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08-15-2013, 06:19 PM   #1
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Taking pictures indoors and/or at night without flash

I've been wondering about how to take pictures at night or indoors, under artificial light, without using a flash. What should I do? The way I understand, I should set the lens to maximum aperture, to capture more light. Am I right?


Last edited by Julio Kirk; 08-15-2013 at 06:44 PM.
08-15-2013, 06:32 PM   #2
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And/or increase the ISO and/or use a tripod.
08-15-2013, 07:41 PM   #3
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ISO 800 at f1.4 is more than sufficient for even relatively dark places. I see you have a 50mm 1.4, this will work just fine. I'm not sure if you have a DSLR or are just using film? If film, hopefully you have some ISO800 film!

Try reading the book "Understanding Exposure" by Bryan Peterson. It will teach you how to balance aperture, shutter speed and ISO to get the images you want.
08-15-2013, 09:45 PM   #4
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A DSLR makes it mostly easier, because you can choose from a very broad ISO range, use white balance to handle color casts and even convert to black and white when grain and color casts are too much trouble. Manual focus is a little harder.

For your Spotmatic. you should consider matching your film to the light source. Daylight film will look mostly orange and yellow under tungsten light, and fluorescent light may look green with some films.. Then decide how high an ISO you can get for that film type. You can set the camera to a high ISO, a wide aperture and 1/60 and see what the light meter says under that light, to see how the film might work. As long as you don't take a shot with settings that don't match the film you are using, and return the settings after changing them.

08-16-2013, 02:13 PM   #5
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Well, currently I'm using ISO 200 film with my SPII, but I coudn't find a battery for it's light meter (and I'm not really sure it still works, though the rest of the camera is working and in good condition). Anyway, I'll be stuck in fully manual operations for a while and I have many doubts, specially about exposure. I live in a very sunny place, so I started learning how to shoot during the day first. But yesterday I had to take a pic inside a museum, with that pale light all over (the room wasn't dark at all, by the way, lamps were everywhere), so I just opened the lens to 1.4, kept the speed at 250 and gave it a try. Still waiting for the results. Meanwhile, I'm just asking for some advice to know if I won't be disappointed. =)
08-16-2013, 02:55 PM   #6
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Guessing Game?

Hello Julio, Welcome to the Forum!
The type of photography you're interested in is called 'Available Light' or low-light shooting. It takes some practice and a steady hand, but can be very rewarding when done right. In addition, many of the lessons you'll learn along the way will improve your other shooting.
But if you're shooting without any type of metering, you're going to be wasting a lot of film and money. There's a general rule for outdoor exposure estimates without a meter, it's called the 'Sunny 16' rule, if you Google that it will help with outdoor light.
But it's very difficult to make an overall rule for indoor lighting, too many variables involved.
So, you need a meter, faster film and quite possibly, some sort of camera support like a tripod, monopod or table-top pod. What might seem like plenty of light to the human eye can still be pretty dark for a camera. A great example is stage lighting. We see performers in a spotlight and think it's bright enough for taking photos. But meter the light and you're lucky to get 1/60s at f/2.8 with ISO 1600! Why? because we're standing in the dark and the eye adjusts to our environment.
So, my suggestion is to look for an inexpensive light meter that uses modern batteries. This would save the cost of under-exposed film many times over.
08-16-2013, 06:01 PM   #7
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If you are using color negative film, start by getting some ISO 400. Fuji is readily available in 24 exp rolls which are good for testing results. Fuji is also fairly tolerant of different lighting colors, so is good for available light. For a start in normal house lighting try f1.4 at 1/30 and 1/60 sec - which should work if it is bright enough to focus easily. I also get generally good results at f1.4 at 1/15 sec, but have a lot of practice holding still. (Of course, at that speed your subject needs to be still too.) There is 800 and 1600 color film, but I prefer 400 for better grain and overall usefulness.
Here are a couple examples at 1/15th sec in a very dim hallway with 400 film - processed and scanned at different labs. First is a Spotmatic with 50 f1.4 at 1/15:
Name:  Bear-Spotmatic 15th.jpg
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Then a Leica M6 f2.0 at 1/15th:
Name:  Bear-M6-F2 at 15th sec.jpg
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Size:  291.5 KB
Not perfectly sharp - but shows you can get reasonable results at 1/15th sec handheld in dim light.
08-22-2013, 04:53 PM   #8
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rbefly, I studied the sunny 16 rule just before I started shooting, so I'm already a little familiar with it (though I still couldn't see the results, I'll be developing the film soon).

TomB_tx I'm using a Kodak Colorplus 200 film, since it's the only readly available in my city. I guess it will work fine for general outdoor shooting, but indoors... I really don't know what to expect. It's the first roll to go inside my Pentax for many years and I'm trying out all kinds of rules and ideas I read from you guys here on Pentax Forums. I still got 5 or 6 expositions (the film has 36) and I'll develop and see the results. I'll post them here if I can, and probably ask more questions, haha.

Anyway, thank all of you for the help.

Last edited by Julio Kirk; 08-22-2013 at 04:55 PM. Reason: correct typos

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