Tech Tips for Indoor Photographers
Written by Daven Mathies
From snapping a shot of your meal to taking a family portrait, indoor photography often poses many challenges simply because there isn't enough light. We've put together a few tips to help you achieve good results inside.
Shoot with a bigger sensor
If you have a choice between your smartphone and a "real" camera, go for the latter. Even point-and-shoot cameras typically have larger sensors than those found in phones, with very few exceptions. Cameras with 4/3, APS-C, or Full Frame sensors are all many times larger still. The bigger the sensor, the more light the camera is able to gather, which means less noise ("grain") and a cleaner, sharper image overall.
Use a fast lens
If you own an interchangeable lens camera, such as a DSLR, the best thing you can do to improve your low light image quality is to invest in a "fast lens." Fast lenses are lenses with wide apertures, denoted by a small F-number. The fastest zoom lenses top out at f/2.8, and can be quite expensive, but there are many basic prime lenses that are more affordable and even faster. A 50mm f/1.8, for example, will let in roughly four times the amount of light as a standard kit lens.
Many point-and-shoot cameras have fast lenses, but the size of the aperture is variable: it decreases as you zoom in (this is also true of most DSLR kit lenses). Keep your lens zoomed out as wide as possible to maximize the light gathering capability of the camera.
Only add as much flash as you need
Most cameras have at least a basic flash on them, which generally makes your subject look like a deer caught in the headlights of a car. To counter this, raise your ISO as high as you feel comfortable doing—this may be 1600 or higher on an interchangeable lens camera, or a more modest 400 on a point-and-shoot—and set your aperture as wide as you can. This will let the camera gather as much of the ambient light as possible, so that the flash need not fire as brightly. The result may be slightly noisier than if you let the camera shoot at a low ISO with full flash, but the lighting will look much more natural.
If you have an external flash, aim the flash head toward the ceiling to get a nice, even bounce light that fills the room. There are, of course, many diffuser accessories available to help soften the light, as well.
Have a tip of your own? Feel free to add it in the comments!