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?


7 Answers 7


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.


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

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!

  • 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, 2015 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.


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


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.

  1. Set your camera in aperture priority mode.
  2. Rise your ISO from the camera default to 2000.
  3. Borrow a half decent tripod and set your camera on it, remember that if you are shooting just interiors you must have your camera view a few centimeters above the highest table in your picture, if you don’t the photos will look weird and artificial. Lower the tripod head and avoid tilting forward the camera (especially shooting at focal lengths below 50 mm for 35mm equivalents.
  4. Turn on the interior lights, use only one type of light (don’t mix, fluorescent and tungsten) and try to use lights with matching color temperatures.
  5. Adjust your camera the white balance manually to get the ambience that you want from the available light Take test shoots with the current ISO and the lowest f-Stop to avoid wasting time).
  6. Find your desired aperture to get in and out of focus what you want in your pictures.(Test shoots focusing -on where you want- if your AF does not lock, use a small flashlight to get it to lock and set AF to manual and proceed trying different f-Stops).
  7. Once set the f-Stop adjust the exposure to the one that it’s right for your interpretation in the photograph of that space, use the exposure compensation dials.
  8. Frame the photo... be creative and be careful with straight vertical and horizontal lines in the borders of the picture,unless you want to purposefully create meaningful frame within a frame.
  9. If you camera has it, set the option to rise the mirror (Mup for Nikon) on the first shutter press and take the picture on the second one.
  10. Time to take the shoot
  11. Set the ISO back to your camera’s native one.
  12. Remember to set your camera to shoot in raw + high quality jpeg.
  13. Use your camera remote shutter.
  14. Don’t worry about speed as long as it’s below 30 seconds.
  15. Remember that if you did set Mup, you will have to press once for
    the mirror to go up, wait for a few seconds so the camera stops vibrating, a press a second time for the shutter to be actuated and actually take a picture.
  16. Turn off the lights check the preview and if you have followed the previous steps, you got a winner. You got what you wanted the first time around.
  17. Now it’s time to have fun a taking pictures just to learn, reframe, lower/rise the camera tilt it up or the other way around, try wider focal lengths (smaller than 50 mm), play with the white balance, with the aperture, the ISO, anything that you may think. But remember to shut the light between pictures and watch the result of your changes you made.
  • For non moving subjects (avoid air wavering curtains or flowers) the exposure time won’t be a problem, you will probably be below the 5-10 second range with and ISO of 100 and f-Stop of 8. The important thing is to use a half decent tripod for your kit weight. Use the exposure compensation dials to get the right exposure. Anyone can easily overexpose a picture where the only light is coming from a candlelight using just an ISO of 100.
    – abetancort
    Jun 25, 2018 at 23:22

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