Nidelva river through Trondheim Norway

Nidelva river through Trondheim Norway
by Saaru Lindestokke                

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I am shooting in natural light, with my subject facing a full floor-to-ceiling south facing window. You would think my meter would allow ISO between 200-400 in bright light, but I was lucky to get it to 640, with f/3.2 and 1/60 (manual mode). I've read other places that people say put your ISO down to 100 for indoor shots for greatest clarity (especially sharp eyes) — but don't know how I can with subjects potentially moving. Is there a setting in my camera (Canon 5D Mark III) I am missing, or something that might be making my meter need more light?

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"You would think my meter would allow..." Why would you think that? The most likely explanation is that the meter is correct, and your assumptions are wrong. – Philip Kendall Mar 16 '14 at 6:48
Are your images coming out with the correct exposure? That's how we can know if the meter is right or not. If your instinct about what should be required is right and the meter is off, the images you are getting will be overexposed. Is that the case? – mattdm Mar 16 '14 at 12:15
Thanks for the responses - as a beginner I am grateful for all the kind help I can get. I only said you would think I could get to ISO 400 because many books and sites I have been reading say 400-800 is possible for indoors (maybe I misread and that is for use with a flash). And as this is full unobstructed, floor to ceiling southern light I thought my camera would register it as almost outdoor light. – LeylaMB Mar 17 '14 at 3:29
When I follow the camera's meter and zero out (with a higher iso and keeping ss and f stop in a safe range) the exposure is correct, so yes, the camera is doing its job. BUt I was wondering that as the light is SO bright, I was wondering if there was a special camera setting that makes the camera less sensitive to light that I might have accidentally set up. I will try with a lens that has f1.4, but I was hoping to avoid such a narrow focal plane. Any other suggestions would be very welcome (I am trying to do without flash) - thanks in advance. – LeylaMB Mar 17 '14 at 3:30
Indoor light is dimmer than you think. You can't judge because your eyes automatically adjust. You just have to learn with experience. For suggestions, is your subject moving? – JDługosz Dec 1 '14 at 5:47

It would take a rather brightly lit room to get your ISO down that low. I've got a low hanging, 5 light fixture in a small white room and I just metered f/3.2, 1/60 and ISO 1250. So, bright sun is definitely going to help, but ISO 200 or 100 inside, at f/3.2, without flash is an impossible dream.

You either need a faster lens (like a f/1.4) - but that is going to require some razor thin depth of field probably by setting it really low. Or you need a flash. If you haven't used a 'real' flash before - they have a bad rep till you get to know how to use them either bounce-style or off camera.

If you really want to shoot that low ISO inside, get a flash. Its well worth the investment.

But frankly, a Canon Mark III shooting at ISO 640 is completely fine. The noise really should be fine for a Full Frame camera at 640. Of the things to worry about, I wouldn't cry too much about it.

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Indeed. ISO 640 (or, for that matter, ISO 1600) is just another setting on a modern DSLR. Only pixel peepers would notice any difference, and a nudge of the luminance noise slider in any raw converter will eliminate even that. – user2719 Mar 16 '14 at 5:48
I was going to say, I routinely shoot at ISO 6400 without issue on my 5D Mark iii if that is what you are actually talking about. – AJ Henderson Mar 16 '14 at 5:55
1 for reference on Canon ISO settings. – Esa Paulasto Mar 16 '14 at 5:55

Why is my camera metering indoor scenes as darker than I expect it would?

Because the scene is darker than you assumed it would be. Indirect sunlight is not as bright as direct sunlight. It is usually nowhere near as bright. Much, if not all, of the light that is shining through the window has likely already been reflected by something else and unlike when you are outdoors, you're not getting any reflected light from directions other than the direction the window faces. Think of the window like an aperture. It is restricting the light entering the room to one direction. While it is allowing light from the south at specific angles to enter the room it is also not allowing light from above, below, east, north, or west to enter the room.

You would think my meter would allow ISO between 200-400 in bright light, but I was lucky to get it to 640, with f/3.2 and 1/60 (manual mode).

It is not the meter that isn't allowing you to shoot at the ISO, aperture, and shutter speed you would prefer, it is the amount of light that exists in the conditions under which you are shooting. The meter is only telling you how much light is present in the scene.

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Understood - so even though it is direct sunlight, unobstructed and not reflected- the fact that it is not the same and lacks the multi-directions of outdoor. – LeylaMB Mar 17 '14 at 3:32

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