How to shoot photos indoors

 

“John Loengard, the picture editor at Life, always used to tell me, ”If you want something to look interesting, don’t light all of it.”
– Joe McNallyThe Moment It Clicks: Photography Secrets from One of the World’s Top Shooters

As part of my ongoing series about photography, I wanted to talk about how to take a picture indoors.

Indoor shooting is relatively simple once you know how, because light levels tend to be more constant than they are outdoors, where clouds can cause serious problems with over or under exposed photos. I also have an article with more general info about setting up a shot.

  1. Lighting lighting lighting:
    Some people claim you can never light too much, but if that lighting is uneven, you will get a better shot by ditching some of the lighting and changing your camera settings to adjust for low light levels – you can do this by slowing down your shutter speed (1/30 will let more light in than 1/300), by increasing your ISO, or by changing your f-stop number to a lower number (1.8 will let in more light than 4.6, but check your lens, some don’t go down very low). If you do have access to bright, even lighting, you want to play around (left, right, and top are usually where you put them) to find the best positioning for your lights. Remember to adjust the white balance on the camera if you’re using artificial lighting or everything has a tendency to come out yellow.
  2. Tidy:
    Tidy the area in and around the shot, because unexpected things will end up in frame if you forget about them and move the camera slightly. I’ll never forget the time I’d done a set of photos for this website, and it was only when I was resizing them that I realized a couple of the pictures had a pair of old socks in the background!!
  3. Eliminate Wobble:
    Put the camera on a stable surface if you can, such as a tripod – this is essential for video. While you don’t need a tripod specifically, any stable surface should be fine, it’s easier to change the height and levelling of the camera with a tripod. For Youtubing, I put my camera on the wooden flat bit at the top of my headboard and I sometimes raise it with paperback books.
  4. Angle it:
    Playing around with angles is one of the fastest ways to improve pictures from sort-of-meh, or flat, to vibrant shots that will jump out at the viewers. Even the most boring of things can look totally different depending how you shoot them. Tilt your camera up or down, increasing or decreasing height of the camera to ensure the subject is still in the viewfinder, to experiment with different angles.
  5. Focus:
    If you’re using manual focus, you need to make sure you’ve adjusted it. With automatic focus, check that the key elements of the shot are actually in focus. I had one bridge camera whose autofocus had a terrible habit of focusing on the least interesting component of any given shot, which drove me to distraction because it didn’t have a manual option – this terrible focal problem was the entire reason I snapped and bought my DSLR.
  6. Snap it:
    Finally, when you’ve got your shot set up, take your picture. I always re-take at least twice to make sure I got everything right.

bunny rabbit eating dandelion cute bunnies cute bunny soft bunny adorable funny

Advertisements

Tripod or No Tripod?

In this article, I want to discuss the question: tripod or no tripod?  Should I use a tripod for photography?  The above picture is what happens when you don’t use a tripod on a long exposure.

“A photograph can be an instant of life captured for eternity that will never cease looking back at you.”
– Brigitte Bardot

Tripods are a three legged stand that you can attach your camera to, so it stays put on the tripod.  They are very useful for a range of photography and video situations.  I’ve done several Youtube videos that wouldn’t have been possible without a tripod, because they stray from my usual camera setup, but I rarely use the tripod for photography.  Should I use my tripod more?  It got me thinking about when is an appropriate situation to use a tripod, and when they’re just a faff.  Here I want to share my thoughts about when it’s a good idea to use a tripod, and when it’s better to not bother.  Add your own thoughts in the comments!

Pro’s of using a tripod:

1. They steady the camera.
If getting those horizontal and vertical lines is a challenge for you, then the spirit level on your tripod can be a fantastic tool, because you can just adjust the legs until you get a perfectly level picture.  A lot of lenses these days have image stabilization but nothing beats a good tripod.  I’ve said it before, but if you know how to take a good picture first time, it saves a lot of lost opportunities.
2. Your hands don’t get tired.
Holding a camera in an awkward position while you wait for the subject to get arranged can really tire your hands out – and hand shake is the enemy of a good picture.
3. Essential for longer exposures e.g. astrophotography.
You literally cannot hold a camera still enough to get 30 second photos of space, unless you don’t have a heartbeat.
4. You can spend more time setting up the shot to make sure it’s perfect.
If your camera has a movable viewfinder, you can leave the camera in place and check whether everything you’ve arranged is in-shot.
5. You can learn how to compose the perfect shot.
This will probably improve the quality of your future pictures.  Pictures taken with tripods tend to come out either very static or very dynamic.  There’s no way to really compose the perfect dynamic shot (e.g. sports pictures) because the subject is generally moving independently of the photographer’s control, but for static shots, having a tripod can help you practise framing and using different focus techniques (for example) on the exact same shot to see what works and what doesn’t.
6. You can use the 10 second (or longer) self timer
This enables people to take pictures, and get a good shot without needing anyone to hold the camera, e.g. for family portraits.

Con’s of using a tripod:

1. They add weight to your setup.  Especially the ones that extend enough for you to stand up straight whilst using them – when you add a dolly (wheels) you’re looking at even more weight, and soon you’re going to need a trolley to cart it all around.  There’s a reason cameramen tend to have very strong arms!
2. They add money to your photography expenses.  Granted, you can pick up a tripod for pretty cheap on Amazon, but it’s still another thing to pay for, on top of all the other things you’ve already paid for, and some people simply don’t have the money for a tripod.
3. The ones for outdoor shots tend to be bulky.  The flimsy cheap ones can blow over easily (or get knocked over) if you’re not careful because they’re too top-heavy; would you risk a $1000 (often significantly more) camera and lens combo on a $20 badly made tripod?
4. You can get lazy in your composition
This comes from not snapping pictures whilst holding the camera, and it can lead to poorer quality pictures without the tripod.  Some pro-tripod people don’t even believe it’s possible to get good pictures without using a tripod!

Conclusion:

I have just one tripod, a medium sized one of moderately good build, but I think there’s a time and a place for using it – I generally use it in my house or for astrophotography, as I said.  When it warms up, I’ll start using it for infrared photography as well.  I’ve never taken it up a mountain with me and I’m not sure I ever would (although who knows what the future holds).  I’d like to play around with it more, but the weight is off putting because my camera setup is already fairly hefty.

What do you think?  When do you use your tripod?  Are there any times when you would say it’s essential?

Photography 101: How to set up a shot

“To consult the rules of composition before making a picture is a little like consulting the law of gravitation before going for a walk.”
– Edward Weston

These is my easy method for setting up a shot with a DSLR camera, there’s no “rules” here about what should be in the photo itself, because rules are subjective when it comes to photography.  I have been ill with man-flu for the past couple of days and am still burning through tissues at a fair rate of knots, so I’m going to keep this article very short and sweet.  It’s aimed at people who have just bought their first DSLR and perhaps don’t know how to set up a shot so it comes out really well (without resorting to the automatic settings).  Why bother?  Because if you take a decent picture on the spot, then you don’t have to waste any time messing around with photo-editing software when you get home:

1. Identify what you want to take a picture of.

2. Find the landscape (if it’s a picture with a landscape). Usually but not always a horizontal line between land and sky. If you have a diagonal landscape e.g. in the Scottish Highlands, set your camera up using the upward lines from buildings.  If you have a tripod you can just use its spirit level.

3. Identify light levels and do a test shot (snap a quick pic to check whether it all looks ok).

4. Fix ISO (you want it at the lowest number you can set it to without getting a black photo back).

5. Fix aperture (a low number brightens the picture if it’s too dark, and vice versa).

6. If picture is still too dark, slow down your shutter speed until you get a bright enough picture.  1/8 is the lowest number this should be unless you’re doing a “long exposure” shot.  If you’ve got to take it below 1/8 to get a bright enough picture of a non-moving subject, or a landscape, then increase the ISO.  If there’s anything moving in the picture, you probably don’t want to go beyond 1/80 shutter speed because the moving object will start to blur; in this case, increase the ISO to get a brighter picture instead.

7. If picture is too bright, increase your shutter speed to darken the picture.

8. Zoom (if your lens does this) if you need to. This might change the aperture as some lenses (my Sigma 18-250mm does this) make the picture noticeably darker as they zoom in on something.

9. Focus using the manual focus ring (or autofocus).  On most cameras you need to flip the switch from “AF” to “MF” to manually focus.  This switch is generally on the lens.

10. Take at least two pictures just in case one doesn’t come out right. Check the first one in the viewfinder to make sure you’re satisfied, if not, repeat steps 2-10 until you’re happy with the result.

11. If all your pictures are coming out too dark and you’ve tried everything else, increase the ISO as a last resort.  I will talk about ISO in more detail in a future article because it’s important to know when NOT to change it.

There are exceptions to all of these rules, and after the first couple of thousand photos, you will start to develop the judgement to know instinctively what to do with your camera in specific situations.

Did I miss anything?  Let me know in the comments!