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by evan-pak

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I am very new to DSLRs. I have an entry-level Canon with the 18-55mm kit lens, and I can use auto modes. Now, I have some indoor photography I need to do for work, and thought to use this opportunity as a learning purpose as well.

So, I would like to know what should be the settings I have to apply if I do this on manual mode. The environment is inside a room, white background, and the light condition is not very good (just ceiling lights). How should I approach this?

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Could you maybe be more specific? Do you have moving subjects? See here for some possible answers:… – Saaru Lindestøkke Aug 7 '12 at 1:39
No The subject is not moving. – Prasad Rajapaksha Aug 7 '12 at 1:42
up vote 7 down vote accepted

Please don't be afraid of higher ISO settings. While it's true that ISO 6400 is a bit much for the 600D (and ISO 12800 is for emergencies only, like surveillance or "get the shot or else" photojournalism), ISO 1600 is perfectly OK on the 600D and ISO 3200 will clean up acceptably.

Remember: look at the picture, not at the pixels. It will make you a much happier photographer, and probably a much better one. With a lens having image stabilization and IS turned on, you ought to be able to hand-hold your camera (with practice) in most indoor conditions at ISO 1600 or 3200, and most human subjects (well, most grown-up human subjects, at least) should be able to keep still for the expected 1/8 to 1/30 shutter speed with a kit lens set to its maximum (lowest f-number) aperture if they try. Trying to use a lower ISO will mean that you need to use a tripod, and that you'd have to "freeze" your subjects long enough that even their small, involuntary movements are going to show up as image blur. A quarter of a second doesn't sound like much time, but it's hard to keep a person really still that long.

Set your camera on aperture priority, and use the widest aperture you can. Don't switch to a lower ISO unless the camera tells you that the shutter speed it's going to use is faster than 1/60s. Grain (noise) is a pain, but a faster shutter speed and the resulting sharper picture will result in a much better picture than something that is virtually noise-free but blurry. If you're hand-holding, don't close down your aperture unless you can do that while maintaining a high enough shutter speed (and, depending on the shot, you may want to close down the aperture before you even think about lowering the ISO so that you can get more of the scene in focus).

If you can bring more light, do it. Even a cheap LED "camping lantern", strategically placed, can make a huge difference (without affecting anyone's power usage). The light it produces will probably be very blue compared to the existing light, but you can either filter it (if proper photographic filters aren't available easily, you can use amber-coloured cellophane gift wrapping) or use the blue to artisic advantage. A plug-in work or utility lamp may be useful too if the electricity it uses isn't going to cause anyone financial hardship. A DSLR is a sensitive instrument, so you don't need anything like the truckload of location lighting we used to need in the film days; a 23-watt compact fluorescent bulb added to the light that's already there can make a huge difference to the picture.

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It sounds like you are pretty new to photography so I'll keep this as easy as I can:

  • Light is your friend, darkness is your enemy :)
  • Push your ISO up as high as you are comfortable with - ISO 1600 or 3200
  • Open up your variable aperture as wide as possible(use Av priority mode) - f/3.5-5.6
  • Use a flash or additional lighting as much as possible
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IF your subject is not moving (as I saw in the comments) then the things are simpler:

  • put ISO at 400 or less.
  • Use the aperture mode and put the aperture at the best value for your lens (somewhere between f/5.6 - f/8) usually one or two steps down from the largest aperture at that focal length.
  • Use a focal length somewhere in the middle of your zoom range in order to minimize the distortions, if the space permits.
  • Use a tripod! A real one (preferred) or anything that's sturdy and can keep your camera steady. (A table, a pile of books etc.)
  • (recommended) use 2 sec shutter delay or Remote Control or Cable Release in order to minimize the camera shake.
  • (if your camera supports it and you are familiar with) use Manual Focus with LiveView (use magnification at 5 or even 10x) in order to achieve the best focus possible. Especially if we're talking about a low light.

Shot more shoots and experiment with the ISO/Av values correlated with the output.

Good luck!

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This doesn't make so much sense for indoor photography. If OP chooses f/5.6 and ISO 400, and EV is between 4 and 6, this means he will have to shoot with shutter at about 1/4s (up to 1"). This might be fine for shooting night landscapes, but I doubt he will get anything usable for indoor events? If people are really still, he might get a couple of sharp images using a tripod, but I would rather add some grain and get the possibility to shoot at 1/60 or at least 1/30. – Groo Aug 2 '15 at 12:42

This will be a bit tricky for low light condition. You have to balance things. Set your ISO high enough, but not too high to avoid grains on your images. 800 maybe will do. If you can do lower it would be much better. But not low enough. Keep your aperture wide open so you can get more light. That should do the job.

If not then you have to open your shutter long enough to gain light. In this case you need make sure subject very steady to avoid blur.

Tip: Be artistic, blur will not be to bad. Experiment with slow shutter and you'll surprise of the result.

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Thanks for your answer. – Prasad Rajapaksha Aug 7 '12 at 1:02

Your kit lens is slow, as was the 28-135 on my 50D. The best thing you can do use a flash. See for tons of information and lessons on using inexpensive flashes.

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If the subject is not moving, you have a good tripod and you don't want to use flash, then use long exposures. Set aperture according to your depth of field requirements (how much of the subject is in focus, bigger the f-stop number the more area is in focus, but the exposure time gets longer) and use Av (or manual) setting on camera. Remote shutter cable can be quite useful to avoid camera shaking when pressing trigger button.

Big iso setting like something over 800 will give you quite a bit of noise.

Consider fiddling with white balance settings to get the colors right.

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