Photographing Albuquerque Comic Con: The Challenges of Low Light and Crowded Spaces

This past weekend was Albuquerque Comic Con (ACC) and as previously mention I went to to cover the event in a photographic fashion. This year the event was being held at Hotel Albuquerque down in Old Town and while it was a great venue it came with some of the hardest conditions to shoot in. 2 factors played into making this assignment challenging .1) The lighting was awful. It was a dimly lit hotel all over the show floor using mainly tungsten light bulbs with some areas letting natural light in through windows. 2) Incredibly tight spaces with a large turnout made crowding and moving about the area difficult. Both situations were manageable however with just a little know how, patience and letting go of some nit picky things.

The main thing I needed to figure out was how I was going to deal with the low lighting. Being that the light was so low I pushed the ISO to 6400 on my D600 and was shooting at a wide open aperture.  The workhorse lense I was using all day was my 85mm f1.8g and it pretty much never came off the camera body. Ideally I would have liked to stop down to f2.8 or f3.2 to get some added sharpness and depth of field but I needed all the light I could get so wide open at 6400 was where I had to go.

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As a result I had to sacrifice keeping slight amount of grain out of the images and the risk of missing focus on the subjects in order to get properly exposed images and cut down on motion blur. As an added bonus for shooting at f1.8 I created some excellent Bokeh (out of focus areas) to cause awesome subject isolation. Now a lot of other photographers that were there covering the event were handling the low light differently by using a flash. There is nothing wrong with using a flash but I personally don’t like using an on camera flash that is going to cause some awkward shadows in the background and not to mention being that I wasn’t there shooting in an official capacity I didn’t want to draw too much attention to myself while I was on the floor. (Note: I was aloud to shoot this event I just wasn’t there for a publication or affiliated with the con itself.)

 

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So the main thing I did to handle the crowded spaces was to stick with my already tried and true style of shooting candidly/journalistically. As previously mentioned in a past article on convention photography you see that a lot of people will stop the cosplayers in the hall and ask them to pose or take a photo with someone else. At this event especially it caused some problems with blocking traffic and resulted in some missed opportunities to capture moments as opposed to posses.  So by shooting in aperture priority and high ISO and keeping tabs on what shutter speeds I was getting I just kept shooting on the go. There were times when I would miss focus or get some annoying backlighting messing up my exposure but for the most part this style served me well. I couldn’t quite nail focus on every shot I took but being that I was shooting candidly and not posed portraits I didn’t lose much sleep over not having the sharpest image possible.

 

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Now it wouldn’t have been a convention if my cosplay friends hadn’t asked me to take some portraits of their cosplays. This is how the final challenge of the con took place, finding a secluded area to shoot that has useable lighting. Long story short I was able to find a place outside with no people around to get some portraits of my friends. Now I could lower my ISO to low and noise free levels and stop down my aperture to f3.5 and f4 to get that added sharpness.

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Overall it was a great event and I got some stellar images out of the whole thing. So far I’ve been getting incredible feedback and it’s always great to shoot cosplay.

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