Finally, you got your hands on that dslr after dreaming of being able to take professional looking photos of your own kids…and fast forward a couple of months, a year even, it is still set to auto-mode, packed away safely on a top shelf away from little one’s reach! Am I right?!
It turns out that anything than sticking to your dslr’s auto-mode is a little trickier to navigate than first thought and the pictures that were supposed to have that professional artsy flair are, well, a little blah! And let’s face it, the built-in flash seems to have a mind of it’s own :-)
Willing to give it another chance?
This post is specifically for achieving light, bright and airy indoor photos using your dslr and the standard kit lens. If you missed the introduction to shooting in manual, you may want to give it a quick read first.
FIND THE BEST LIGHT
Think of your home. Choose a room. Now close your eyes and count to ten (okay just joking about that part!) Start to observe how this room is naturally lit over the course of a day. Does it regularly seem bright or dim?
This may be pointing the obvious, but, for bright and well lit images you will need a lot of natural light in the first place, it will not be sufficient enough to simply brighten the exposure post-edit. Post editing can tweak a few things here and there, but you need a good base image to work with.
The location for these pictures is in our nursery, a very well lit room with four tall windows covered with blinds. On a sunny day the light pours in and there are pools of direct sunlight. On a dark, overcast day even this well lit space can affect lighting significantly. More light equals crisper, sharper pictures. In low light conditions the shutter speed needs to slow down to allow more light in for a more balanced exposure. A slower shutter speed means that the shutter stays open for longer unfortunately causing motion blur from a moving subject (or even just from holding the camera.) See the difference below taken at different times of the day.
Try experimenting with the changing light and see how it alters your results.
Remember from the basics that to create a balanced exposure we need to adjust the three main components; ISO, aperture and shutter speed. You should refer to your camera’s light meter on the screen (or flashing in the viewfinder). The goal is for it to be at zero.
First thing is to ask is what your priority for the picture is. My priority will be the aperture as I want to have my baby in sharp focus but blur out the background. However, I am also shooting indoors, where it is slightly darker than outdoors so I will first need to adjust my ISO.
- Set your camera to Manual Mode. (M)
- Start with your lens at 18mm, meaning that you see the most objects in the frame, not zoomed in. (This is optional but you will see how it affects the aperture later on.)
- Set your ISO to the lowest setting depending on the daylight. In these examples it was set to 800. You should find this to be sufficient on a bright day and close by to a window, if you set the ISO higher then you will end up with much more noise.
- Now we set the aperture. I want it set at the lowest setting possible. If the lens is 18mm then this should be f/3.5. If you start zooming in (towards 55mm) then the aperture will not go as low as this, it may be closer to f/5.6.
- Finally we set the shutter speed. To start out, try 1/125th sec. You will then adjust the shutter speed until your light meter is at zero. Over time, you will begin to learn your own limitations and know how slow you can shoot holding the camera in your hand without any motion blur (if you subject is fairly still) I can sometimes shoot at a slower shutter speed of 1/40th sec if I’m careful. Though it is not much help if little feet are quickly kicking around!
- Make sure you set your AF selection to manual, NOT automatic.
As you take each photo, look through the viewfinder and make sure the red dot is over the area you want to be in focus (such as the eyes or hands.) Press the shutter release half way to select the focus then click all the way down to take the shot. I get into the habit of focusing regularly, prepared for that moment my baby’s feet are still for a split second! It takes a little bit of patience! After a few shots, take a look at the images and zoom in to see if your focus is sharp. If you’d like you read more on AF selection, click here.
Of course there isn’t one perfect formula for each picture, but this can hopefully give you a base line for how to use your dslr and kit lens to get some great looking pictures.
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