Making the picture brighter and clearer indoors and low light

Started Nov 8, 2012 | Discussions thread
random78
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Re: Making the picture brighter and clearer indoors and low light
In reply to Bstevs, Nov 9, 2012

Bstevs wrote:

After using the nex 5r I notice there are a number of ways excluding flash to change the brightness of the picture in darker situations. So out of the list below which is the best and most effective method. And is there any other ways not mentioned.

1) Changing the ISO

2)Changing the aperture and shutter speed in M mode

3) Changing the exposure comp in PAS modes

4)Changing shutter speed in S mode.

5) The difference nighttime modes in SCN including hand held twilight, antimotion blur, night portrait, and night scene (these seem to cater towards making a clearer shot rather than increasing brightness)

Side note, I was playing around with the camera and placed it on a table, set the exposure comp to max and it took a clear picture of a pitch black room, the shutter did close after 15 seconds but it was cool.

It is hard to give a simple one-line answer to this.

Each of the methods that you described has a side effect and the answer depends on what exatcly are you shooting.

Lets assume you are operating in manual mode.

Using wide aperture is the simplest way to get more light in. The possible downside is that depth of field might become too shallow. However most people tend to like shallow depth of field when taking indoor people shots so this may not be a downside for you. Therefore fast lenses are typically the number one tool for low light photography.

Using longer shutter speeds is the second tool. The downside is that you can't make it too low or else you will get motion blur either due to camera motion or due to subject motion. So you have to make sure you don't go too low.

So in low light indoor situations my first steps are to choose the largest aperture and longest shutter speed that is possible under the conditions. Typically for me this is f2 @ 1/50s to 1/80s which usually is good enough to avoid both camera shake and subject motion for my typical focal lengths and subjects, and gives a reasonable DOF. The last step then for me is to increase the ISO as needed. The downside of increasing ISO is obviously increased noise, so this generally should be the last option. So my typical shooting conditions indoor are f1.8-f2, 1/50s-1/80s and ISO 800 to 1600.

In the totally automated mode you can use exposure compensation but you don't know which parameter it will change first so it is not the ideal choice. Instead a good mode typically is the Av mode. There you can set the aperture and then let the camera choose the other parameters, and use exposure compensation as needed, if camera choses an exposure which is less or more than what you want. It can give sub-optimal results with fast moving results so for those using Tv with EC is the better option. Another useful tool in automated modes is to try spot metering instead of average or evaluative metering modes.

Nevertheless there will be times when you just can't get enough light even when you maximize these 3 parameters within the shooting constraints. In those cases, using a bounced flash is a great tool. To get good bounced flash you want to get a good blend of ambient + flash light (I typically use f2, 1/80s and ISO 800 even when using bounced flash to get a lot of ambient in). In this situation you can also experiment with the hand-held twilight mode etc though theses tend to work best for totally static scenes.

Hope this helps a bit.

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