June 5, 2010

Getting Sharper Pictures in Low Light Indoors

If you try to take pictures without using your flash indoors, you might get a blurry photo. This happens because the camera uses a longer exposure time to get enough light for a picture without the light from the flash. As a result of this longer exposure, you unintentionally wiggle the camera and that makes your picture blurry.

Blurry Indoor Picture with ISO 80
The solution is to change your camera's sensitivity to dim light, essentially helping it to "see in the dark." Some cameras call this setting "sensitivity"; others refer to it as "ISO." The control may be in a menu or on a button. Refer to your camera's manual for the details.

There are two ways to increase your camera's sensitivity to low light. If you are using Auto exposure mode (usually represented by a green square or camera icon), you may be able to change the sensitivity from Auto ISO to Hi ISO. If that option is not available, you may need to change your camera to Program exposure mode (usually represented by a P). Program exposure is still automatic, but you can override standard camera settings when you need to.

Program Exposure Mode


In Program exposure mode, you can usually select an ISO number instead of just auto or high settings. The higher the number, the better the camera can "see in the dark". As a general guideline, ISO numbers between 50 and 200 are good for shooting outside in bright light. ISO numbers from 400 on up to 1600 and higher are good for shooting inside without flash. The photo at the beginning of this article was made inside a hotel room without flash at ISO 800.

Exactly which ISO setting you need to use depends on how much light is available. Using ISO 400 is a good starting point for indoor shots during the day. If you are photographing moving subjects inside (such as a basketball game or children playing), you may need to use ISO 800 or ISO 1600. Experiment to see which setting gives you the sharpest picture.

 Sharper Indoor Picture with ISO 1600

If your subject is not moving, keep the camera steady by setting it on a table or chair or attaching it to a tripod. This lets you keep the ISO setting low and still get a sharp picture.

 Indoors No Tripod or Flash

 Indoors with Tripod and No Flash