Photography how-to– adjusting settings for DARK rooms

I asked over on my Facebook page if anyone had some photography questions I could help with. One of the respondents said that she was having trouble with her pictures coming out dark and in some cases, blurry. This is a pretty common complaint so I’m going to talk about a few things that may help you get that shot. You will need a basic understanding of photography and the exposure triangle, but I’ll try and explain the whys and whats of everything! If there’s something you’re unsure of, leave a comment and I’ll get back to you 😀

These tips will be most beneficial if you have an SLR, but you can try to make it work if you’re using a point and shoot. Most newer PNS cameras have a settings option.

If you remember nothing else, remember this– LIGHT LIGHT LIGHT. You need light, the more the better.  These photos were taken during a recital rehearsal and it was asked that no flash be used. Obviously in a large, dark auditorium, there won’t *be* a lot of light. So what can you do?

blur1
settings: SS 1/5th, ISO 400, f3.8 focal length 20mm

Let’s take a look at this photo my friend was kind enough to let me use for demonstration; it’s a little dark, but the biggest issue is the blur.

The shutter speed was to slow  at 1/5th of a second which lead to motion blur. I keep my shutter speed close to 1/100th of a second when I’m working with kids. You need a fast shutter when your subject is ALSO fast 🙂 But how do you keep your shutter speed high, without getting a totally black picture since that fast shutter doesn’t let in as much light?

The first thing you’ll want to do in a super dark room, is turn up your ISO. Your ISO setting tells your camera’s sensor how much light is available, or how much light to compensate for in very basic terms. If there is a lot of light, you set your ISO to a low number, if it’s a big, dark place your ISO needs to be high– 800, 1600, maybe 3200. You’ll want to experiment with your camera though- a high ISO introduces film grain.  You can see that the ISO was set to only 400. My friend could have turned up just that ISO alone and would have been able to use a faster shutter speed which would have reduced the motion blur. Problem solved!

A note about grain: To most people a little grain isn’t noticeable, and in most cases if you print a typical snap shot some grain won’t be super detrimental to your print- though, I wouldn’t print larger than a 5×7 of a photo that was visibly grainy (have I lost you? Take a look at a post my friend and photo-inspiration Katy wrote about grain).

This next photo is the perfect DARK example. Whoa.

dark-room-2
SS 1/25th, ISO 1600, f 6.3, focal length 150mm

You can see from the settings that the ISO was high, so why was this still so dark? In this case, it’s the f-stop (f 6.3) which may have killed the photo. I know this was shot with a zoom lens; when you zoom in (that 150MM is zoomed in) your aperture closes down. When your aperture is closed down, it doesn’t let the light in. If you have the ability, open up! If you can’t open your aperture, you’ll have to zoom with your feet. Physically move yourself closer, zoom out and you will be able to open your aperture more. If you’re not able to be up and moving around, get in early and get as close as you can- be that mom (or dad), ha!

To review, if you know you’re going to be in a dark room, turn your ISO up- way up, keep your shutter speed as close to 1/100 as you can, and open up your aperture! Let as much LIGHT in as you can. Like always, your individual settings will vary from shot to shot so get to know your camera so you can adjust on the fly like the pros 😀

Need more help? Have questions about shooting in manual? Leave a comment and I’ll try to be in touch!

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