In this modern world, a lot of people spend a lot of time indoors. Climate control, protection from the elements, and pleasant acoustics are common in most indoor locations.
Knowing good indoor photography settings allows us as photographers to capture the images we want from these indoor locations.
Indoor photography settings will probably be different depending on whether you are shooting an event, candid portraits at an event, or the interior spaces themselves.
For these settings, I am going with the assumption that we are looking to take photographs of interiors, such as for listing a home on a real estate listing or as a traveler or tourist at a beautiful or interesting location.
Using flash and the best settings and techniques for that is worthy of a full article all by itself!
Indoor Photography Settings + (5 Images & Camera Settings)
Below are the settings that I start off with when taking photos indoors. Once I input these settings, I then go ahead and adjust them to the lighting and style of the photo.
For more examples, you can see the photos below that also show some different indoor camera settings with variable lighting conditions.
Shutter speed: 1/30th
Focal length: 24mm
Exposure mode: Aperture Priority / Manual
Focus mode: Single Shot Auto
Image format: Full Frame / APS-C / MFT
White balance: Auto
- Shutter speed: 1/60
- Aperture: f/4.9
- ISO: 200
- Focal length: 52mm
- Shutter speed: 1/60
- Aperture: f/2.0
- ISO: 640
- Focal length: 23mm
- Shutter speed: 1/200
- Aperture: f/5.2
- ISO: 300
- Focal length: 35mm
- Shutter speed: 1/100
- Aperture: f/3.5
- ISO: 1250
- Focal length: 10mm
- Shutter speed: 1/200
- Aperture: f/3.5
- ISO: 200
- Focal length: 50mm
Why I choose the above settings for indoor photography
Shutter speed: 1/30th – Before you look at this recommendation and think “Wow, that’s slow,” consider the lens choice for interiors listed below.
Also, many modern digital cameras or lenses have amazingly effective image stabilization features built into them.
Image stabilization extends the ability of an average photographer to be able to handhold the camera at slower shutter speeds.
A good rule of thumb that photographers using 35mm film used for decades with great success is the slowest safe shutter speed for hand holding, without introducing image blur due to camera shake is going to be the reciprocal fraction of the lens focal length.
Bear with me! Basically, this means a 200mm telephoto lens can be handheld at 1/200th of a second, with 1/250th being the camera setting closest to that. A 28mm lens gets 1/30th, the Nifty Fifty gets 1/60th, and so on.
With electronic shutters allowing in between shutter speeds, a photographer can actually pretty much set a shutter speed very close to the reciprocal fraction.
If using aperture priority automation, you check your viewfinder readout to see the speed set. More on that in a bit.
There are some photographers who have trained themselves to be able to handhold successfully at slower shutter speeds.
With practice and good technique, you can extend your personal low threshold. Image stabilization helps.
A proper stance is the number one consideration for a good hand-holding technique. Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart, one foot slightly ahead of the other.
Many photographers will put their left foot forward due to the left hand generally being their cradle hand.
Hold the camera’s eye-level viewfinder up to your eye and cradle the camera and lens with your left hand. The primary weight of the camera or lens resting on the heel of the palm of your hand.
Use your fingers to adjust zoom or focus from underneath. The right hand is firmly but loosely holding the camera with your index finger poised over or on the shutter release.
Tuck your left elbow down into your abdomen and keep your right elbow loose but close to your body and down as well.
Nothing should be strained, stressed, or completely rigid. Remaining relaxed but centered will minimize hand or arm movement and anybody swaying or shaking. When it’s time to take the picture, gently press the shutter release.
You could manage to replicate most of this stance using the viewscreen on the back of the camera, but eye-level viewing is best for this technique.
Keep in mind also that this is just one technique, there are other stances that work for other photographers.
A google image search of handheld camera technique will show many variations of this basic stance. Some other ways to extend your own personal handhold ability threshold will be discussed in the Tips section.
Aperture: f/5.6 – Indoor photography settings often have to deal with lower than optimum levels of ambient light, so this setting will change based on exact exposure needs.
The primary reason for not shooting with a wide-open lens aperture indoors is the depth of focus.
An f-stop of f/1.4 or f/1.2 will give you a faster shutter speed (see the Exposure Triangle for why this is so), but it will seriously impact the depth of field available for focusing.
A lens aperture of f/5.6 is a good compromise for adequate depth of field and fast enough shutter speed.
With a wide-angle lens, a moderate aperture at medium distances will give you a pretty significant depth of focus.
It’s good to have some depth of field for imaging interiors, especially when there is a lot of interesting stuff going on in the field of view. For a really deep depth of field, see the Tips below.
ISO: 800 – When the film was the most popular format for everyday photography, film speeds of 100 and 200 were considered general-purpose, while 400 was intended for lower light, faster action, etc…
Digital ISO corresponds fairly close with those film speeds. Digital noise has taken the place of film grain.
Modern digital camera sensors keep improving in regards to ISO and image quality, making ISO 800 roughly the equivalent in image quality as those ASA/ISO 400 films.
Depending on your specific camera model, you could even go to a higher ISO setting.
Focal length: 24mm – A moderately wide-angle lens, such as 24mm or 28mm will enable you to get a nice field of view without introducing a lot of optical distortion or odd perspective effects.
The kit zoom lenses tend to start at this focal length, so a large investment in extra lenses isn’t necessary. Those kit lenses also usually have their fastest aperture at the wide end of their zoom range.
If your camera of choice is APS-C or MFT as opposed to Full Frame, use the crop factor to figure our focal lengths, I’ll help out, the equivalent to Full Frame 24mm in APS-C is 18mm, 12mm for MFT.
A word about kit lenses and gear snobbery: kit lenses from the major manufacturers are optically excellent. The cost and weight savings are generally accomplished by slower apertures and less robust mechanical construction.
“Stepping up” from a kit lens is a great idea, but it is by no means an absolute imperative for many photographic hobbyists.
Exposure mode: Aperture Priority / Manual – When moving around from room to room, or even facing different directions in the same room, light levels are likely to change a little bit.
Modern cameras with matrix metering provide an amazing level of exposure accuracy.
With your f-stop set at a medium aperture, monitor the viewfinder readout to make sure the shutter speed being selected is appropriate.
If not, tweak the aperture up or down until you get a good shutter speed for you to hold.
For extreme lighting conditions, manually setting exposure and bracketing work well, too. I’ll post some tips about that.
Focus mode: Single Shot Auto – In the lower light levels common to many interior scenes, the super-accurate focusing ability of today’s digital DSLRs and mirrorless cameras is very welcome.
Another reason why I like the eye-level viewfinder is that I can quickly monitor what focus points the camera is using.
The mode I’m calling single-shot AF may be labeled something else on your own camera. What I’m referencing is the AF mode that only allows the shutter to release when the focus is accurate.
Let me tell you, there are a few worse feelings than coming home from your vacation or photo job and seeing dozens of soft images due to focusing errors.
Image format: Full Frame / APS-C / MFT – Professional and prosumer level cameras in these formats are amazing imaging tools. Some of them can get pretty expensive, though.
The entry-level cameras and slightly above entry-level in these formats are very capable. In terms of what a photographer of any level can accomplish with these cameras, the only thing holding you back is likely only going to be your own skills.
Within reason, of course. If you’re going to be shooting the Sistine Chapel for National Geographic or the lobby and rooms of a 5-star hotel for their advertising, then you should rent or buy the best tools your budget allows.
White balance: Auto – When considering indoor photography settings, you will often come across scenes lit by various light sources.
A vacation hot spot, for instance, could have warm incandescent, fluorescent, diffuse sunlight, and halogen spotlights all with the same field of view.
Shooting in RAW is a great idea, as it allows you to assign or adjust a color profile in post-processing. In-camera auto white balance for JPEGs lets you concentrate on exposure, focus, and composition.
Tips on how to capture stunning indoor photography images
Tip #1: Lean On Me!
In the discussion above about shutter speed, we went into a lot of detail about hand-holding technique.
A trick that many photographers use almost without even thinking is leaning on something for extra support.
Inside a room, you may be able to lean forward on the back of a chair or a countertop. Leaning back on or to the side of a wall or a pole is another good way to steady our picture-taking stance.
These ideas about stance and support work well in any photographic situation, not just in indoor photography settings.
Another method of being more stable in hand-holding photographic situations is the step-on-string method.
It’s called many things, so as a description, when you can’t use a tripod or even a monopod, tie a cord or strap of some sort to a D-ring that you can screw into your camera’s tripod socket and let that string dangle down allows a good trick.
Hold up the camera, step on the string dangling down from your camera, and pull up a bit.
Don’t strain too much, though. You can do this kneeling, too. Some photographers swear by this method, it’s worth trying out.
Tip #2: HDR
High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography is the method wherein you take several bracketed exposures and blend them together to enable your image to render the deepest shadows and the brightest highlights in a manner that shows detail in all of it.
HDR photography can end up looking pretty wild, but it doesn’t have to. What some may not realize is that almost any real estate listing you browse through online is an HDR image. When done properly, very natural-appearing images are capable, of showing detail in the entire image, without deep obscuring shadows or overexposed hotspots.
While you may be tempted to buy into the camera manual saying their new HDR mode can be handheld, a tripod is needed for best results.
Tip #3: Ghost Those People
If you have a program for stitching panoramas or HDR, there is a fun trick you can do with many of them that eliminate all those pesky people from being in your picture.
Here’s how you can do it: Set up your camera on a tripod. Make multiple single exposures of the same exact composition, spacing out the single exposures by several seconds or even several minutes.
Then, when blending or stitching the frames, choose the setting on your program (it will be labeled differently on each program) that lets you overwrite image elements that are different in the frames.
Then, that person that was right in front of the third column in exposure #1 is not there in exposures 3, 4, and 5.
The program ghosts him out of the final rendering of the image. Likewise, the car entering the frame in pic 1 is leaving out the other side in pic 2 and is not there at all in the final processed image file.
Takes some time, but the end results can be stunning when done well.