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Shooting Better Nighttime Photos: Indoors and Outdoors

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Thanks to improved image sensors, higher usable ISO settings, and lenses that allow more light to reach those sensors, you can shoot great photos indoors and at night – if you know the keys to better dim-light photography and when to use them. Mark Edward Soper, the author of The Shot Doctor: the Amateur’s Guide to Great Digital Photography, shares his secrets for better photos indoors and after dark.
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Digital photography doesn’t need to be a dawn-to-dusk hobby. Thanks to improved image sensors, higher usable ISO settings, and lenses that allow more light to reach those sensors, you can shoot great photos indoors and at night – if you know the keys to better dim-light photography and when to use them.

Key #1—Ditch Auto Mode

In Auto mode (marked in green on the control dial of most digital cameras), you decide what to shoot and when, but the camera decides all of the other settings for you. Unless you’re shooting under bright-as-day conditions indoors, your camera will turn on the flash in Auto mode because Auto mode isn’t designed to cope with dim light in any other way. For some subjects, like Figure 1, flash is A-OK.

Figure 1 Auto mode’s automatic flash works well for closeups of people.

However, if you’re shooting a more distant subject with some obstacles in front of you, your flash will light up the obstacles, not the subject (Figure 2).

Figure 2 Whatever’s in front of the flash gets overexposed if you’re trying to shoot through the obstructions.

The solution? Switch your camera out of Auto mode into a mode that gives you more control and enables you to shoot without flash when it makes sense.

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