Shooting indoors can be a real challenge. Often there is little available light and we must resort to using flash otherwise photos may be under exposed or blurry due to camera shake.
Here are a few tips that will help you make better indoors photos.
1. Shoot Prime
Prime lens are great indoors. They often feature much wider apertures than their zoom equivalents. A lens like the Nikon 50mm f/1.8G AF-S or the Nikon 50mm f/1.8D AF , or for Canon the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II are great standard lenses. For more info on the benefits of prime lenses see the Prime Lens Primer.
2. Shoot in RAW
Shoot in RAW image mode. This will give you a lot more flexibility to fix any mistakes later in Lightroom, Photoshop of other tools.
3. Switch to Manual Mode
You will want to be aware, and in-control of your shutter and aperture indoors. Using manual mode will ensure that your camera is not selecting too low of a shutter speed or the wrong aperture. Your camera is trying to get the correct exposure which many times may result in a a blurry photo just to get the right exposure. An under or over exposed image is better than a blurry photo! For more info on how to get the right exposure in manual mode the Manual Exposure Cheatsheet.
4. Watch Your Shutter Speed
It is difficult for most of us to hand hold the camera steady enough to get a sharp photo at any shutter speed under 1/60th of a second. A good rule of thumb is to keep you shutter speed above the focal length of the lens in use. For example 1/50th of a second for a 50mm lens, 1/100th for a 100mm lens and so on. Longer lenses amplify camera shake so indoors with limited available light, shorter focal lengths are a better choice. Make sure to keep your shutter speed above this to reduce blur caused by camera shake.
5. Open the Aperture
Open you aperture to a wide setting such as 1.8 or 2.8. This will allow more light in and help keep the shutter speed high enough to reduce the blur from camera shake. Be careful if shooting multiple subjects at different distances when shooting with wide apertures. At f1.8 it is possible to get someones ear in focus but have their eyes out of focus. If shooting people focus on the eyes and stand back far enough to increase the depth of field as far as possible. To get a better understanding of the effects on depth-of-field at different apertures and distances see this depth of field calculator.
6. Boost the ISO
Now we have our shutter above the limit to reduce camera shake, and the aperture is opened up to let in as much light as possible… what if it’s still under/over exposed? Time to use the ISO to compensate! Start low (e.g. ISO 100-200) and move up in ISO until the subject is in proper exposure. Depending on your camera you may be able to go up to ISO 1600 or above with no significant noise. I use the Canon 5d mark II which produces great images all the way up to 1600 and beyond, while my old Nikon D50 looked pretty bad above ISO 800. It’s important to know what your camera body is capable of here. Do some practice tests with your camera. Shoot some test photos of the same subject at ISO 200, 400, 800, 1600 and compare the results.
If you have gone though the first 6 tips and the image is still too dark, or the noise created by the ISO setting is too high, it’s time to add a flash. Turn off the popup flash and use a hotshoe flash if possible. Point the flash up to bounce off of a ceiling or wall, avoid pointing the flash directly at the subject as it will tend to wash the subject out. By bouncing the flash off of a large surface you are essentially creating a white box.