Indoor Photography Tips

What’s the secret to indoor photography? Why do some indoor photography images look as if they’ve been shot in a ten million dollar studio, and others turn out as if a two year old has taken them?

The common problem with indoor photography is the lighting. Usually when intelligent, yet inexperienced, digital photography enthusiasts partake in indoor photography, two things happen. The first indoor photography problem is blurry photos. Many times we compose the shot and believe that we have adequate lighting to light up our scene. However, what is happening in reality is that the shutter slows down to compensate for the low lighting conditions. As movement occurs on the scene, the movement is blurred and out indoor photography images look like dark streaks in a basement.

The second common problem with indoor photography is that they are too dark (underexposed).  Indoor photography requires just as much as daylight conditions. It can be very difficult to replicate day light conditions when doing your indoor photography, because we may not have access to the lighting that’s needed.

Indoor photography challenges us to seek out alternate means of lighting so that we can get our indoor photography sharp and clear.

Lets look at the first photo:

How was this taken? To understand why indoor photography can produce good results, we first need to examine what’s in this photo. Firstly, as I mentioned, indoor photography requires light. As much light as day light. In this indoor photo we can see there there is a gentle, sudued light to the woman’s right. Not only does she seem to be well lit from the right, but there is also light coming from the left. We can see that because if there weren’t, her left side would almost be in total darkness.

Indoor photography like this works well bcause the scene is flooded with light. The soft, directional light, coming from her right seems to light everything up so clearly. The photographer has either placed her near a window with natural light, or used a softening light to the right.

Indoor photography requires a certain type of light. We don’t want to create too much brightness as a single point of light. This can produce unwanted shadow.What’s important in indoor photography is producing filtered light. This type of light is similar to the light you see on an overcast day. Indoor photography works best this way. We want to seek soft light first and foremost.

But what about movement indoors? How does well-lit indoor photography manage to capture sharp photos with movement? Movement can be anything from a group of men playing poker at a table indoors, or indoor sports at night.

With only an overhead light, how can good indoor photography be achieved for domestic shots such as this photo?

Even though it is a dimly lit photo it is still sharp and well exposed, being a good example of indoor photography done “right”. As the camera see’s only about half of what we do, there would have been much more lighting in this photo that what we can detect on first glance. Because indoor photography requires loads of light there would have been much more light around the men and their table than we can see.

We can see that the light is pretty much everywhere in this photo with the exeption of less light towards the edge of the photo. Lamps, overhead lighting and reflectors are useful tools when getting indoor photography images perfectly exposed. In this photo, many of these tools would have been used so that the shutter could move fast in order to capture the sharpness and motion.

Indoor photography has the very same principles as night stadium photography. So many times we can hope to shoot sporting events at night, only to find the very same disappointments. In this case, we can’t use extra lamps or reflectors to increase the light on our indoor subject. This presents a challenge because the whole purpose to sports photography is to capture the action.

So how do we do it? Indoor photography and sports photography shot at night have the two identical principles. More light needed. And when we do not have the use of the tools we need we can then do one of two things:

Turn on the flash.

Using the flash can be a helpful strategy for indoor photography as well as night sports photography. The flash can provide lighting conditions to that of daylight and can be highly effective in getting sharp photos.

The trick here is not to get too close or two far away. Indoor photography success comes from just the right balance of lighting and focus. To get the two working together, you’ll need to be just the right distance away.

This is not always possible for night sports photography as it is for standard indoor photography for a number of reasons. The players may be too far away for the flash to reach, you may not be allowed to use the flash or perhaps you are not in the right position to get a good angle for a good shot.

This is where your ISO comes in. This applies to both indoor photography as well as night sports photography. Your iso is your cameras light sensitivity. It’s not the same as your shutter speed or your aperture. The more sensitive to light your camera is the easier indoor photography gets.

You can’t do this in automatic though. You will have to use the manual setting. If you have never used the manual setting before, then keep reading the articles on this website that shows you how to do it.

In summary, indoor photography relies heavily on lighting. Get more lighting onto your scene to create some beautiful composed photos with perfect exposure. Then you will see how much fun indoor photography can really be, your indoor photos will change and so will your clarity, depth and sharpness.

Improvement of your indoor photography is assured if you follow these indoor photography tips and don’t forget to have lots of fun!

About the Author

Amy is an multi-award winning photographer from Australia. She teaches enthusiast photographers how to take beautiful, professional photos in easy, plain English. She has a monthly photography emagazine and ebooks to help you create stunning images every time.

Comments (27)

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  1. Mannie says:

    I’ve tried indoor photography and never had good results, but now I know why! How fantastic. I’ve going to reshoot several of my indoor shots. Thank you so much!

  2. Harry says:

    Thank you Amy, great tips. I always shoot with tungstan lights when I photograph my kids and grandkids. We have great fun as a family.

  3. Jackon says:

    Very well written article.

  4. Wendi says:

    Amy, how come I do have loads of light but whenever I try and photograph my cat Minxie, (who sits very still), the photos are never sharp, they are always blurry. Why is this? Any ideas?

    • Hi Wendi, I know it can be a frustrating thing. Make sure you have a fast shutter speed. Crank up that iso to the maximum…if you’ve done all that and still no results then try photographing Minxie under the window light and use a white peice of cardboard to reflect the light back onto the cat to balance out the light. That might help. It could be your lens as well.

  5. Paul says:

    Thanks for the tip!

  6. Steve says:

    Very helpful, I’ve always been having trouble getting the lighting right when I’m shooting portraits indoors. Great article.

  7. Tiffant says:

    Perfect timing on this article, as I have an in-home portrait session with a client this coming weekend, and we intend to use ambient light only. Thanks, great article!

  8. macey says:

    Excellent info! Thanks, I can’t wait to try this!

  9. Sunliu says:

    Very useful and impressive. The complex matter explained in simple way with simple techniques. Good innovation. Keep posting more tips for us to get better photos!

  10. Daz says:

    This was also perfect timing for me as well as I just had a friend ask me about getting some portraits and I have no lighting setup, I am sure the info here will come in handy. I hope to see more posts like this.

  11. [...] So many times we can hope to shoot sporting events at night, only to find the very same … night photography tips – Google Blog Search This entry was posted in Night Photography and tagged Digital, indoor, photography, Secrets, [...]

  12. Dornie says:

    When adjusting your ISO you should also consider “noise” because usually the higher the ISO number, the greater the “noise”, which can mar your picture.

    It was not pointed out, that especially in todays cameras, there are many pre-sets, such as indoor, candle light, etc. that make your adjustments and do a half decent job. They are especially good if you only have a brief time to take the photo.

    Also, a tripod, monopod, etc. can be very useful when you have to lower your speed setting.

    • Thanks Dornie, the reason I don’t point every single thing out in an article is so that people can learn one thing at a time. If you bombard people with too much at once, they get ovewhlemed. Please remember this is a blog for people starting out in photography. What kind of teacher would I be if I didn’t respect that? Thanks for your comments.

  13. ROY 0 says:

    Very interesting Any, I do not these days try indoor photography though reading the above really inspires me ha, long ago when using the old Canon way back I used to do a lot but these days being I suppose old at 84 (!) I have not been so keen taking no photos outside at all this year. One I took was a good freind in my room here and I do not like flash so used the highest ISO of 1600 on my Pentax and the photo really looks great. I am wondering whether you would like to see it, I could send a copy though of cause my email is very poor might have to reduce the quality a bit. All my wishes to you – Roy.

  14. Nylor says:

    How do you adjust the shutter speed Amy?

  15. Luke says:

    thanks Amy that is good artical. do you have any more on flower photography.

  16. Awsome…

    I saw this really good post today….

  17. Melissa says:

    I love taking photographs of my daughter. She is going to be turning one soon and she is mobile. A lot of the indoor photos that I take (with natural lighting) are starting to have blurry spots. For instance if she moves her arm quickly or turns around-those parts of the photo will be blurry. I have a Canon Rebel EOS xsi and have been using the kit lens. I thought maybe that was part of the problem. So, I just purchased a 50 1.8 lens (which I read was great for portraits). I try not to have my ISO too high as I don’t want it to affect the quality of the photo.Am I headed int he right direction here?

  18. siva says:

    Hi thanks a lot for giving tips. me going to try this

  19. julie says:

    Hi Amy! I will be shooting some graduation party pictures at a hall and I’m worried about lighting. I have a Canon Rebel t2i and a speedlight flash and a kit lense and a 50 mm. I will take any tips and suggestions u may have. The party is at night and has ceiling lights and I’m sure lights will be turned down for dancing. I appreciate your help. Julie

    • Hi Julie,

      Thanks for stopping by. Just remember to stand at just the right distance away to get a good exposure on your people. Turn your ISO up if you have to. Make sure the speedlite is at just the right intensity for the photo and use redeye removal in Photoshop later if need be.

      You can always bounce the flash off the ceiling or wall to get a better light temperature and better lighting. YOu can also use the flash diffuser if you want to shoot front on. It will soften the light considerably.

      Good luck!

  20. Choidup Zangpo, Bhutan says:


    I would like to inquire about the indoor photograph without using the flash light (meeting, weeding) all my photos were blur and cannot use. Please advise me how to take photo.


    Choidup Zangpo
    Photographer, Bhutan

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