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01-19-2012, 11:42 AM   #1
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How do I get good indoor shots from my kit lens?

Hey guys, so I'm a noobie to photography and have had my K-r for a few months now. I've had few opportunities to spend some quality time experimenting with it. Most recently, I took a trip to the wax museum in NYC. I thought this was the perfect opportunity for me to get some great shots with my first dslr camera. Unfortunately, I learned very fast that taking photos indoors with different lighting situations is EXTREMELY difficult (for a noob).

The lighting wasn't consistent. There were different colored/tinted lights in each room and under different displays. I found myself constantly fiddling with the modes; toggling between Aperture priority and Sensitivity priority. Half way into it, I just settled on overexposing all my shots with the flash.

The majority of my shots have been indoor shots of family/friends. I do plan to do some macro shots in the future and car shoots when it gets nicer out, but I feel like I will spend most of my time indoors.

So my question to you guys, how do I get good indoor photos with my stock body/kit lens K-r?

Thanks!

01-19-2012, 11:56 AM   #2
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Without proper flash, and without a tripod, you can only do your best with bumping the iso up and exposing for your subject in manual mode. When I visited the Natural History museum with my k-x, I was using pretty much ISO 3200 and up, exposing to keep my subject at 0EV or just a little overexposure, and moving my position to make sure that the background wasn't as distracting.

Beyond that, it may be worth it to invest into a fast lens like the DA 35mm F2.4 (cheap), or a Tamron/Sigma 17-50 F2.8 (not as cheap). Those should help you significantly compared to the kit lens, being that they let in at least twice as much light compared to your kit lens.
01-19-2012, 12:02 PM   #3
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The only solutions:

* Crank up the ISO.
* Use flash or tripod.
* Get a faster lens.

The kit.lens is fine outdoors. But low-light shots require assistance, and those are the only variables: ISO, more light, stability, or wider aperture. I'm sure others here will suggest faster kit.lens replacements. The Tamron 17-50/2.8 is a favorite. Boosting the camera's ISO is cheaper.
01-19-2012, 12:07 PM   #4
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What do you mean by good indoor shots? if you have some sample that'll be awesome so we can "critique" you and show some pointers on how to get that "shot" that you want.

And like Mr. rico & jindesu said, bumping up the ISO to achieve the "right" shutter speed to get a stable shot & properly exposed shot is crucial, I believe it's gonna be 1/Focal length = shutter speed.

White balance and other stuff can be fixed in PP.


Last edited by kaiserz; 01-19-2012 at 12:14 PM.
01-19-2012, 01:15 PM   #5
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Some museums or other indoor spots ban tripods, flash, or both. (You might be able to use your "walking stick" that happens to resemble a monopod.) I did some museum photography recently, and given that my K10D will only go so far with ISO, relied on a fast lens. I happened to have a 55/1.8 with me at the time, which did OK, but a 1.4 or 1.2 woud have been better. Thin depth of field at those apertures, of course, so probably not the thing for group shots.

I've also been doing indoor family snaps in low light, and bouncing the pop-up flash off the ceiling by putting a small mirror in front of it. (I have a "Flare Buster", a bendable arm that attaches to the hot shoe, to which I can clip a small mirror.) Works suprisingly well, with limitations of course. But I got quite a few shots I am delighted with -- very natural-looking, flattering, soft lighting.

Last edited by baro-nite; 01-19-2012 at 01:18 PM. Reason: addendum
01-19-2012, 02:33 PM   #6
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If you’re set on using the kit lens I suggest investing on an external flash like the Metz 50 or event the older Metz 48 and use bounce flash for more balanced, natural looking ambient light. Avoid direct flash as much as possible since this usually results in harsh lighting and closed or red-eyed live subjects. Built-in flash can be useful but then again it is a direct flash. The only time I use PU flash directly is for “emergency” where a shot taken is better than no shots taken. Although I haven’t tried the equipment mentioned above or any of the pop-up diffusers widely available, this may be a good option as well.

In case you’re in a place where flash or tripods are not allowed, you can always experiment and put your camera in P-Mode “Museum”, take a shot then look and see what settings the camera used for a particular scene (ISO, Shutter Speed, and Aperture). Then go to Manual mode and use those settings as a baseline then adjust them, take a shot for each adjustment and see how it affects the picture. Adjust them until you get your desired settings. And yes, shoot RAW or RAW+ and PP as needed.
01-23-2012, 06:56 AM   #7
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First of all, I'd like to say thanks for the responses, you guys are great.

QuoteOriginally posted by kaiserz Quote
What do you mean by good indoor shots? if you have some sample that'll be awesome so we can "critique" you and show some pointers on how to get that "shot" that you want.

And like Mr. rico & jindesu said, bumping up the ISO to achieve the "right" shutter speed to get a stable shot & properly exposed shot is crucial, I believe it's gonna be 1/Focal length = shutter speed.

White balance and other stuff can be fixed in PP.
I went to the wax museum in NYC recently and I had a lot of trouble trying to get a good shot because the lighting situation kept changing. I ended up just overexposing with flash since it was the most consistent photo outcome.

I still have a lot of learning to do...

QuoteOriginally posted by K57XR Quote
If you’re set on using the kit lens I suggest investing on an external flash like the Metz 50 or event the older Metz 48 and use bounce flash for more balanced, natural looking ambient light. Avoid direct flash as much as possible since this usually results in harsh lighting and closed or red-eyed live subjects. Built-in flash can be useful but then again it is a direct flash. The only time I use PU flash directly is for “emergency” where a shot taken is better than no shots taken. Although I haven’t tried the equipment mentioned above or any of the pop-up diffusers widely available, this may be a good option as well.

In case you’re in a place where flash or tripods are not allowed, you can always experiment and put your camera in P-Mode “Museum”, take a shot then look and see what settings the camera used for a particular scene (ISO, Shutter Speed, and Aperture). Then go to Manual mode and use those settings as a baseline then adjust them, take a shot for each adjustment and see how it affects the picture. Adjust them until you get your desired settings. And yes, shoot RAW or RAW+ and PP as needed.
I am not set on using the kit lens. I really want to purchase a lens. I am currently eyeing the DA 35mm f2.4. I am also considering other low light prime lenses. As mentioned earlier, I am very new to photography and still learning. I have read a lot about the kit lens and many have said use it to learn the fundamentals.

I think good practice for me would be to use manual focus and not using the zoom. I find myself shooting a lot at 18mm. I like the wide view; I figure I can crop later if I want to.
01-23-2012, 08:09 AM   #8
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How to get good indoor shots of people with the kit lens and the K-r:
1. Stay near the 18mm end of the lens, that's where the largest aperture is.
2. Auto ISO up to 6400 or whatever your personal noise tolerance dictates.
3. highlight and shadow correction off.
4. Mind the white balance, that can be tricky in mixed lighting.
5. Use Tv mode, that'll let you ride the shutter time: Slow shutter like 1/25 for stationary and sedentary people,
1/125 or higher for walking or gesturing people.
6. Try to capture people in natural pauses between movements. Shoot lots and discard the blurred ones.
7. Give shake reduction time to kick in - mind the hand in the viewfinder.
8. Exercise good markmanship - hold the camera steady, brace yourself, mind your breathing and press the shutter smoothly.
9. Watch out for the tungsten front focus issue.

Regards,
--Anders.

01-23-2012, 08:49 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by lilfleck Quote
The lighting wasn't consistent
Shoot RAW... Bump up ISO... (I think you'll have issues using a tripod in museums and galleries, unless you're fairly well known and liked by staff)
01-23-2012, 10:45 AM   #10
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In theory, inconsistent light shouldn't cause problems in itself. If you are in an auto exposure mode, the camera should always adjust to get what it thinks is get the correct exposure. If you are in "M" mode, then you can do the same by hitting the Green button whenever the lighting changes - again, the camera will adjust to get what it thinks is the correct exposure. So it's not the inconsistency of the lighting that is the problem here. More an issue that in some lighting situations, the camera's opinion of correct exposure may differ from your own.

The solution is simple - you need to learn the basic principles of exposure and metering (something covered in any book on photography, also any number of photography web sites). Then you'll understand why and when it is sometimes necessary to override the camera's opinion of correct exposure, and how to do so.

Of course, you'll still need to shoot at high ISO in order to get a fast enough shutter speed to avoid blur.
01-23-2012, 10:57 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by lilfleck Quote
I went to the wax museum in NYC recently and I had a lot of trouble trying to get a good shot because the lighting situation kept changing. I ended up just overexposing with flash since it was the most consistent photo outcome.
I don't know why you were "overexposing" with the flash. Exposure should be similar with or without flash.
To overcome variable lighting, just shoot in raw with auto white balance and adjust later in post processing.
The 35mm f2.4 is a good idea for indoor shooting without flash.
01-23-2012, 01:25 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by lilfleck Quote
I am not set on using the kit lens. I really want to purchase a lens. I am currently eyeing the DA 35mm f2.4. I am also considering other low light prime lenses. As mentioned earlier, I am very new to photography and still learning. I have read a lot about the kit lens and many have said use it to learn the fundamentals.

I think good practice for me would be to use manual focus and not using the zoom. I find myself shooting a lot at 18mm. I like the wide view; I figure I can crop later if I want to.
The DA35mm f2.4 is a well regarded lens at an unbeatable cost. I have my eyes on it as well however; if you shoot a lot at 18mm then you may find a 35mm lens too narrow for your taste. Of course you can zoom out with your feet given enough space. You can always do a little experiment by setting your kit to 35mm and limit yourself to shoot at that focal length alone and see if you’d be comfortable with it.

My fastest prime is an A 50mm 1.7. It is a very good lens but 50mm on an APS-C is too tight for indoor shots. I’d like to have wide angle (focal length in the “teens”) fast primes but they are well over my lens budget at this time. What RioRico suggested above, Tamron 17-50 f2.8 is an excellent lens; provided you get a good copy. I had both the Tamron 17-50 f2.8 and 28-75 f2.8. Optically they are excellent, IMO. Unfortunately, my experience with their build quality out of three different copies was a little disappointing.

Sigma has a 17-50 f2.8 and of course there’s the DA* 16-50….neither of these two are within my budget either.

You can find comparison of all three wide zooms here:
https://www.pentaxforums.com/reviews/pentax-16-50-vs-sigma-tamron-17-50mm/introduction.html

P.S. Careful with LBA.....it is not a myth
01-23-2012, 03:25 PM   #13
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Agreed - the DA35 f2.4 is a good lens at bargain price, and does well indoors. Results compare closely to my old 35 f2.0 Pentax-M - but with autofocus.
01-23-2012, 04:11 PM   #14
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Faster cheaper lenses: Vivitar has a batch of 24-28mm f/2-2.5 manual focus lenses that I see selling for not too much, and they're good. My Vivitar-Kiron 24/2 is about my favorite indoor lens, fast yet with good DOF; I certainly don't regret that it's not AF. My Vivitar-Komine 28/2 is about my favorite outdoor prime -- just as fast, somewhat thinner DOF wide-open, but still fine. For shooting indoors, think of fast MF primes.
01-23-2012, 07:05 PM   #15
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I got some good indoor shots with the 18-55 at the Air Force museum using a tripod, however as pointed out earlier every museum is not camera/tripod friendly. I have the 35/2.4 and it is very good indoors without a flash, but I agree with K57XR that it may not be wide enough if you are mostly shooting at 18mm. Sigma makes a couple of wide fast primes, but at a higher cost. And as Rio has pointed out there are some good older manual focus fast lenses. I personally think it takes a while to develop the skill to shoot with manual focus, so if you go that route stick with it, don't get frustrated (maybe my eyes are just bad too). I think you'll be happier with faster lenses rather than using a flash all the time. Good luck with whatever you try.
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