Getting GREAT Indoor Photos This Christmas!

I have had a fabulous reader write in and ask for some tips on getting better shots indoors. This is a great question, and it’s a challenge that faces all of us – whether a professional photog. or a mom with a camera. The holiday season is SO important..we don’t want to miss a thing, or end up with terrible, blurry photos. Here are 7 tips for getting great shots this Christmas!

1. Open up wide! Using the widest aperture your camera is capable of will let in more light than shooting with a smaller one (like f/18 for example. Remember, the lower the  f number, the larger the aperture). So, set your camera to M or A mode, and set your f stop to the lowest number you can. usually this means using your scrolling button thingy. Yes, that is the technical term. Do remember, though, that this will greatly decrease the depth of field, or area that will be in focus, but do it anyway. Most kit lenses go down around f4 or so. If you aren’t sure how to set your aperture on your camera, now is a great time to get out that manual that is gathering dust on the shelf 🙂

If you have a point and shoot, and you aren’t sure if your camera has manual settings, try setting your camera to the portrait mode, which most digi cameras have now. That usually sets your camera to the widest aperture it’s capable of.

Check out this post for even more info on aperture 🙂

2. Slow down! Set your shutter speed to the lowest number you can. More light is captured the longer the shutter remains open. Keep in mind that a good “rule of thumb” for clear hand-held shots is no slower than the same number as the focal length of the camera. Say what? Okay, let’s say you are shooting with a 70mm lens. You will not want to set you shutter speed any lower than 1/70 of a second, otherwise you might get camera blur. If you must set your shutter speed any lower, try using a tripod or brace yourself against the wall to get as sturdy as you can. Then, take a deep breath and snap the shutter button. Oh, and if your camera has image stabilization…even better!

3. Crank up the ISO. The higher the ISO number, the more sensitive the camera’s sensor is to the light that is reaching it, so don’t be afraid to crank up that ISO as high as you can. Keep in mind that the higher the ISO, the grainier the photo will be.  Sometimes the extra grain adds a little something special to the shot.If you have Photoshop, you can usually reduce the digital”noise” easily enough in post processing.

If you have a point and shoot camera, you might be able to set the ISO by changing to the “P” mode. If not, no worries. Your camera is pretty good at judging how high to set the ISO on it’s own.

Here is another post all about the wonderful world of ISO!

4. Bounce the light off a white ceiling or wall – If you have one of those huge, fancy flash units that can swivel this way and that, and you can turn it to fire facing a corner or ceiling, this will really help reduce those dark, harsh shadows that you see when you shoot with a straight on flash. You can even have someone stand behind you with a reflector (or a cookie sheet covered in tin foil) and adjust your flash to point at that so it will fill the room with an even light. Or, try diffusing the light by slipping a white baby sock over your flash. You’ll be amazed at the difference.

5. Make the most of your pop up flash I really hate using those little pop up flashes most digi cameras come with because they tend to flatten the appearance of the image because the light is hitting the subject directly. Yuck. BUT, if that is all you have, you can make the best of it. Try diffusing the light by placing a business card between the flash and the camera at an angle…kind of like this example from DIY

Also, strategically placed constant light (such as tungsten lamps using soft white bulbs) work excellently for providing additional ambient light without sacrificing the atmosphere of the setting.

6. Avoid the zoom – Zooming in on your subjects only increases camera shake and you are more likely to get blurry photos. So, zoom out and try physically moving closer to your subject.

7. Set your own white balance! Shooting indoors will almost ALWAYS get you photos that have whacked out colors. Seriously, I don’t remember my skin being bright orange? That is thanks to the loverly tungsten lighting. {cough} gross {cough}Set a custom white balance, but following the steps outlined in this post HERE. For indoor photos, you’ll want a color temperature that is lower.. like somewhere around the 3000k mark. Or, use a white card, photograph it so it fills up your frame, then use that image to set your custom white balance. I know it seems like a pain, but you only need to do it once, at the beginning of the evening, then happily snap away! The one good thing about indoor lighting is, it doesn’t change. You won’t regret it! No more orange people!

I just KNOW your indoor photos this holiday season are going to be amazing! Good luck, everyone!

Check out this past post about getting GREAT Christmas tree shots, as well. This is a MUST for Christmas! Get those twinkly lights every time 🙂


10 thoughts on “Getting GREAT Indoor Photos This Christmas!

  1. Just found your blog on Pinterest tonight and have already looked through all of your photo tutorials and all I can say is THANK YOU!! Looking forward to reading more (and Happy early birthday … loved your post from 2007 about wanting comments for your birthday).


  2. thanks for this post! helps a lot! and also wanted to mention… what beautiful hair you guys have 🙂
    God bless!


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