Indoor Travel Photography


When you travel, the photo ops are not always in bright sunlight or even outdoors.  Many of the images that you want to capture are inside a building or under a roof.  Markets, schools, temples and homes are just 4 examples.  Indoor photography can be challenging, however, as you are often faced with low light, crowded conditions and busy backgrounds.  Here’s a few tips for taking photos indoors.


1. Find the light


One of the first things you should do is find the light.  This could be a natural source, like windows or doors, or artificial light from some sort of light bulb.  If you don’t see a well lit area, figure out if you can make one.  Can you open more doors or windows?  Can you turn on more lights?  Don’t be afraid to ask.  Others will benefit from your request as well because photos taken in the light stand a much better chance of being sharp.


2. Get close


If you are in a busy room with lots of people or other distractions, move closer to what you want to capture to eliminate the foreground distractions.  Sometimes this will help you to see the details you were missing standing further away, too.


3. Shoot wide


Almost everything you want to capture can benefit from a wide angle shoot.  If you have a wide angle shot, you have more cropping options.  If you only have the exact composition that you wanted, you may not be able to straighten it or crop out an undesired element.  Go ahead and capture the ideal composition but have a wide angle shot in the camera for backup.


4. Use a flash


Sure, this is what flash was meant for so don’t be afraid to use a flash.  Just don’t take all your shots with a flash.  You might like the color of the natural light shot better.  If you use a flash, diffuse the light or bounce it off something to reduce the glare that comes with a direct frontal flash.


5. Use a reflector


Another option is a reflector.  Small, fold-away reflectors are easy to carry and give you the ability to direct light to where it is needed.  Indoors, this is usually the face of your subject.  A gold or amber colored reflector often puts a warmer light on the subject than a white reflector.


6. Use a tripod


If you have a tripod with you and you are allowed to use it, consider using it for images of things that are not moving or are posed.  This will eliminate the camera shake which can blur an image with a low shutter speed.


7. Increase the ISO


Your goal should be to get a reasonable shutter speed with the existing lighting conditions.  One way to increase the shutter speed is to increase the ISO.  I usually increase the ISO to 800 or 1600 in low light conditions and will go as high as 3200 if I have to.  Grainy pictures can be fixed with noise reduction software.  Blurry pictures cannot be fixed.


8. Lower your F stop


The other way to increase the shutter speed is to reduce the F stop (increase the aperature).  This will lower your depth of field so you will have to decide if this is ok.  In some cases you would rather have the background blurred so a low F-stop works fine.  In other cases you need the depth of field to capture people in the front and back of a room.


9. Use a faster lens


When you want to lower the F-stop you are limited to the lowest F-stop that the lens supports.  This is where faster lenses (lenses that support lower F-stops) are needed.  In low light conditions you may need an F-stop of 2.8 or even 1.4, something your standard lens may not do.  If you carry a 50mm prime lens in your bag, this is when you use it.  A 50 mm prime lens will usually accommodate F stops below 2.0.  These lenses are small and inexpensive too so I always recommend carrying one.


10. Do it all


In some cases the light is very low but you still want to capture the images that you are seeing.  This calls for a bit of everything.  Use a tripod.  Increase your ISO and lower your F-stop.  If people are in the picture you want to try and get a shutter speed of 1/60th of a second but sometimes you have to settle for 1/40th or 1/50th.  Anything lower than that and you stand a good chance of blurred images.


Don’t limit your travel photos to the outdoor shots.  Take your camera everywhere and expand your photography options.  You stand a better chance of capturing the images that are meaningful to you and tell a story to others.


May your travel and your photography both be rewarding!


      Roger Nelson