One common problem people face when they start using their brand new digital slr is that the quality of the pictures they are taking falls short of their expectations. The reason that this tends to happen is they tend to use their expensive digital slrs in exactly the same way as their compact point and shoot – in one of the automatic modes.
In order to get the best from your slr camera you need to move into the manual modes (manual, av mode or tv mode) where you are making decisions and over riding the cameras best guess. You have an expensive, sophisticated piece of hardware in your slr so don’t rely on the inbuilt software to produce your pictures. Instead explore the potential of your slr and use the manual settings to get the best possible results.
A common question we get asked is how to improve indoor shots or portraits. Common complaints are dark, slightly blurred photos often with a yellow tinge to them or pale looking faces with red eye.
Below we will discuss some of the main things you can do to improve your indoor shots.
Switch to AV mode and increase your aperture
This should be your first step to better pictures. Increasing the aperture (remember a bigger aperture is a lower f number e.g. f2.8) simply lets more light into your camera. This will help you create sharp light images without having to use a flash.
In addition bigger apertures create shallow depths of fields. This means that less of you image will be in focus. When taking a portrait for example this means the background behind your subject will be blurred, making your subject stand out and appear sharper.
To learn more look at our article about learning to use aperture priority mode.
Switch Off the Flash
The built in flash on slr cameras is not great because it fires light straight at your subject. The result is often a very pale looking face staring at the lens often over exposed and accompanied by red eye.The way to avoid these issues is to either use an off camera flash (we’ll be discussing this in a separate article) or turn off the flash completely and use the aperture and ISO to improve your photos.
As you have selected a nice wide aperture you should now be allowing plenty of light into the camera, therefore reducing your need for the dreaded on board flash.
If you still find the camera is struggling and you are getting blurred images through camera shake then you should increase the ISO setting. Putting this up to 800 or 1600 will allow you much quicker shutter speeds and therefore reduce the amount of blur. The only downside to this is you introduce more noise to the image, however the latest slr cameras are getting better and better at avoiding noise with higher ISOs.
Learn To Use White Balance
The most common of cause of yellow tinged pictures is the incorrect white balance settings. This stems from the fact that there are a million and one different shades of white. If you are indoors under tungsten lights for example white walls can look yellow, therefore your camera will show them as yellow. However when we look at them our brains interpret the yellow as white.
To resolve the problem you cane simply set your white balance to one of the preset settings to reflect the current lighting conditions such as tungsten, fluorescent, sun, shade, cloudy etc. As you learn more you can move to setting custom white balances. Take a look at our Understanding White Balance tutorial for more details.
Other options to improve you indoor shots
Ok so you have tried all of the above and are still not getting the pin sharp images you require, what next? Well one way is to upgrade to a faster lens, such as the incredibly cheap Canon 50mm f1.8 prime lens.
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