I've been researching camera options since we got our $150 canon earlier last year. It takes horrible pictures in 'auto' mode, and though it's fine for the blog, I'd like better quality for family pictures. I've read up on cameras from about $400 down to $200 as that's our budget. Here's what I'm going to look at today:
Anyway, in doing so, I've also been reading photography blogs and forums, learning about the settings Canon offers. One of the most helpful has been Ken Rockwell. He gives easy to understand, common sense advice on using both dslr and p&s cameras.
Several of the things I fiddled with today were the Flash and Exposure settings. I've read on most blogs to turn off your flash when taking indoor shots, and I've had reasonable success doing so except in my family room. I got a cheapo tree lamp with two lamps, and one of them promptly fritzed out. It's useless now, but before I decide to go replace it, I was curious about whether just using different setting with my in-camera flash would produce the same kind of shots for family photos (so I don't have to haul out a lamp tree everytime I want to take a picture for non-blogging!)
I used Ken's preferred default settings for my canon this morning....
Used a tripod. ISO and White Balance were set to 'auto', and I used the 'vivid' setting.
I did these in the darkest room of my house, with an overhead light and small side table lights on. It's a cloudy winter morning out of the only north facing window in the room. I didn't touch these in picasa or any other editing program...these babies are straight out of my camera.
First set: Shot about 5 ft from subject in 'normal' mode. Flash was set to 'slow synchro', Exposure at '0'.
Next I just moved the exposure to -1 which darkens the flash a bit:
Then I moved the exposure all the way to -2, which I think gives the best result.
This next set is without a flash. First, exposure set to '0'....very similar to the above shot using the slow synchro, but cooler tones. I like the warmth the flash gave better, but this is pretty good.
Then I moved the exposure up to +1...overexposed for sure.
For funsies (pull out yer sunglasses), here's no flash and +2 exposure:
Lastly, I set the camera flash to 'ON', to see the difference between the regular flash and the 'slow synchro' flash. This is exposure set back to '0' again. Compared to the first shot I took, this is much more harsh and greyed.
Exposure -1. Ick.
Exposure -2: More ick.
So, bottom line for shooting in low light without a lamp tree: Try the slow synchro setting. Ken says the slow synchro is best for getting background brightness indoors (slower shutter speed). I agree. He also says the trick is to get the flash to match the ambient light already available, and using the -2 exposure setting with the slow synchro gave me the best match (this is what Ken uses as well). I could actually see this on my LCD screen. Different times of the day, or changing the lighting in the room would necessitate using different exposures. One note: Ken also uses gel filters, which I may experiment with as well, even on my wee in-camera flash.
Next up I used my Macro setting. I did the same grouping of shots as above: First used the slow synchro and fiddled with the exposures. Here's '0' exposure: Nice shot, but too 'flashy' for my taste I think. Would prolly depend on the subject (ie: less glitter and gold might respond well to the warmer tones of slow synchro).
Next I shut the flash OFF. Exposure back to '0'. This is the best setting for Macro IMO, as you'll soon see:
I upped the exposure +1: Not bad....kinda a pretty, artsy shot:
Exposure +2: Ick.
Then I turned the flash on, started back at '0' exposure...pretty standard type of shot seen on many blogs.
Exposure -2: Um, no.
So for macro shots, no flash, exposure '0'. Maybe a +1 for an artsy shot. For cooler toned subjects, the slow synchro might work as well.
Ok last round of shots is at my camera's wide angle and about 15 ft from the subject matter. Again, starting with the slow synchro flash and '0' exposure:
Darkened the exposure to -1:
Then darkened to -2: Again, as in the first grouping with the beadboard doors, this setting is my favorite.
Next, flash OFF, exposure back to '0': And again, like the door pics, this is a decent shot, but I prefer the warmness the slow synchro addes to the pic above.
Exposure upped to +1:
Get out those sunglasses again +2:
Finally, set flash to regular ON. Start back with exposure '0': Harsh and greyed. Also too dark.
Darkened to -1:
And a yukky -2:
So what did I learn with these experiments?
That I'll be using the SLOW SYNCHRO flash option and a -2 exposure for low light, indoor shots of family in NORMAL mode. Regular flash=bad pictures. 0 flash=iffy shots unless you're in macro mode and your subject is warm-toned.
My next experiments will be playing with White Balance. Do you find this helpful? Of course everyone's camera is different, but this gives you an idea of what to start fiddling with first to get better pics for your family and blog.