Taking Night Pictures with Canon S410

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Joy Brunetti, Aug 15, 2004.

  1. Joy Brunetti

    Joy Brunetti Guest

    I've had the Canon S410 camera for a couple of months now and am happy
    with its features except for one: I cannot seem to take long-distance
    evening photos with the camera!

    If I shoot an image up close in the dark, then the camera works
    wonderfully. It illuminates the subject matter and the picture comes
    out very clear. Pictures taken from far away are a different story.

    If I shoot in auto mode, the image comes out dark. If I shoot in
    manual mode and adjust the ISO speed to be higher, then the image
    comes out fuzzy. Leaving the ISO speed low results in a clear but
    dark picture. I don't carry a tripod, and unless there is an object
    for me to place my hands on as I take the photo - which usually isn't
    the case - then night shots are pretty much out with this camera.

    Any advice? Any other adjustments I could be setting? Suggestions

    Joy Brunetti, Aug 15, 2004
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  2. Yes, the built-in flash illuminates things out to 10 feet or so
    (depending on ISO setting)
    You're running into a fundamental limit that affects all cameras. You
    need a certain amount of light to create an image. There are two ways
    to do this: a long exposure with existing light, or by adding light.

    Long exposures are prone to camera shake, and you simply must have a
    tripod for exposures longer than 1/8 sec or so if you expect them to be
    sharp. A monopod is better than nothing, but it's not comparable to a
    tripod unless you use something else at the same time as the monopod.

    To add light, you'll need a flash. The camera doesn't have a flash sync
    output, so you need an external flash that's triggered by the camera flash.
    You may need a flash that's fired by the *second* of two closely-spaced
    incoming light pulses, since the Canon cameras tend to fire their
    internal flash twice (once to measure exposure). Automatic exposure
    control for flash won't work either, so you'll need to manually set
    flash output, or use a flash that has its own auto flash sensor. And
    after all this, flash range is *still* limited to some larger but finite
    distance. You can't illuminate landscapes with flash.

    Dave Martindale, Aug 15, 2004
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  3. Dave Martindale wrote:
    A tripod or other stable support. We have had great success just using
    available objects - walls, seats, ledges etc - particularly with the Nikon
    Coolpix 990 range where the body is split so that you can alter the angle
    of the lens relative to the firmly supported body. Others suggest
    bean-bags. Just make sure that the camera is stable, and perhaps use the
    delayed action to ensure that you are not touching the camera at the
    moment of exposure.

    David J Taylor, Aug 15, 2004
  4. Joy Brunetti

    Joy Brunetti Guest

    So basically then I *have* to have a tripod, or at least some object
    to place the camera on as I take a photo? There's no "just alter
    these settings in addition to the ISO speed and it will be better"?
    <weak grin>

    I was in Europe in June at the Vatican trying to take a picture of the
    Pieta, which is in back of protective glass due to the ax-wielding
    idiot that tried to chop off bits of the statue back in the 80s.
    Anyways, taking the picture with flash was out, since the light would
    have bounced off the glass. So I took the photo without flash in auto
    mode and the camera raised the ISO speed, which means blurry picture.
    I played around with the ISO speed in manual mode and I got nothing
    but dark and/or blurry pictures. And this was all while I was setting
    the camera on the ledge in front of the glass to minimize shake.

    Basically I did not get a picture of the Pieta, nor was I able to take
    any pictures after 8:00 PM during the entire trip from afar. My
    crappy 35-mm Konika camera had no trouble with night shots, and I'm
    contemplating bringing it along in the future just to be able to take
    evening shots! But I shouldn't have to do this...
    So what to do? I understand that landspaces have to have some natural
    lighting in order to be visible in evening shots, but when they do and
    I still get nothing but blurry pictures from this camera, what can be
    done about that? (For example, the Colosseum is lit at night, and I
    could not get any good pictures of it past sunset from a block away,
    which would have been pretty.)
    Joy Brunetti, Aug 15, 2004
  5. Robert Deutsch wrote:
    Great photos, Bob. Good to see someone else who doesn't "need" a tripod!

    As you can post-process the image, the surface doesn't even have to be
    exactly horizontal!

    David J Taylor, Aug 16, 2004
  6. Joy Brunetti

    Jeremy Nixon Guest

    This is why we carry big tripods around. :) Or at least little ones.
    I have a little pocket-sized one for when the big one isn't convenient.
    Unfortunately, we don't get to just say, "Let there be light," and have
    it appear.
    The 35mm probably had "no trouble" because it was giving up and underexposing
    the shots, and the lab corrected for it when printing the negatives. This
    will severely reduce image quality, but if all you have to go by is a 4x6
    print, you likely won't notice the difference. Digital pictures get seen at
    extreme enlargement a whole lot more often than film pictures.

    You can do the same thing with digital. Underexpose on purpose and fix it
    later in Photoshop. Noise will be a problem, but if you're only printing
    to 4x6 and the pictures are just "snapshots" you may not care.
    If you want really good pictures, you bring a tripod and let the exposures
    get as long as they need to. I happily take nighttime city shots like
    skylines with exposures in the range of 10-30 seconds. For example, a
    shot of New York City from across the Hudson river at night will take
    something in the neighborhood of a 30 second exposure at f/8, ISO 200,
    maybe a little less, to get anything useful in the shadows.

    If you have a smaller-format camera and thus no problem opening up the
    lens a bit without losing all depth of field, that equates to 4 seconds
    at f/2.8 at the same sensitivity. If you want to hand-hold that, you'll
    need to underexpose it at least 5 stops to get to 1/8 of a second exposure,
    which is too much to get a usable picture out of it even at 4x6 size.

    A brighter scene will lead to more success. Many brighter city shots
    only require 2-8 seconds at f/8 or so; 2 seconds at f/8 is 1/4 of a
    second at f/2.8, so you could underexpose that by a stop, shoot at 1/8,
    and (if you're good at keeping the camera steady) get the shot hand-held
    and brighten it up in Photoshop. But to do that you'll have to choose
    subjects with enough light; I can tell you that full skylines are almost
    never that bright, but closer shots of lit buildings often are.

    Also, city shots with lots of lights can "look nice" without a full
    exposure; you get the pretty lights and lose the shadows, which may be
    enough for you. You can underexpose 1 or 2 stops and still have the
    lights -- it won't be a top-notch picture but it could still be a fine

    But, if you're traveling, and not dedicated enough to lug a full-sized
    tripod around :) then my best advice is to pick up a tabletop tripod
    and slip it in your pocket when you go out. Yeah, it kind of looks
    like a gun poking out under your shirt, but this rarely seems to cause
    much trouble.
    Jeremy Nixon, Aug 16, 2004
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