How to Achieve Great Indoor Photography Results

How to Achieve Great Indoor Photography Results

Jayson from Image World Photography left a useful comment on the Christmas Photography Tips post that I thought the DPS readership would find useful.

A setting that has always worked for me to achieve great indoor photography. This came about after many corporate photography functions in doors and wedding photography inside churches. These settings allow you to see people or subjects in the foreground and still see the warmth of the room or any features or lights in the background.

Settings for Indoor Photography


  • Put you camera onto M for manual (this is the setting on Canon’s, not sure about other models).
  • Set you aperture to as big as it will go eg. F4.0 or F2.8.
  • Set your shutter speed to around 1/60. It is hard to shoot handheld with anything below 1/60. As a rule of thumb you should never shoot lower than your focal distance while handheld. Eg on a 50mm lense you should never shoot lower than 1/50 sec.
  • You will then need to use you external flash, if you can bounce your flash do this, if you have a catch light reflector built into your flash even better.
  • Take a few shots and see what they look like.
  • If they are not bright enough try bumping up your ISO to 200 then 400 and so on until you achieve an acceptable result.

This style of photography will have great lighting on people in the foreground and still have the impact of the room lighting and features in the shot. Just a plain old photo with the flash will normally burn out people in the foreground and black out the background. Give it a go!

You can see some examples of Jayson putting this technique to work at his site – particularly the Corporate Photos Section.

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Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

Some Older Comments

  • Petra April 5, 2013 03:00 am

    My tip to soften the flash is to put the white plastic bag found in any cereal box over your flash and hold it in place with a rubber band, it's like a cheap soft box now.

  • Denz February 18, 2013 05:59 pm

    ti used f stop between 2.8 to 4 and a shutter of 1/60. if u have external flash u should bounce it at top or side ceiling to aware shadow effect.

  • Dorian October 9, 2012 10:16 pm

    I am new for the DSLR and I’ve just bought a Canon 600d DSLR.

    Next Saturday I have a new born girl party at my friends house and I want to impress (joking)

    Any tips?

  • Dorian October 9, 2012 07:28 pm

    I am new for the DSLR and I've just bought a Canon 600d DSLR.

    Next Saturday I have a new born girl party at my friends house and I want to impress :) (joking)

    Any tips?

  • Rees photography April 13, 2012 02:14 am

    External flashes (like my strobes) are amazing at connecting to other flashes. Even a disposable camera will set it off.

  • Kurt December 10, 2011 06:23 am

    On the D90, for indoor shots manually adjust the "white balance" function to either the "Candesent" or Florencent" setting instead of leaving it automatic. You can use the Speedlight to bounce the flash but the camera will automatically compensate the F stop setting unless you are in manual mode. Start out with ISO-500, f1:1.8 (50mm lens) and 125 then take a few test shots..your lighting will vary. :) Use the lowest ISO you can to not get graining. Again, too slow a shutter speed and focusing becomes an issue.

  • Anna November 13, 2011 10:26 am

    I have a Cannon Rebel. For my business I need to take pictures of used items. I use a white back-ground and take them indoor. I am still figuring out the camera, but have played with the ISO to achieve better shots. My question is, when it's darker outside and not as much light indoors available, is there any other tips for getting better pictures and keeping the natural color of the product? I have an equine tack business so often times it's leather goods, and steel & silver horse bits.

  • yoon October 22, 2011 01:56 pm

    i use nikon d90.which is a best flash light for me to take indor wedding photo?with this page i have some tips from u all how to adjust the shutter speed,aperture....iso as well.thks

  • Chibuzor October 13, 2011 11:46 pm

    I use a nikon D60. Which is the most appropriate nikon flash for me. And lastly, how far from a subject should one stand to get best results using a 18-55mm lens. These flash units here, cost almost as twice as the price of what fellows in USA pay. How do i buy at low shipping rates? Thanks

  • KenP August 29, 2011 01:59 pm

    I got great tips in this article and used them as recently as last Saturday with excellent results. Unfortunately, the ownership on the photos does not permit me to post any publicly.

  • Steve May 26, 2011 07:31 am

    @Cam Gary Fong makes a bunch of different flash diffusers, I believe ones for point and shoots also. Check out to check them out. There's even helpful videos on there that show the products at work. I've used one for my external flash before and it's great. If there isn't one on there for a point and shoot just google it there should be some out there.

    That goes for everyone else that doesn't know about flash diffusers. Check out that website, they help a lot and make your pictures a lot warmer instead of real harsh from shooting people straight on with a flash. It does help if you have an external flash also to bouce it off of ceilings (in lower-celing venues), and especially if they're white.

  • Stephen April 6, 2011 05:21 pm


    You should not be shooting a wedding if you don't know what you're doing. It takes years to master photography and flash before you should agree to shoot a wedding. This is the brides most important day in her life. You don't know what you're doing as you have stated. Even if she says she doesn't mind that you are still learning. She will when she looks at the photos. Learn flash before you EVER accept to shoot a wedding!

  • grainne February 25, 2011 08:56 am

    Hi Darren,

    I was following your instructions for indoor photography without using flash, but was confused then when it was said to bounce the flash or use an external flash- so a flash is required afterall?

    I have a wedding coming up in August and i want to get some indoor shots of the church and the wedding, but would rather have natural hues or black and white. Anytime i have used flash, i never liked the results.

    Thanks for any tips,

  • dc January 18, 2011 02:10 pm

    Hi josh,

    Unfortunately a simple P&S like the PL55 can't perform miracles - they are not designed for the difficult task of low-light picture taking.. All you can really do is take your pictures in the daytime to allow as much natural light in as possible thru the windows and turn on all the lights. For close-ups, you could try placing ~2-4sq cm white paper in front of flash (a bit away from flash) to help diffuse intensity.. In a small room with half-decent light, you could also try bouncing the flash off a piece off tin-foil placed underneath the flash angled about 45deg.

  • josh December 20, 2010 06:08 am

    hi, im a complete novice! just bought a digital camera and no matter what i do cannot get good indoor shots atall, need it for my 9 month old and my baby due feb :( anyone who could help me would be doing a family a great favour. Thanks! samsung PL55 (actually PL57 but dosent come uo, think 55 and 57 just diffrent colours though) Again thanks for any help

  • DaveInTrinity December 19, 2010 02:20 am

    Hi, I am a total novice here and have a situation I never see covered. I shoot room interiors for Real Estate listings with a dSLR. There is no definable subject other than walls and furniture. I am shooting in variable and multiple lighting conditions, often dark rooms with bright (shaded) windows, incandescent/flourescent lights. The shots almost never have any appeal because of shadows, color problems, etc. The rooms are often very small (secondary bedrooms), but can be quite large with very high ceilings (2 story Great Rooms). Anyone have any advice?

  • Christine November 5, 2010 08:09 am

    what about white balance? Why no mention?

  • Rob February 4, 2010 10:38 am

    I made a few mistakes early on and hope these suggestions help:

    If you use AV mode, remeber that in most cameras the camera will expose for the background which will require the flash to light the subject. Addtionally, in a dark room it will generally set the shutter too slow and you will get motion blur. While this might be good if you are tracking your subject for an artistic effect, that effect will just look blurry in all your other shots. I was used to using AV outdoors with great success but had to change my thinking indoors.

    Use can use Manual and set your camera up as follows ( especially for a newer SLR):
    Biggest aperture you have (hopefully at least 2.8, if not spend the $100 and get a 50mm 1.8- you will be glad you did). If you are using a P&S, do not zoom in as that will typically decrease your aperture and your on camera flash will not be able to cover those distances anyway.
    ISO -800-1600 (depending on camera)
    Shutter 1/100
    Bounce flash if you can (if white ceiling less that 10ft high). If not, use a direct flash with a diffuser or some method previously described.

    The great thing about using manual is that you can let in as much light as the camera will allow and the SLR exposure systems are smart enough to compensate with the flash. Make sure you take test shots to make sure your camera is properly exposing your subject. The background may still be underexposed but at least the subject wont say "I am that third dark blob on the right".

  • Richard November 27, 2009 08:59 am

    Is 1/60. 60 or 160. I have a Canon 40D.

  • Jess May 9, 2009 03:29 pm

    hi there -
    i am recently being commissioned to photograph a client's storefront inside a mall. these tips are handy, but do you have any other tips for non-people indoor shots? all tips greatly appreciated!

  • ggggg February 7, 2009 06:46 pm

    if u wanna take indoor photography then don,t use flash much

  • Rory January 11, 2009 05:02 am

    Hi Saran

    I would be able to direct advice if we work on an example image you take - indicating iso, f-stop, shutter speed. Contact me on facebook -

  • Saran January 10, 2009 01:34 am

    Hello there, i'm having a problem with my camera, i found it diffilcult to get a sharp and clear indoor pictures with a professional camera Canon Mark II Ds. What can i do to get a good pictures

  • Jeannetteny7 November 21, 2008 05:18 am

    I'm offering my services at a sweet sixteen. I don't own a 50mm but rather the standard kit, a 28-90mm and a 75-300mm. Based on these lenses, what would be my best bet for shooting indoors using a Rebel XT? This is my first time shooting outside of normal family/friends gathering?

  • Rory June 27, 2008 08:49 am

    There are many variables when it comes to indoor snaps. I have found that weddings offer you the opportunity to Develop a system that will work for you with the least amount of fiddling between snaps. A bride down the isle is different to one where the ring is slipped onto the finger. So here is my settings which may assist you. Bounce cards are awesome when used correctly. I made my own ABBC ( A better bounce card ). When I have TIME between snaps I use Manual, however, for quick addaptations I use my Assistant, my Canon 40D , yes its the best helper you have on site. Set Camera Mode to P - for Program ,I use a Canon 580ex Speedlight Set it on ETTL - flip down the DIFFUSER ( 580ex feature often ony used for wide angle shots, dropping it assists in increasing the spread of the bounced light and thus reduced battery consumption) - shoot with the ABBC (or other diffuser card etc) - keep the Flash Head Swivel on the 1st click 45deg whether Portrait or Landscape - My camera in P MODE ( program Mode) automatically selects TV at 60 and AV 3.5 to 4 - set the ISO to Auto ( this is a 40D Feature, however you could use ISO400, which seems to be a constant the camera chooses when in iso auto) - AND NOW YOU SNAP. If the image exposure is slightly to light or dark, all you have to adjust is ONE SETTING - the FLASH COMPENSATION LEVEL - UP for dark snaps and DOWN for overexposed Snaps. So I think we can call this the FLASH COMPENSATION TECHNIQUE. ONE SETTING is easy to adjust and master, later you will identify based on the surroundings, which exposure would be best or closest. NB no direct flash, either 45deg or more.

  • Kathryn Bowlin June 21, 2008 06:19 am

    What is a bounce card? I am starting to use a canon SD950 IS to take photos of the inside of an old house with no electricity for lighting. There will of course be natural light. The walls will be dark as well as the ceiling. Sounds like IS0 3200 Manual, Shutter 1/60 , tripod, and bounce card to get light at the ceiling would be my best bet? Any suggestions? I am starting out with this project and just looking for good advice.


  • Wendy April 2, 2008 09:09 am

    Bouncing a Flash: What is it?

    Bouncing a flash means that you do not point it directly at the subjects. You instead turn your flash so that it is:

    a. pointed up to the ceiling so that the light the flash emits 'bounces' off the ceiling and illuminates the subject.

    b. pointed towards a wall or reflector so that you sweep the shadows across the subject in a feathering manner.

    There are other ways to bounce light, but the most basic meaning is a.

    If you have a fixed flash ' usually a pop-up flash on a point and shoot camera. Your best bet is to DIFUSE the light so it is not a direct on flash. You can do this in a number of ways, but 2 of the easiest are to

    a place a single layer piece of a white napkin over the flash as you us it or take a piece of aluminum foil and make a 2x3 inch square thich enough to hold shape and when your flas pops up place under flash with a slight angle up to 'bounce' the flash off your ceiling.

    Another note bouncing does not work well on high ceilings or dark ceilings. Most pro's then go to a bounce card or other form of bouncing.


  • M Sidik February 25, 2008 10:15 pm


    Can someone please explain the following

    1) what do you mean by bouncing flash - how do i do this on my canon digital rebel xti (d400)

    2) i was recently shooting indoor at a childrens party on av mode, i was getting a lot of shake, how can i avoid this, without using the flash as that spoils the lighting i feel.

  • M Sidik February 25, 2008 10:13 pm

    hi, i wanted to know what everyone means by 'bouncing the flash'. I was recently shooting at an indoor kids party and noticed a lot of shake. I was using the AV mode on my Canon D400 (Xti Rebel). How can I avoid this? Will appreciate suggestions.

  • Ashley June 23, 2007 06:53 am

    Help! I've been taking pictures for a long time, just by having a good eye. I've done an outdoor wedding, but my best friend is INSISTING I do her indoor wedding!! I have a nice kodak camera. how can i get the best lighting indoors while not making the picture blurry???

  • aphrodaiA June 15, 2007 01:00 pm

    i'm apprenticing for a wedding photographer and cannot seem to get my indoor shots right. i was told the iso should be 1600, with full flash (i have a speedlite), shutter speed no lower than focal distance... i can play around and get light right for the most part but i noticed in my last set of pictures that i had shadows in a bunch of my shots. when you see shadows, what is the best way to correct this?

    the ceilings have generally been too high to bounce flash, and when they haven't i feel like i am setting my flash either too high or too low, i can't figure out which.

    if anyone has tips/blogs on flash compensation, and correcting exposure i would love to read. (if anyone has time to look at my pictures on flickr, would also like feedback on what you are seeing that i'm doing wrong and how to correct: - click on "collection"


  • favorunmerited May 28, 2007 04:41 am

    I've had good, but not perfect, success using a white or neutral stocking over the flash on my Canon A520, a serious camerea that I still consider a point and shoot.

    While assisting on a photoshoot last year, the photographer and I were also surprised that my A520 consistantly set off his professional lights, and some of my 'snapshots' from that shoot are the best artificially lit portrait and fashion photographs that I've ever taken.

  • Richard May 8, 2007 04:33 pm

    If I was shooting at 1/60 of a second at 2.8. Why won't my exposure level be in the center or does it matter...

  • Cam March 7, 2007 04:29 am

    Is there any adapter that can be added to an camera without external flash capabilities? I would love to get external flash results but don't have an SLR. Is this possible?

  • Richard March 4, 2007 02:41 pm

    If I am shooting indoors at 1/60 of second and f/stop 2.8 or 4.0, everytime I try to adjust the exposure level indicator my shutter speed moves.

  • Richard March 4, 2007 01:20 pm

    When people say bounce the flash. Bounce flash off what.

  • anwar February 27, 2007 11:04 pm

    please tell about canon A710is

  • Travis February 20, 2007 02:08 pm

    I just tried out the napkin trick on my Canon XTi. It works wonderfully! I cranked up the flash intensity and covered the flash with four layers of facial tissue and the colours came out much more realistically without a great loss in brightness. Thanks for the tip!!

  • Milan February 19, 2007 11:35 am

    Most of the people reading this will probably be using P&S cameras, and not have external flashes. That said, there are a few things that can be done, even in that more challenging circumstance.

    Whenever I am taking indoor photos using my Canon A510, I do so in black and white mode. It is simply too hard to get colours that look at all correct using the on-camera flash and whatever lighting is already in the room.

    For non-flash photos, I recommend carrying around a mini tripod. I brought one with me to Turkey when I went recently and found it constantly useful. Another good way to avoid camera shake can be to use the 2 second timer. Set up the shot, press the shutter button, then brace as best you can during the intervening period before the shutter opens.

  • z999 February 7, 2007 12:25 am

    my problem is that I don't have external flash. I have a PnS and I can't connect external flash. do you have idea about what to do?

  • Elber February 4, 2007 08:07 pm

    I usually go to ISO 400 immediately once I'm indoors - I'd rather get noise than dark or blurry shots. In the time of film, that's what ASA 400 was for anyway. Of course, if you've got a room that's lit up bright enough, you can go back down to a lower ISO.

    If you're worried about noise, the amount of noise on a Canon camera at IS0 400 is negligible. Heck, you can go up to 800 or even 1600 and the noise is still acceptable for most purposes.

    On another note, you can gel the flash to match your ambient light. That way, when you color correct, all your light sources are the same color.

  • Jerry Bradway February 4, 2007 08:28 am

    Bounce Flash and Photoshop (or even Photoshop Elements)

  • Carl February 3, 2007 05:50 am

    When I'm doing weddings I set my Canon (I'm not sure if this is possible with other cameras) to Av mode. In the custom functions I can set the shutter speed to be fixed at 1/200, which means that camera shake is generally not an issue. I then choose my aperture, as I would normally, and the camera's light meter decides on the flash output.

    The most obvious drawback here is that if you set an aperture of something silly, like f/22, then your flashgun's going to down tools and walk out. But the (rather obvious) answer to that is, er, don't. You still need to be aware of changing light conditions, but moreso (I'd say) than the suggestion here (which dispenses entirely of the camera's light meter).

    As with most (all?) things in photography, it's a case of what works best for you. This is what works best for me.

  • Vicki February 3, 2007 03:26 am

    I am killing time and voting for bloggies today. I came across your blog and I really shouldn't be reading evertyhing you've written LOL I have other people to read also.

    I voted for you, and bloglined you. Great blog! Stop by and see me anytime!

  • Kenji February 3, 2007 03:14 am

    Thanks, this is one of my problem ~ indoor photography. I use a 24-105mm f4 and pushed ISO to 1000. Shots were good but I want to capture the warmth of the home. I realized I need a faster lens maybe 50mm or 85mm at f1.8 and of course the external flash.

  • Raghu February 2, 2007 02:22 pm

    Thanks for the article.
    Would you recommend the white balancing tips for indoor photography as well. There will be the actual indoor light and the flash light as well. Is manual whitebalancing the best way ?

  • Brian Auer February 2, 2007 02:03 pm

    Absolutely right, bouncing the flash is key. I noticed a huge difference in my indoor photos when I started doing this habitually.

  • MD February 2, 2007 05:42 am

    I just tried this technique and it worked great. It really prevents the flash problem of washing out your subject while the background remains dark.

  • Elliot February 2, 2007 05:29 am

    If you can't bounce your flash (ie, you've go a point and shoot, or haven't ponied up for an external for your SLR), a makeshift diffuser/deflector can be effective. Try a napkin over the flash, or use a card angled up to bounce at the cieling. Nothing is worse than shooting a flash straight on, I'd rather lower the shutter speed and get a blurry shot.

  • Matthew Miller February 1, 2007 09:59 pm

    There's going to be quite a large difference in "any features or lights in the background.any features or lights in the background" between a dSLR using this advice and a compact. And for that matter, between f/4.0 and f/2.8 on the dSLR.

    Also note that the focal distance / shutter speed rule doesn't necessarily apply to compact cameras -- my Olympus C-5060 has a focal length from 7mm to 22mm, but it doesn't mean it's easy to hold still anywhere between 1/7th and 1/22nd. Theoretically, the "crop factor" shouldn't have anything to do with this, so it's really just the rule of thumb breaking down in extreme conditions.

    The more important thing is that if you're taking pictures of people doing anything but holding very still, you're likely to get blurred subjects at anything longer than 1/60th regardless of focal length.

  • Tristan Hauser February 1, 2007 05:44 pm

    This technique works also very very good for Sports Photography.

    The darker the room / surrounding is, the higher you can set the ISO to have the background lighten up.