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Photography Question 
Joanne Slight

member since: 2/14/2006

Help! Frustrated with Indoor Photography

I'm not satisfied with my indoor photos. I have a Canon Rebel XT with a 35mm and a 75mm lens (with stablizer). I've tried using tripods and playing with my settings - different ISO, apertures, etc. - and yet I just can't seem to get nice clear shots. With flash, it is better, but still not great. I'm especially anxious about moving subjects. How can I at least keep their faces focused? I have an indoor wedding coming and I need suggestions, please...

3/4/2007 10:27:00 AM


member since: 9/25/2006
Hi Joanne,

please post a couple of examples, so that we can see what you mean and possibly understand the nature of your prob better.

Meanwhile study the EXIF tags of the culprit photos. You may see a pattern.

3/4/2007 10:38:41 AM

John Nunziato

member since: 1/27/2004
Make sure ..just to make it easy,,
put everthing on auto.
Auto focus on the lens,the dial on P for program or the picture styles,there is one for portrait..Buy a dedicated off camera flash..Dont use IS with the tripod..Hold camera close to your body ,elbows in..


3/4/2007 10:46:28 AM

BetterPhoto Member

member since: 2/7/2005
If you do not feel comfortable with your equipment and do not know how to set your camera, then unfortunately, I think you should re-evaluate doing this wedding. Maybe the bride and groom think you are more experienced than you sound, and if the photos turn out terrible, I doubt they will be forgiving, as you can't do a re-shoot.

3/4/2007 9:15:55 PM

John H. Siskin
BetterPhoto Member
John's Photo Courses:
4-Week Short Course: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
4-Week Short Course: Getting Started in Commercial Photography
4-Week Short Course: Portrait Photography Lighting on Location and in the Studio
Hi Joanne,
OK, a couple of things, the first wedding you shoot is likely to be much more difficult than you realize. Most people who get into doing this successfully assist a successful wedding photographer at the beginning of their careers. It is much more than having equipment and knowing that the bride will say "I do." But you know the circumstances of this wedding better than I, and you may be the perfect person to shoot it.
A very high ISO makes lousy prints, too much noise. An on-camera flash is a help, but like lighting a mansion with a miner's helmet: lots of shadows and bright spot without much feel of the space. A way to get through this is to use an on-camera flash and a longer shutter speed, say a 1/30 of a second. I would use a chain pod to help steady the camera.
The simplest and best piece of photo equipment you can build is the chainpod. It works like a monopod, weighs a couple of ounces and fits in your pocket. To build it, drill a small hole in 1/2 inch 1/4X20 (that is a thread size) thumbscrew. Attach about 6 feet of chain to the hole (more if you are really tall). Next, put a nut onto the thumbscrew and position it so that the screw can’t go too deep into you tripod socket and glue it in place. To use, attach the thumbscrew to the base of your camera drop the chain and step on it. Now pull up against the chain. Steady!
Thanks, John Siskin

3/5/2007 10:42:35 AM


member since: 9/25/2006
Good luck, Joanne!

3/5/2007 10:52:24 AM

Irene Troy
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/27/2004
  WOW John! Thank you, very much, for the chainpod idea! I don’t shoot weddings – in fact, I do very little indoor photography; however, your great “invention” would work really well out in the field. I always use a sturdy tripod, but, when the wind is really strong and I am using a long lens some movement seems inevitable. And then there are the times when using a tripod is just not practical. This small, easy to handle and light weight idea would work wonders. Thanks for the idea and the instructions on how to put it together and use.


3/5/2007 4:57:23 PM

John H. Siskin
BetterPhoto Member
John's Photo Courses:
4-Week Short Course: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
4-Week Short Course: Getting Started in Commercial Photography
4-Week Short Course: Portrait Photography Lighting on Location and in the Studio
  I wish I invented it. I don't know who did. I first heard of it back in the late 70ies. It works great. Thanks, John Siskin

3/5/2007 5:05:52 PM


BetterPhoto Member

This might be a funny question but do you drink a lot of coffee? or soda? it can make a real difference in how your photos come out. Stabilization is fine but only to a point. And if you are inside likely your shooting speeds are all that fast anyway. And do you use a timer or remote trigger? It can really help. Just a coule of thoughts. Paul

3/6/2007 11:48:16 AM

Ralph L. Nuerenberg

member since: 3/15/2006
  Joanne - From a novice: I take photos of indoor equestrain events which means poor (low) light & fast motion. I have tried all the initial attempts of ISO settints, shutter speed, tripods, etc. It came down to the choice of 1 of 2 paths: adding significant light (remote flash stations) or working with ambient light. I picked the second path, and have invested in low light, high speed lenses. Since I have a Canon as do you, lenses that have worked for me in progressing order are (all L series lenses): 17-40mm f/4 - pricey (requires a little more lighting); 135mm f/2.0 - expensive; and 85mm f1.2 Mark II - real pricey. I now get clear, fairly well exposed photos with fast enough shutter speed to stop a horse in full gallop with great clarity. Hope this is helpful. (By the way, low ambient light levels gives some interesting challenges on white balance, where shooting in RAW can be helpful.)

3/6/2007 12:47:10 PM

  Joanne - "I've tried using tripods and playing with my settings." I re-read your statement and wondered, are you turning off image stabilizer when you are using the tripod? If you don't you likely are getting a little fuzz when you don't want it. I think the chain idea is great! Going to make one and pass the idea along to our camera club. Thanks for the idea John.

3/7/2007 6:01:22 AM

Beth M. McNabb

member since: 1/1/2007
  I hate to even mention this, but my friend had one of these cameras and asked me to try to get the focus clearer before she sent it back because she just wasn't happy with the pictures. She wasn't familiar with the diopter (the little knob right be the viewfinder). Once I showed her how to adjust it, she was thrilled with her camera.

3/12/2007 12:59:14 PM

Michael A. Bielat
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 2/23/2007
  From what I am getting here is that you are still a bit new to your camera.
It seems like your troubles can easily be fixed by learning more about your camera and photography in general.

Decent cameras generally have the "MASP" (manual / aperture priority / shutter priority / auto) settings as well as the different types of "SCM" focusing settings. That is a 3 way dial found on the front of the camera near the lens and off at the bottom.
A half click of the shutter release button will activate the focus.
The M = Manual and requires you to focus through the lens in order to get a sharp shot.
the C= continuous servo and as long as the shutter button is pressed halfway, the focus will remain on moving subject.
S= single servo and will focus and lock so that if the subject moves, you would have to reset and focus again.

You will get blur (no matter how in focus your subject is) when the light is dim and you are forced to use any shutter speed settings under 1/60th of a second. The lower your F-stop, the more light will get let in and will allow you to have proper exposure by being able to use a higher shutter speed that would get rid of the blur problem.

Aperture (f-stop) controls the depth of field (the lower the f-stop is set will make everythign behind and in front of the subject more and more blurry / while keeping the subject in focus of course.) and the shutter speed controls weather you want to freeze time (higher shutter speed) or blur time (slower shutter speed)

The slower the shutter speed, the more you will need a tripod and NO camera shake.

For weddings, you will want a speedlight / external flash unit and learn to use it and even how to get it to act as a fill flash. You would also want a faster lens that is a zoom. Maybe a 18-200mm f/2.8 would be quality.

Another important thing is to start shooting in RAW (so get a bigger memory card!) and to ALWAYS white balance!

RAW allows you to go into the photo after it is taken with photoshop or some other photo editing software and you can adjust the exposure as well as fix the white balance and other fixes like those. This way if your primo wedding shot of the big kiss is a wee bit too dark (it doesn't work miracles) then you can crank it up a bit to look like a perfectly exposed shot.

Hope this helps. I just cracked the surface with the "basics" and even left out a ton of essential information that you will need to know if you want to get this wedding gig to be something meaningful to both yourself and the couple. It is nothing to take lightly and you will get out of it what you put in.

3/12/2007 4:29:24 PM


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