ISO is set too high
The shutter speed is not fast enough
Just not enough light
Your editing skills are not very good
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So you bought a new camera, probably a DSLR, and it seems to be taking marvelous pictures outside, but while indoors, it doesn’t seem to perform as well. Certainly not what you would expect to get for your money, anyway.
Well, there are a few slight technical details that you could be getting wrong. Not to offend anyone, but these days it’s far less likely to be the fault of the camera and not of the photographer. Here they are.
The great thing about ISO is that it allows us to use our nice cameras in places where years ago nobody would have dreamed of snapping a picture without flash. For that we thank ISO and all the wonderful engineers that keep adding performances to modern day cameras. The bad thing about ISO is that the higher the value is set, the more detail is lost. For the maximum amount of detail, use the lowest possible ISO value.
Exposure 101 says that the more time you keep the shutter open, the more light will enter the camera. It also says that the slower the speed, to more likely it is to cause motion blur. Motion blur doesn’t just happen when you photograph something that moves too fast in front of you, it also happens when the inevitable movement of your hands is recorded by the exposing sensor. So, either you use a tripod next time or boost the ISO. The stabilizing systems in lenses do work, but you should keep in mind that they are somewhat limited.
This is for those users who are still relying on the camera’s automatic systems and who haven’t yet ventured into the wonderful world of full manual control. If your camera detects that there just isn’t enough light, it will either decrease the shutter speed, in which case you can read what happens above, or it will start using that devilish contraption that all real photographers hate, the pop-up flash. Therefore, the obvious recommendation is to act brave, and start using manual.
Many beginners try to compensate their lack of skill behind the camera with Photoshop skills. Naturally, they have not yet figured out that a bad photo is just bad and needs to be left that way. No amount of editing will make it better. But they, on the contrary, throw everything they’ve got at it, and besides the overall mutant aspect, the quality goes downhill. It doesn’t even matter if it’s shot at low ISO in RAW format. Poor editing inevitably leads to loss of quality.
This is something even pros deal with. In low light conditions, it is possible for even the most advanced camera/lens combo to have trouble focusing and locking focus. It’s just the way things are and sometimes, no amount of moving around will cause a precise response from the camera’s AF systems. The best thing to do is temporarily light the subject with a phone or a lighter, just long enough for the camera to lock the focus. If not, there’s a good chance that many of your photos will come out blurry, even with the flash turned on.
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