture you can. If you still
    aren't getting enough light for fast shutter speeds, jack it up to 1600 or 3200
    ISO. The 20D has such low noise that even 3200 will give great results.
    Also, shoot RAW mode for even more exposure control after the fact.

    Hope you have plenty of CF cards. I'd suggest at least 3-4 GB worth.
    Annika1980, Nov 12, 2004
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  3. Jerry Shaw

    YAG-ART Guest

    It's all ISO speed now, ASA is the old terminology. All I can tell
    you is use the lowest you can, it all depends on how much light there
    YAG-ART, Nov 12, 2004
  4. Jerry Shaw

    ZONED! Guest

    If it was my assignment I would check out the
    lighting/shooting/distance conditions. Without knowing those, take all
    3 and get there early.
    ZONED!, Nov 12, 2004
  5. Jerry Shaw

    Bob Shomler Guest

    In this environment, 5.6 is going to be very limiting. I do quite a
    bit of dance photography using a 10D. For this I use 2.8 lenses:
    70-200 and 28-70; both areneeded: one for compositions of one or just
    a few dancers and the other for larger groups or full stage width. I
    begin with ISO 800, frequently have to go up to 1600. In very bright
    stage lights sometimes I'm able to get 1/250 and 1/320 - 1/400 for
    dance action shots at 5.6 with ISO 800 when dancers were in white or
    bright colored costumes. In other similarly lit scenes but darker
    costumes it can be 1/160 at 4.5 ISO 800. You can see examples at
    <>, from which I cited the above
    shooting values. This is among the brightest lit example; many others
    that appear bright to the eye require 1/160 or slower at 2.8.

    For what you describe: I'd guess you'll be there before action starts
    so you can select an initially useful focal length lens. You may also
    have time to experiment before any real action if the lights are on
    and someone comes up to make announcements, introductions or the like.
    Set your camera for preview with info; shoot one or two at 800 and
    look at your histogram. Watch too for blown highlights -- plan to
    quickly move exposure compensation.

    Definitely shoot raw. Even if you have to underexpose to capture
    movement, you can recover quite a bit with the raw processor. If
    you're using Photoshop CS its raw noise filtering can help at
    1600-3200. Also check out Neat Image.

    Bob Shomler
    Bob Shomler, Nov 13, 2004
  6. Jerry Shaw

    Jerry Shaw Guest


    I did some test shots at 100 to 1600. There was only visible noise at 1600,
    and then only when I blew it up. I'll try 800, then go to 1600 if that gives
    me a slow shutter speed.

    On another group, they recommend using JPEG, with correct color correction.
    That is so you can keep up the shooting rate during the presentations, as the
    raw mode gives so large pictures, the camera will be waiting for the pictures
    to be transferred to the card a lot.
    I have 9GB of cards. That should be enough for 2,500 to 3,000 shots.

    Jerry Shaw, Nov 14, 2004
  7. Jerry Shaw

    Jerry Shaw Guest


    For right now, I'm stuck with 5.6 (at maximum zoom). I'll have to see what the
    lighting is like when I get there, maybe during the first couple
    presentations. I'll have to adapt on-the-fly.

    For the posing competition, the routines should be slow enough that I can use
    1/125, maybe less (I have Image Stabilized lenses). For the action/dancing
    routines, I'd really like to go to 1/400 or so. But I'll have to see on that.
    I think the lighting may not be that good.
    I'll be looking for those. But they may not be a problem on the subjects
    themselves, just with other parts of the pictures. I'll look at the histogram
    at least until I get the initial settings. I may decide to go with manual
    settings, if the light is uniform.
    Shooting in raw will give me two problems. First, it will limit me to about
    1,000 pictures on my 9GB of cards (though I have a portable 40GB reader I plan
    on using). Second, on another group, the pros there said they use JPEG. They
    said that with raw, the camera can't get the data to the card as fast as the
    camera can take pictures, and sometimes you have to wait.

    I think I'll go with JPEG, as it will give me the maximum number of pictures,
    and they are just for me, not for publication.
    Thanks for the information,

    Jerry Shaw, Nov 14, 2004
  8. Jerry Shaw

    Bob Snyder Guest

    Obviously, this is your call. However, have you played with seeing how
    fast the camera can write raw to the card? With my camera, which I
    generally leave on raw+large jpeg, I can get probably 7-8 shots at
    full speed before the writing to the card slows it down, and given a
    few moments, it'll be able to do it again.

    The file size is a concern if you plan to take that many images. The
    trade-off is that a lot of picture "faults" can be most easily correct
    using the raw file.

    Bob Snyder, Nov 16, 2004
  9. Jerry Shaw

    Annika1980 Guest

    From: Jerry Shaw
    If you are blasting away at 5 fps with the 20D then yes, RAW will slow you down
    since the buffer will only let you fire off 6 shots in a burst. However, it
    writes very quickly so there is only a brief pause for the buffer to allow more
    If you are only shooting one pic every second or two, however, I'd still stick
    to RAW, especially if you have 9GB of CF cards and a portable device to
    You can be downloading some of the cards while shooting it up with the others.
    Annika1980, Nov 17, 2004
  10. I need some quick-and-dirty preliminary settings for the 20D, that I can use
    Seems to me, you have two scenarios if you are far away. If your
    subjects aren't moving much, you'll use the 75-300 IS, and set your
    camera at f/8. Adjust the ASA so you don't drop below 1/60, and zoom
    in to about 250mm.

    If your subjects are moving, you'll need faster exposures.

    Either way, set the ASA to a point where you can use the exposure
    speed you need.

    With the 75-300 IS, try not to use the lens wide open. (See or other such sites for user reviews of
    this excellent lens.)

    Dr. Joel M. Hoffman, Jan 3, 2005
  11. Jerry Shaw

    Jerry Shaw Guest

    The first day, I ended up using the 75-300 IS, with the camera set manually at
    1/200, 5.6 and an ISO of 1600, with no flash. The pictures were a little
    blurry still (as the girls in the fitness competition were doing back flips
    and such). So the second day, I set it to 1/400 at 3200. They came out a lot
    better, even though they had a little more noise in them.

    I still need to sort the 5,200 pictures I took, then upload the best (thousand
    or so) ones to my Web Site. At 1/400, I was able to catch the girls in full
    motion, including several of them upside down in mid air.
    I'll need to go out to that site. The pictures I took with the lens were a
    little fuzzy still, so I need to use a smaller opening to get better focus. I
    believe there really was a focus problem with the camera, probably due to the
    Autofocus really being pushed to its limits by trying to track the girls as I
    zoomed to frame them and followed them in the viewfinder, as they ran from one
    side of the stage to the other.

    I really need to get some more practice doing live, action shoots to find the
    best combination of settings to use.
    Jerry Shaw, Jan 5, 2005
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