Take Better Indoor Shots
Take Better Indoor Shots

This holiday season you'll likely take a few indoor pictures of friends and family. When you take pictures of people indoors, lighting conditions can vary greatly. You might experience mixed lighting -- natural light entering an artificially lit room -- dim lighting or even bright backlighting. Whatever the situation, to get the best results, it is important to consider the type of light you have when shooting, and then experiment by taking a variety of shots.



Flash or No Flash

In situations where the lighting is good, try shooting indoors without flash. When you take an indoor picture without using the flash, the ambient lighting in the room can often convey a warm and natural look. In Auto mode, the flash will usually fire when shooting indoors, so you will need to turn it off. When shooting in Auto without flash, you may want to use a tripod to prevent blur, as the camera will automatically use a slower shutter speed. Try taking multiple pictures with and without the flash, so you can choose the picture you like best.

Image with harsh light and dull background With flash, the light is harsher and the background appears darker.
Image with soft light and bright background Without flash, the lighting is softer and background elements -- like holiday lights -- can be seen.
Camera Flash

When using an external flash or shoe-mount flash unit you have the option of swiveling and bouncing the flash. This technique will diffuse the flash's light and result in better portraits with softer shadows and more natural lighting. Using flashes like the Olympus FL-600R, FL-300R or FL-50R you can bounce the flash off ceilings while reflecting some of the flash forward with a reflector or diffuser. This can help improve the overall look of the bounced flash effect and add a catchlight to the eyes of the people in your shot.

Setting the ISO sensitivity

Setting a higher ISO can help you get a better exposure in low-light settings. However, pictures taken at high ISO settings, or using digital image stabilization mode, may also appear grainy. If you stabilize your camera by using a tripod, for example you can use lower ISO sensitivities and retain better picture quality.


Arranging Group Shots

Unless you are shooting in a very well-lit room, indoor group pictures will almost always require using a flash -- and the limited range of most flashes can hinder your creative options. But there are still a few things you can do to get consistently nice results.

  • Keep all of your subjects inside the maximum flash range, but don't get too close or they'll appear washed out.
  • Arrange the group in one or two rows -- more than this can make it hard to keep everyone in focus.
  • Zoom in when shooting or crop out unnecessary part of the image after you've shot.
Image with harsh light and dull background With flash, the light is harsher and the background appears darker.
Image with soft light and bright background Without flash, the lighting is softer and background elements -- like holiday lights -- can be seen.

Image with harsh light and dull background With flash, the light is harsher and the background appears darker.
Image with soft light and bright background Without flash, the lighting is softer and background elements -- like holiday lights -- can be seen.
Aperture Priority

When shooting indoors, you may get the best results when at maximum aperture in Aperture Priority setting. Your camera will then adjust the shutter speed using its built-in meter. The lower the aperture setting the more light your lens allows into your camera. The lower aperture number will also give you the least "depth of field," which means you will have a greater change in focus from objects in the foreground to the background.

> Read more about Aperture.
White Balance

When shooting indoors with flash, set the camera to Auto White Balance unless your camera provides the ability to set a manual white balance. However, when there is no near-white color in your scene, it is more difficult for the camera to determine correct white balance when set to Auto White Balance. In these situations, you should try one of the other white balance settings in your camera, or try Manual White Balance if your camera has this option.

> Get more in-depth information about white balance here.



Image with harsh light and dull background Indoor shot with blue hue.
Image with soft light and bright background Indoor shot with orange hue.
Image with harsh light and dull background Indoor shot with proper white balance.
Other simple tips
  • Try to keep the background free from distracting elements. Leave extra distance between background objects and your subject.
  • Use soft lighting rather than direct light. Try opening drapes or turning on room lights.
  • Prevent awkward angles by positioning the camera at eye level or slightly below eye level.
  • If your camera has Scene Modes -- like Indoor, Night Scene, Night Portrait, Available Light Portrait, Candle or Digital Image Stabilization -- experiment with them and see which Mode's results you like best.
More Holiday Tips