indoor shooting tips

Started Apr 22, 2004 | Discussions thread
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Andy Williams
Andy Williams Forum Pro • Posts: 24,494
indoor shooting tips

nukester asked for some tips on indoor shooting in low light conditions.
http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1009&message=8509793

so, here goes, some of my tips. i'm sure i haven't included everthing. please, everyone, share your additional tips and examples, that's what makes this forum so great! all images in this post are either sony f717 or sony f828. let's assume that for our purposes we're shooting kids or family stuff, indoors. output will likely be 4x6 prints and / or sharing via web.

set your camera for 3:2 image size

you will have less work in post, readying your images for printing to the common 4x6 print size.

consider re-adjusting your in-camera settings for sharpness, contrast, color

for most of my shooting, my 828 is set for (-) on these settings, and for "real" color. i recommend switching to (0) or even (+), depending on taste, for this type of shooting. and consider standard color mode for the 828. typically, this will result in less work for you to do in post.

if you can, use a flash

and an external flash is best. and even better is an external flash mounted off to the side, on a bracket. finally, learn to bounce the flash off of a reflective ceiling, if that's available. if not, try a pocket bouncer, such as what lumiquest sells for about $18 ( http://www.lumiquest.com ). there's also some good info in this thread
http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1009&message=8331905

on bounce flash. look for posts by yehuda, mike fitzgerald, and mattias (elfving) all stfers who do splendid work with bounce flash. and many others, but i single them out for the proficiency and knowledge.

if you cannot use an external flash, then second best is to use the onboard flash. practice with the + - controls, often you'll get great results if you lower the flash intensity.

here are a few examples of flash use by me at a kid's birthday party:
http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1009&message=7316259

f717 and bounced f32x flash:

btw: the stf has a wealth of great info on flash photography, use the search and tap into this wonderful resource!

ugh - i hate to use flash! i want to use natural, and available light

yep - me too i much prefer the natural light to flash light. so, the first thing you'll have to consider is raising your iso. to what level, will depend on the speed of the action. for a birthday party, or moving subjects, you'll need a shutter speed of 1/60th to as fast as 1/250th. the faster the shutter speed, the more you'll be able to stop the action. the faster shutter speeds will dictate a higher iso, in order to get proper exposure. you may need to use noise reduction software on your images in post. why do i say may ? becuase if your intended output is 4x6 prints to share with family & friends, it may be perfectly acceptable without noise reduction. popular tools for nr used by stfers are noise ninja and neatimage. i also use fred miranda's isox pro.

1/60th sec, f/2.5, iso 200

f828, 1/30th sec, f/2.8, iso 400

f828, 1/200th sec, f/2.2, iso 200

f828, 1/60th sec, f/2.5, iso 200

really high iso, fast action

i say, don't be afraid of this! of course, the 828 and 717 are challenged under these circumstances vs. a dslr, but with a bit of knowledge and some practice, and good post processing techniques, you can get great results. probably one of the best at it is our own steve cavigliano (smc2002). here are some examples from his galleries ( http://www.pbase.com/slo2k ). now these are sports examples, but they could easily be a bunch of 6-year olds running around. one very important point: the 717 and 828 can make perfectly acceptable images at these higher isos...but...you must expose properly. keep an eye on your histogram. another tip - you'll likely be shooting handheld, try bracing the camera on a railing, table, against a post, etc. and learn the neckstrap method also:
http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1009&message=6992995

anyhow, here are some examples of steve's indoor high iso action work:

1/160th sec, f/4, iso 800 on a sony f717

1/160th sec, f/3.2, iso 400 on a sony f717

iso 400 on an f828 at a hockey game

iso 800 on an f717

in summary

try to use flash if you can. if you are shooting with just available light, then you'll be likely using iso 200, 400 or perhaps even 800. watch your exposure, using the histogram to check always. try using shutter priority (set to the fastest shutter speed you can use and still get proper exposure) or aperture priority (set to maximum aperture) starting with iso 200 first. if you can't get a proper exposure, then go to iso 400. if you can't expose properly here, you need to decide if you want to sacrifice shutter speed or image quality ... you can stay at iso 400 and slow the shutter down, but your subjects may show motion blur. or, you can boost up to iso 800. obtain and learn to use some noise reduction software. there are free tools, and for sale packages ranging from $20 to $40.

finally - have fun, and share your results! please, if you have other tips or suggestions, share them in this thread.

enjoy (indoors, low light, higher iso) photography,

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