Taking Indoor Shots Without Flash

OK.  Here’s the scenario:  You’re at a party or gathering and brought your expensive DSLR that you are so proud of and are itching to show off by taking some photos at the party.  Mostly these are to be the typical snapshots without a whole lot of posing although you are confident that you can compose these shots so that they will look great.


Aperture Priority – letting in the light

You don’t have a speedlight with you and your pop-up flash is way too harsh.  It’s not only harsh on everyone’s eyes but on the images as well.  It’s also rather distracting to other people in the room.  You decide that the right way to go is without flash.  You rotate the dial to Aperture Priority and set the aperture to as wide open as it gets – on a kit lens, this is usually at about f3.5 to f4 in order to let in as much light in that the lens will allow.

Hint:  You can also step up your exposure compensation (only a little) to see what this does for your indoor pictures.

ISO – managing shutter speed

This still doesn’t bring in enough light to manage decent hand-held shots because you didn’t bring a tripod (did I mention that you are at a party?).  You need to get the shutter speed up to at least 1/60th of a second.  Faster is better so that we don’t see camera shake and have a sharper image. Note:  1/60th of a second seems to be the acceptable shutter speed for most people.  I’m a bit less steady so I go for a bit faster.

This is where ISO settings come in to play.  For setting ISO in situations like this, I usually take it one step at a time.  Starting at ISO 400 , I take a test shot and then move it to 800 if required. If that isn’t enough I set it higher.  Remember, the objective here is to increase the shutter speed while trying to keep your ISO as low as you reasonably can.

The great thing about today’s cameras is that they handle high ISOs better and better with each new model that comes out.

  • High ISO Trick for better Images

There is also a feature on many cameras where you can turn on High ISO Noise Reduction.  If you have this feature – USE IT.  It makes a big difference in reducing the grainy appearance of images.

White Balance – Get the Colours Right

Great!  We can now get a hand-held shot that is clear and without blur.  One problem though: why is everything yellowish – orange?

While the camera’s Auto White Balance setting does a very good job in many situations, this is something that we all need to deal with when taking pictures indoors – especially without a flash.  This is largely due to the lighting indoors.  The reason is that the lights inside your home and often many venues are yellow.  We won’t get into any technical information on this, nor am I qualified to present any kind of physics lesson.  Just take my word for it.


If your pictures have an overall yellow or orange tinge to them, there’s a simple solution that works almost every time – change the white balance to ‘Incandescent’.

All Set to Go

Now that we have opened up our aperture to let more light in, raised our ISO to increase the shutter speed and changed our white balance to get rid of those annoying yellow-orange pictures, we can go ahead and take pictures without a whole lot of worry.  Keep tweaking and playing around with the settings to find your ideal combination.




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