Indoor Digital Photography tips

What is the usual challenge you face with indoor digital photography?

The answer? Low light condition.

And it's even worse when you're not allowed to use flash. Remember those "No Flash" signs before entering museums?

Or those performances where it's not allowed to use flash because it will distract the performers?

The problem when it's dark, the photos come out blurry.

There are 3 reasons why this happens:

1. Camera shake

When it's dark, the shutter stays open longer to admit more light. But when the shutter stays open longer, there's more chance for a camera shake to happen. Thus causing the blurry picture.

2. Main subject is moving

It's similar to camera shake, but this time, it's your subject who's actually moving instead of the camera itself.

3. Autofocus is unable to lock on any object

When it's dark, your camera can't determine which object to focus on.

Now, what to do?

Remember these two main things when taking indoor digital photography:

1. Keep the camera steady.

Use a tripod if you brought one. If not, lean your camera or brace your elbows against a steady surface like the top of a chair, table, or railing. And don't move the camera while your photo is being recorded.

2. Switch to the manual mode if possible.

You stand a better chance of taking sharp pictures by switching to the manual mode, because you can control how the camera processes the scene. Like how much light is admitted, and how long the shutter stays open, etc.

Here are some features you might want to adjust manually when getting ready for indoor digital photography:

  • Shutter speed and aperture

    You'll need a slower shutter speed so the camera captures more of the scene. The bigger the number (fraction), the slower the shutter speed. For example, 1/60 sec. is slower than 1/1000 sec.

    Note: Using a point and shoot camera? If there's not enough natural light, switch to the night mode. This automatically keeps the shutter open a little longer.

    If you are in a controlled environment, open more light to illuminate your subject.

    Another thing, shutter speed and aperture are connected. So when you select the shutter priority mode and choose a shutter speed, the camera automatically adjusts the lens opening to admit the right amount of light. And vice versa with the aperture priority mode.

    Also, the wider the aperture (lower f-stop), the more light reaches the sensor and the narrower your depth of field is. In aperture settings (measured in f stops), the smaller the number, the wider the aperture (lens opening) is. For example, f1.8 is wider than f2.8.

    To draw attention to your subject, you might want to set your camera with a large aperture for a shallower depth of field. This will blur the foreground and the background, while keeping your subject in sharp focus.

    Next, we move on to...

  • ISO

    For indoor digital photography, use a higher ISO setting like ISO 400 and above. This lets in more light. The downside is that more digital noise (or blocks of random pixels) are introduced to your photo especially in the dark areas.

    Just a refresher: ISO means your camera's sensitivity to light.

    It's the equivalent of "grain" in film photography. Some cameras have built in noise reduction features. If your camera doesn't have this, don't worry. You can use your PC to clean digital noise from your photos.

    Another feature you can adjust is...

  • White Balance

    The white balance is the setting that tells your camera what's white and what's not. When your camera has a good reference of what white is, it should interpret the other colors better and capture a more natural photo.

    If your photo has an unnatural green or yellow shade, then most likely you need to adjust your color balance.

    Aiming for artistic shots? Then don't hesitate to experiment with this feature.

    And lastly...

  • Focus

    For a sharp indoor photo, lock the focus on the main subject by pressing the shutter release button halfway. Recompose when needed, then press all the way to take the photo.

    If your subject is far and is moving, manually focus to infinity to keep the scene sharp. For point and shoot cameras without manual focus mode, switch to the Landscape mode instead.

Ok, let's recap

When taking indoor digital photography, the main consideration is the lighting.

Usually, you will face low lighting conditions. All the more reasons to keep the camera steady to avoid blurry pictures.

Next, if you have the option, switch to the manual mode. Choose a slower shutter speed or lower aperture (wider opening), a higher ISO, the right white balance setting, and lock your subject in focus to take clearer photos.

Experiment with different settings! You just might be surprised with the effects you'll discover along the way.

Just in case you didn't get the exact indoor photo you originally set out to capture, don't forget to enhance your digital photo using an image editing software. You can adjust the exposure, sharpen your photos, and clean up digital noise.

Consider it the "darkroom" of your indoor digital photography. It's time to weave some magic!

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