5 Easy Ways To Take Better Photos Indoors

take better photos indoors

For those of us in New York City, winter came a little early this year. But no matter what the season is, sometimes restricting conditions will require indoor photo shoots. You might think shooting indoors is easier, since you can usually control all of the elements around your shoot — but often times photographers struggle with getting that stunning photo while indoors. Whether their blurry, too dark, too contrasted, or too yellow or blue, we're here to help you master the art of the indoor photo with these quick tips.

Check your White Balance…

Before you start shooting in a certain area, be sure to adjust your White Balance. Most cameras' automatic White Balance works well, but sometimes you'll find yourself with photos tinted yellow or blue, in which case you take a moment to manually change your settings based on the type of lighting your working with. Here are a few of the basic presets you might find on your DSLR camera:

  • Auto: The camera takes a guess on the lighting from shot to shot.
  • Tungsten: Symbolized by a bulb on your settings, it is especially useful for shooting indoors under tungsten (incandescent) lighting (like, for example, bulb lighting). Since tungsten is usually more yellow, this feature cools down the color temperature.
  • Fluorescent: If you're in a situation with harshly blue fluorescent lighting, this feature will warm the temperature of your shots.
  • Daylight/Sunny: This setting isn't used very often indoors.
  • Cloudy: This setting can warm photos up just slightly.
  • Flash: The flash of a camera can often be on the cooler side of the light spectrum, the flash option helps warm them.
  • Shade: Shade also tends to be more blue, so this setting also balances out the cooler tones.

Making these small adjustments can make a huge difference in the look and feel of the photos.

Shoot near an open window or door…

As you can see from above, indoor light can be quite complicated — however, who says you can't take light from outside and use it indoors? The light coming from outside acts as natural highlight, and by having your subject post near the natural light source, you'll create a more flattering look.

When it's time to use a flash…

Sometimes the lighting will just be too dark to get the effect and details you want just the ambient light — that's when it's time to whip out the flash! Careful though, flash can be trickier than it seems.

The pop up flash attached to your camera may not necessarily be a good option to getting quality photos, as they tend to usually look flat and washed out generally. Instead, invest in a solid external flash that you can manually attach to your camera.

  • Typical external flash: Most external flashes are a bigger, more adjustable version of the pop up flash atop your camera. You can point it in any direction, but usually the best way to use it is by pointing it up at the ceiling so that the light disperses in all directions.
  • Soft box: This form of external flash creates a soft light and shadows on your subject. Light from a pop up flash can sometimes be too harsh and high in contrast, soft boxes solve this problem, and revealing more texture and definition.
  • Ring flash: This gadget that has multiple flash units that wrap around the lens instead of sitting atop your camera, essentially generating a single source of light. As they all fire together, a ring of light illuminates your subject from every direction. These are great for capturing close up shots (hello beauty bloggers!). Here's an example of Keiko Lynn using a ring flash:

Stick to a single light source…

Mixing natural and artificial light can sometimes cause a hazy effect in your photos. If you start with natural light, and need more illumination, try to experiment by adding more natural light elements — the same goes with unnatural light. Again, always readjust your White Balance as you change lighting/locations.

Be aware of your “studio” (your surroundings)…

When shooting indoors, details in your surroundings may be more obvious in your photos. For example, keep an eye out for any unnecessary clutter popping up in the background of your pictures. Sure, sometimes you can photoshop these things out afterwards, but generally it's a easier to take care of it in person rather than in editing post-shoot. You don't want to become too reliant on photo editing — think about how you want the final image to look as your shooting, not “oh I'll fix this later.”

Use a fast lens for lighting up photos without a flash…

If you find yourself stuck without a flash, here's a way you can attempt to get some light in your photograph by toying with your camera's settings: Crank up your ISO as high as it will go, set your camera to RAW (if possible), and set your aperture-priority to the lowest f-stop on the fastest lens you have. If this causes your shutter speed to be too low to take a hand held shot (aka if it's blurry), you can try to set your exposure compensation down a stop, which should increase the shutter speed. Then, when your editing the photo, you can heighten the exposure. Careful with this technique, as it may cause a graininess in the photo. However, if you have significantly fast lens (like the 50mm f/1.8 Canon or 50mm f/1.8 Nikon), you can get away with lower light.

What are some tips you have for taking better photos indoors?

[Sources: Digital Photography School, A Beautiful Mess, Intro to White Balance, Geoff Lawrence]

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About The Author

Ana is a Travel Blogger and Blogging Coach at The City Sidewalks. With her expertise in online marketing, she's able to help other bloggers, creatives, and entrepreneurs grow their businesses so that they can achieve financial freedom to travel the world on their own terms.

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31 Responses

  1. Kory

    I tend to struggle with I try to take my own pictures, so this is incredibly helpful! Thanks for sharing, Chelsea!

  2. Lauren - Slowburn Fastburn

    These are great tips. I’m going to look into getting a ring flash for my DSLR. I have played around with the settings on my camera while taking indoor shots. I wish I had more space (and the surroundings were nicer!) in my apartment to take some nice shots when the weather is too bad this winter.

    x lauren

  3. Rachel

    Thank goodness for this post! I’ve been freaking about indoor pics! So very helpful

    Xo, Rachel

  4. Kylie

    Great tips. I would actually recommend the 50mm f1.8 canon lens for a style blogger. Its the 3rd of the price of the 85mm and is not as zoomed in (which can be hard in cramped indoor situations).

  5. Laura Wears.

    I have to shoot indoors in the winter & find my picture quality is lacking. I would love to see examples of the exact setting other bloggers use as well as the final product. My biggest gripe about indoor photos is the grainyness – a result of cranking up my ISO and heavy editing.

    A recent indoor photo attempt: http://laurawears.tumblr.com/post/33625098145/more-green
    Any additional thoughts would be wonderful. This was taken with a Canon 50mm f1.8 lens. I didn’t use a flash, instead I relied on the natural light from the nearby windows. I actually turned the f-stop up to 2.2 (with 1.8 I find that it is hard to get a shot where my face, outfit, bag, and shoes are all in focus). The ISO is 400. Whitbalance is Auto. Exposure time is 1/40.
    I don’t particularily like the result…

    • Sara

      Hi Laura,

      I am not a photography pro by any means, but have you considered using your flash with your photos? You can change your flash composition so the flash is not too bright so it will highlight the colors in your pictures a little more than with just the natural light.

      Just a thought! Hope it helps!


      • Laura Wears.

        Hi Sara,

        Thanks for the tip! Guess I should look more into my flash – I haven’t paid much attention to the settings b/c I just assumed it was an all-or-nothing sort of thing…


    • Kylie

      They are not that bad. I think its where you are standing. You are only half in the light (apart from the bottom photo which looks quite good). I can get myself all focused in with a f/1.8 with trial and error, do you use a remote? Also because you are quite blurred maybe the exposure time is too slow if you are moving around a lot. I take my photos in medium jpeg and raw simultaneously so I can view them in jpeg and have more freedom with the editing in raw. Hope that helps x

      • Laura Wears.

        Thanks Kylie! Yes, I do use a remote. Despite dropping many hints, my husband has yet to take up photography as a hobby – so for the time being, I am using a remote 🙂
        Hopefully I will have time this week to fiddle with the settings on my camera more. All this discussion has me inspired to work on my indoor photo skills!

  6. Rachelle Porsenna

    Cool I got my first dslr a few months ago and my pics have really improved. My only advice would be to take the time to learn how to use the camera when it’s set to manual setting. I had to do a lot of reading to know how to properly adjust the different settings, but there’s a lot of great photography blogs and YouTube channels that will teach you everything you need to know just include your camera model. And also if you could get better lens than the one the camera came with that would be a plus. (And most of all practice practice practice)

  7. Nasreen

    This is so helpful!! since its winter now its hard to go outside and get the right photography conditions!! thanks for this 🙂


  8. Meda N.

    Wow! This is probably one of the best tips I got. I’m new to this. I bought my SRL camera two months ago but I still have a lot of learning to do.. Never saw the importance of shooting in RAW, untill now. Thanks!

  9. Filipa

    I usually have these kind of problems when I’m taking pictures indoors. I’m never satisfied with the light, the colors. Most of the pictures turn out to be blurry. And the flash can really go on my nerves sometimes 🙂
    Thank you for this great advice!

  10. Samantha

    Thank you so much for this article! I shoot all of my pictures exclusively indoors, and it’s so hard to get consistent lighting (especially when I’m coming home at different hours). I just invested in an external flash, and I can already tell it’s going to make a world of difference. If you don’t have a ton of cash, find a model you like and then look for earlier versions. Look on Amazon or eBay for a slightly used one – I saved a lot of money that way.

  11. Stefan

    Very good post and nice informations.
    Maybe you can write another post about the differences betweet the lenses you can buy for the DSLR.

    Greetings from germany
    Stefan aka SpeedTutorial

  12. Blondies Style Fix <3

    when shooting indoors, I always like to pick out neutral tones for a background, or make sure behind isn’t too busy – this helps to photo to look more flattering, and ensure the focus stays on the clothes! 😉
    Grace X

  13. Sanaa

    This is great! I am looking to restarting my blog in the new year and these tips are gonna be helpful when I need to shoot inside.

  14. Lipstick and a White Tee

    I recommend using a tripod, or a monopod, which is less bulky to carry around. Will result in steadier photos 🙂

  15. Lipstick and a White Tee

    Oh, and cranking up your ISO will result in noisier (grainy) photos! But sometimes that works, especially in black&white 🙂

  16. Becky | lifestyleflash.com

    Looking at that amazing photo of Keiko Lynn is all the justification I need to splash out on a ring flash!

  17. Kiesha

    Great post! I recently discovered that you can use older external flashes (made in 1980/1990s) with new DSLR cameras for a few bucks! Great performance and cheap…a beauty/ fashion bloggers DREAM! 😉

  18. Belinda

    This is such a great post. I do a lot of indoor shoots mainly because it never stops raining in Scotland so I can never get a chance to go outside! I’m defiantly going to invest in a new lens for the new year and I’ve just installed Photoshop too and I’m currently playing around with that so it’s all coming together slowly but surely 🙂

  19. Vail Fucci

    Last year when I shot at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York City everywhere I went bloggers were asking me for photography tips. Their photos just plain weren’t coming out right at all. They were too dark, too light, out of focus, or had a bunch of motion blur. So this year I’ve partnered with Calumet Photographic in New York City to teach a class that is designed for Fashion Bloggers, Beauty Bloggers, and PR reps that have the desire to get outstanding photos of what goes on during the glory that is Fashion Week in New York City.

    Here’s what the class will cover:
    What to photograph at fashion week
    How to hold the camera to decrease camera shake
    Freezing motion – Shutter Speed – Shutter Priority
    Blurring the background – Aperture – Aperture Priority
    Autofocus settings – focus points and single shot versus continuous mode
    Getting color right – White Balance
    Adjusting automatic settings – Exposure compensation
    Camera sensitivity to light – ISO
    Image Quality – RAW vs JPG
    Gear – Lenses and Monopods
    Suggested editing software – Adobe Lightroom
    Image keywords for better search engine optimization

    We’ll have a model strutting her stuff so the participants can practice their runway photography skills and she will be sitting for headshots as well so they can practice behind the scenes shots. All you need for this class is a digital SLR camera (if you don’t own one you can rent one at Calumet). By the end of the class the participants will be getting shots they never dreamed possible that they will be proud to display on their blog. This 3-hour class will be taking place on February 2nd, 2013, from 1pm-4pm, at Calumet on 22 West 22nd Street and is only $59.95. To register they can go to the following link: http://www.cvent.com/events/fashion-week-photography-for-fashion-and-beauty-bloggers/event-summary-d740a7862f93410abf1785f559246c9a.aspx

    If you have any questions about the class please feel free to give me a ring or an email. If you would be able to tweet out a link to the class or place a link to it on your website I think it would really help get the information out to your members. Thanks so much for your consideration,

    -Vail Marie Fucci

    Vail Fucci
    Fucci’s Photos
    [email protected]

  20. Farhana

    I try to always take my pictures in natural light. I always get the best lighting that way!

    Unfortunately my bedroom resembles a cave so that isn’t always possible *sigh*

  21. Carla

    I usually try to avoid shooting indoors as i am a sucker for blurred backgrounds outsite.. I have a 50mm f/1:4 usm lens, which is very zoomed-in. This makes it hard to get full-body shots indoors. It is actually a portrait lens for up close photos. So i am currently looking for a good lens with a zoom-out function, but with the same beautiful features.

  22. StyleisHer

    Being that I am from from New York and struggling with pictures during the winter this is very helpful!