Taking Pictures Indoors Without a Flash

I have taken many pictures indoors with a flash and without the use of a flash. I find that pictures taken without a flash always turn out better than when I have used the flash. I find that when I use a flash I get harsh shadows that contribute to a black background. A flash can also wash out much of the detail if the subject is too close.

In this post I will explain how to take pictures indoors without the use of a flash. I’m not a professional photographer by any means, but I have learned a few things that I’m sure will help you.

Shutter Speed and Aperture

Before explaining how to take indoor pictures, it is important to determine what affects the camera brightness. As I explained in the post title How Digital Cameras Work I noted that a digital camera takes black and white pictures using the brightness of an image. There are two things that affect the brightness of a picture: the shutter and aperture.

The shutter within your digital camera rapidly opens and closes. When a picture is taken, the shutter opens for a specific amount of time and then closes. When it opens, light enters the camera and is registered by the sensor. The speed of the shutter determines how much light is registered. Fast shutter speeds such as 1/250th and 1/500th of a second doesn’t let in as much light as slow shutter speeds such as 1/30th and 1 second.

In order to get a bright enough picture at faster shutter speeds, the camera must have a larger opening to let light in. This opening is called the aperture. When you use a faster shutter speed, the opening is larger to let more light in, then when you use a slower shutter speed. Aperture size is measure in f-stops. You camera may show the aperture as 2.7, 4 or 8. The larger the number the smaller the aperture, so an aperture of 2.7 lets in more light than an aperture of 8.

Keep this in mind as we will be explaining how this is used in the next section.

Lights, Camera, Take Picture

As mentioned above both shutter speed and aperture determine the amount of light that enters your camera. How do we use this information when taking indoor pictures?

The first thing to keep in mind is that it can be difficult to hold a camera steady with a slower shutter speed than 1/30th of a second. If your camera shows a slower shutter speed than 1/30th of a second, try to allow more light into the room. This can be done by simply opening the curtains or turning on a light. If you still can’t get a faster shutter speed, then open up the aperture.

When you zoom in the aperture closes down, so to increase your aperture simply zoom all the way out. If you need to zoom, then move closer to your subject. This will allow you to keep a larger opening while filling your frame with your subject.

What happens if you still can’t get a faster shutter speed? There is one more thing to try.

Increasing the ISO

Film comes in various ISO numbers such as ISO 100, ISO 400 and ISO 800. The larger the ISO number the more sensitive the film is to light. Even though digital cameras don’t use film, you can still change the ISO number within your camera. This has the same effect as film.

Find out how to change the ISO number on your digital camera and increase it to the next number. Try to take the picture again and check to see if the shutter speed is fast enough for you to take the picture. If it is, then you can keep it at that number. If it isn’t, then increase the number again. Most digital cameras can allow you to go up to ISO 800, while many of the DSLR cameras allow you to go as high as ISO 3200 or even ISO 6400.

There is, however, one thing to point out when increasing the ISO number. There is a trade off between allowing you to take pictures in darker conditions and picture clarity. When you increase the ISO on your digital camera, you sill start to see noise in your pictures. The noise looks like little coloured pixels. If you only print photos at 4×6, then the noise won’t be as noticeable then if your were to print a 8×10. It’s up to you on whether the noise matters to you.


In this post I have provided a quick explanation on shutter speed and aperture settings. I have provided tips on taking indoor pictures without a flash including keeping the aperture open and increasing the ISO within your digital camera.

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