The best camera settings for indoor photography

indoor image girl and shadows
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Whenever a photographer starts with indoor photography, he/she struggles to capture pictures that they desire. No matter how proficient you are, you cannot just master indoor photography in one go.

The camera is the same, the subject might be the same as well, but due to differences in light, background, and settings, it becomes hard to maintain exposure. You cannot just use the same techniques you used outside because the color tones, shadows, and brightness are entirely different, which majorly influences your final image.

You cannot ignore these as they make or break your results. To build the same aura that you have envied in other indoor professional photographers’ works, you have to take a leaf from their book, and that is adaptability.

If adaptability sounds right to you, then read on because I will share the secrets to perfect indoor photography shots by altering your camera setting. I know that shooting indoors has its challenges, but if you know your camera well and the settings are on your finger, you can defeat any scene.

The best camera settings for indoor photography

The challenges will become exciting opportunities if you know the right tips and tricks to maneuver light and settings. Instead of dreading indoor photography, you will look forward to it. So let us begin the journey of dissecting every camera setting so that you can master them:

What is Indoor Photography?

The word Indoor in indoor photography makes it means clear. It refers to all shots done inside. Be it portrait, real estate, product, or weddings. All genres of photography can fall here if they are conducted indoors. It can also include projects and shoots like still life art and photojournalistic images.

The significant difference that indoor photography brings is that each interior space will hold its uniqueness and open up various possibilities along with its challenges. You can experiment but within constrain as light and settings are limited. So you have to bear in mind some basic rules to make the process smoother.

Let us now dive into some of these basic principles that can help you improve your indoor photography.

girl in her bedroom portrait

Basic Camera Settings for Indoor Photography

The biggest problem when shooting indoors is that there is less light than outdoors. So camera settings have to be accommodated to make up for this. You will have to work on your ISO, shutter speed, aperture, and even white balance.

But if you are a beginner, all of these can be difficult to handle simultaneously. You can begin gradually by experimenting with only one or two factors. There is no right solution, but you can use the basic setting listed below as a starting point.

  • ISO: Keep ISO 100 if using a tripod. If shooting hand-held, boost it up to ISO 800 or ISO 1000.
  • Shutter speed: Use 1/100th if shooting handheld. Go much lower if using a tripod.
  • Aperture: If conducting indoor portraiture, use f/4 or less, but if conducting real estate or interior design photography, use f/11.
  • Photo Format: RAW
  • White Balance: Custom or preset
  • Preferred Shooting Mode: Aperture Priority

Remember, these settings are only a starting point. They won’t work well in every situation. You will have to customize them according to your scene requirement. If you want your photographs to come out great, you will have to become more creative, depending on your indoor settings.

You will have to adapt your camera settings according to the subject, artistic needs, availability of light, background, and purpose.

So let us how to customize all this to take one more steps towards mastery:

Boosting ISO in Low Light

The best way and also the easiest one to increase overall exposure in indoor photography is by raising ISO settings. This is because, mostly inside, there is low light, which is very complicated to maneuver. Thus, for this, the sensitivity has to be increased for better exposure.

However, it would help if you were cautious because high ISO can increase noise, which can ruin your photo. Moreover, you also have to be aware of your camera’s limitations. Some cameras, especially modern ones, produce no grain or noise even at high ISO as they have a high noise tolerance.

While some cameras are not capable of managing ISO and can result in grainy results quickly.

Then the level of ISO can also be set according to the type of work you’re doing. Sometimes grainy photos beautifully embrace your results, so you don’t need to worry about increasing the ISO number.

Inside a church playing with light

You don’t have to delete grainy photos immediately because, after some time, you will find yourself attracted to them. This is because a little grain always adds a good effect. The effects it creates gives a cinematic feeling that complements many scenes. So depending upon the mood you want to add to your photos, set the ISO.

Manage ISO

Furthermore, sometimes the light conditions are so bad that it becomes necessary to increase ISO and compromise noise effect. So managing ISO in such a situation is very helpful such as during nighttime photography. It is the only option available to tweak your exposure to look “well-lit.”

Don’t worry about noise then because you can always bring some noise down using built-in or stand-alone software options. I occasionally use the noise reduction tools present in Lightroom and my Noise Ninja plug-in.

A-Pro Tip is to look for an auto ISO range of your camera and set it accordingly. This way, you won’t be worried about your images’ unrecoverable noise as this set of the range will ensure that your camera will not increase ISO above the maximum.

So play with high ISO settings for sharp photographs, but to a certain extent, so that they don’t ruin your pictures. Just don’t overdo it because increasing the ISO number is scary as it sounds.

Opening up Aperture

Another way to enhance exposure without any hassle of changing the scene is by changing the aperture. This helps to improve exposure without introducing any noise in indoor shots. By opening up your aperture, you can allow more light to travel to the sensor via the lens.

However, you need to be cautious when increasing aperture because substantial apertures lead to a narrow depth of field, which can ruin the background by creating a blur. If you want your background to be a part of the image, keep the aperture somewhere between wide ad narrow.

This will give you both a sharp subject with a sharp background. But id background blur is your desired bokeh, and then you can experiment with a higher aperture value, which will result in better exposure and a blurry background.

Usually, this is feasible with indoor portraiture or capturing fine details as a wide aperture works very well in such cases. This is because opening up the aperture blurs the background, but as more light is let in, it brings more attention to your subject.

Using a Slower Shutter Speed

Well, the last component of the exposure triangle is shutter speed. As we have learned how to change exposure using the first two, ISO and aperture, it’s time to understand how these speeds work to make or break exposure.

To increase the overall exposure for indoor photography, what you can do is slow down the shutter speed. But you have to bear in mind that for shutter speeds under 1/60th, you will need a tripod. A-Pro Tip switches your mode to Aperture Priority mode, symbolled as Av on Canon and A on Nikon.

This camera mode makes it easier for you to decide shutter speed. This is because it allows you to select your aperture and leave the camera’s selection of shutter speed. The camera automatically optimizes the fastest shutter speed.

But if your indoor shoot does not involve motion, then you have the luxury of customizing your sower shutter speed and slow it down for maximizing your exposure.

Correcting White Balance

White balance is another critical aspect of an image. It has become easy to set it as modern cameras feature an ‘Auto White Balance” mode, which does an outstanding job of getting the correct white balance. However, I recommend the manual setting for the best results.

This is because I find it is best to adjust the white balance according to my preference. If you know the workings of it, don’t leave it on the camera. Customize WB, especially if you are using JPG format instead of RAW because JPG only stores limited details, so you cannot adjust the white balance in post-processing as you lose a lot of details.

modern dining room indoor photo

However, with RAW images, WB is not such a big problem. You can correct color mismatches caused by its post-processing by generally altering the white balance choice in the software or selectively altering the specific parts where colors are offending.

Moreover, if your indoor space lacks sunlight or carries a mixture of lights, it is best to set your white balance according to the type of bulbs and artificial lightning you are using. This is because not all light sources will produce the same color temperatures as studio lights are incandescent, tungsten, or fluorescent, while natural light is different.

The camera will pick up these differences resulting in an undesirable color mix to deal with. So it is best to use a white balance card as a reference to ensure that the white balance is perfect. Fortunately, most of the time, the colors are acceptable just how they and automatic mode do the perfect job. So you will have one less setting to worry about!

Embracing Shadows

If you dread shadows when shooting indoor photography, you won’t be able to experiment with it all. Shadows are an important aspect of indoor photos, so you cannot alter them at every step. This way, you won’t be able to stick o one setting and get all muddled up.

So the key is not to shy away from shadows. Instead, use them to your benefit as they can add depth, drama, and mood to your images. Why not embrace it rather than running away from it. This way, you will create extraordinary images filled with mood, drama, and depth, along with easier settings.

indoor image girl and shadows

Especially if you are shooting portraits or still life inside, instead of altering settings and light, you can play with shadows just by placing the subject right. By doing this, shadows will become your advantage instead of fear, and you will be able to bring about dramatic results.

Use Raw Format

As we have discussed above, how JPEG format can lead to loss of details. That is why it is preferred to shoot in RAW, as you are likely to benefit the most from it. Not only that, but the RAW format also allows critical adjustments of white balance, exposure, and contrast post-processing.

Changes can easily be made with minimal information loss if you are shooting in your camera’s RAW format.

Understanding your camera as much as you can

Like previously mentioned, each camera has its range and capabilities. To master camera settings, it is necessary to ensure that you know your camera inside out. You cannot decide on something without knowing the facts.

This is true for camera settings as well. To make the right decision, you should know your camera’s limits so that you don’t over go them. With that being said, learn about your camera in all aspects. Form ISO limits such as when it starts to get grainy to other features such as auto white balance set a mental note for everything.

modern tunnel indoor photo

Use your camera’s manual as a starting point. This way, you will be able to enhance your images’ quality by playing with settings safely. Moreover, with practice, you will become very fluent with your camera. Use this to your advantage and make the best bet based on your experience with the camera.

Your settings may differ with different cameras, even when the setting remains the same. So experiment to find out about your camera and then stick to it! Instead of clutching your camera and clicking the shutter, it is wise to research the camera’s capabilities first.

This is not only advised for indoor photography but fits well for all genres. If you keep this in mind, you will explore indoor photography a lot more freely.

Mode selection

Mentioning all the customization above, you cannot work in the automatic mode. If you are not implementing creativity and customization in your photography routine, then it’s about time you get started. You have to take control of all-important facts to reach the professional spot, so transit to manual now.

But whether you should prioritize aperture or shutter speed will be your call. It is recommended to shoot on shutter priority mode if you require a speed slower than 1/60 to 1/200. While shooting on aperture priority is advised when you want to control the depth of field.

It is usually used with busy backgrounds so that the depth of field can be appropriately reduced to produce a much more pleasing photo. If you are a complete beginner, you can start with automatic. But don’t become dependent on it. Gradually with practice, master the manual modes.

Conclusion

Everyone gets intimidated by the limitations and challenges of indoor photography when they first start. I was fearful as well, especially due to the light restrictions. But when I discovered the positives of mastering the setting, it became easier for me to explore it.

I begin to realize the fun side of this genre. So it would help if you got your basics strong as well. By getting the camera and its settings right, you will utilize your creative potential and work on your strengths and weaknesses.

Instead of dreading indoor photography, it will become an admirable genre for you! I hope you find these tips helpful and help you reach heights of success like they did to me!

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