- You are fairly new to photography.
- You own an entry level Nikon DSLR camera (D3000, D3100, D5000, D40)
- You have kit lens (or two) and maybe even the 35mm f/1.8 lens or a 50mm lens.
- You take photos of your kids inside and at night.
If you shoot Canon, the theories I am going to discuss still apply so don't feel completely left out. Unfortunately, I don't know much about Canon equipment aside from the fact that it is comparable to Nikon equipment.
Now if you are new to photography, I honestly don't think that there is anything wrong with taking photographs using Auto on your camera. Using Auto means that you are allowing the camera to decide the ISO, shutter speed and aperture. That will be another post for another day. I mention it because you may not know how to use your camera in Manual, where you set the ISO, shutter speed and aperture.
In case you don't know, I use an ancient Nikon D50. I don't have a kit lens. The closest I have to a kit lens is a Nikon 28-80mm f/3.3-5.6. That is the lens that I used for this first set of photos.
So my kids are playing and I want to take a picture of it. It's at night and I only know how to use my camera in Auto. Here's the picture that I get:
Now suppose I know how to use my camera in Manual, I don't have a Speedlight and I want to avoid the harsh effects of the onboard flash. Here's the picture that I get. (Note that this is straight out of the camera with no editing.)
ISO: I started by setting the ISO to 1600. This is the highest ISO setting on my camera and I knew that I would need to set it high.
Aperture: I set the f stop to 3.3, which is the lowest that the lens will allow. However, if I zoom with the lens, the f stop will increase.
Shutter speed: I metered in my camera and in order to get a correct exposure, I had to set the shutter speed to 1/15, which is ridiculously slow if photographing children. Do you see how Em's arm (she's wearing the polka dots) is blurry?
White balance: I set the camera to recognize that I was shooting with unnatural light and would need some help with white balance.
Here is the same photograph with some editing to try to correct the white balance and brighten the picture. I fully admit that post processing is not my area of expertise and I don't like to spend more than two minutes on a photo. Make that a minute thirty seconds.
And finally, here is the same scene photographed with my Speedlight.
Can you see the difference? (I may have cheated a little by using manual settings. Once you stop using auto, you can't go back. But I assure you that if you use the Speedlight in auto, you will get similar results. When I first started using my Speedlight, I used auto all the time.)
Okay, so now suppose you have a faster lens. A lens that can handle low light situations better. How about the Nikon 35mm, f/1.8? Yes? Well, we are going to use that for our next set of examples.
Here is Auto with onboard flash:
Here's what I get with Manual, no flash:
I'm not even going to try to fix it. She moved and I could not get a fast enough shutter speed to avoid that.
And here is what the same scene looks like with my Speedlight. It's still a bit warm but definitely better than options 1 and 2.
Can you see the difference?
If you don't like using your onboard flash and cannot afford a Speedlight, an inexpensive option is the Light Scoop. I have never used one so I can't tell you much about it. It basically sits on your camera and directs the light from your onboard flash upward instead of straight ahead.
I use a Nikon SB-600 Speedlight.
And I hope someone finds this useful!