How to Shoot Portraits Indoor (without a flash)

A friend of mine asked me recently why he can’t get any decent enough exposures when shooting indoors sans flash. I am not a big fan of the built-in flash.

So, curiously I asked him what he had been doing. He said he had been trying to shoot portraits using his 18-105mm VR lens in the Programmed Auto Mode.

While there is nothing in the Programmed Auto mode that should not allow you to shoot good photos indoors, there are a few things that you should keep in mind if you have a similar problem.

Related Post: Boudoir Photography History

Move out of Programmed Auto Mode and Switch to Manual Mode

The Programmed Auto mode is a rough and ready mode that is designed to select the aperture value and shutter speed automatically on your behalf. However, it allows you to set different combinations of the two values by turning the command dial.

You could either choose the default value or select the one that you wish to use.

This mode, however, is not the best by any stretch of the imagination for the purpose of shooting great indoor shots. Especially when you are not using flash. Switching to manual mode will allow you to use whatever exposure value you deem fit for the given lighting condition. Practice hard using manual mode to prepare yourself for such situations.

Related Post: Why it is Important to Make Mistakes in Photography

Use the Highest Aperture Your Lens Can Shoot in

Use the highest aperture your lens can open up to without inducing a shallow depth of field. Shallow depth of field will happen when you open up the lens too much. While portraitures are one area where this has applicability, there are other circumstances where it could be a problem.

If you are shooting indoor architecture shots you will need to use a higher f-number to get a big depth of field. However, higher f-numbers will reduce the amount of light entering the camera. The solution is to use a longer shutter speed. For architecture photographs, you can set up the camera on a tripod and use a remote trigger (or the built-in timer function) to shoot pictures.

White Balance

One thing that most photographers overlook is the white balance adjustment. This is as important in indoor photography sans flash as it is when you are shooting outdoors. If you are unsure as to the correct setting or there are too many different types of light (such as in a church wedding) use a white balance card and shoot in RAW to adjust the white balance in post-processing.

Related Post: 5 Simple DSLR Settings Every Beginner Photographer Must Know

Use Manual Focusing

In low-light conditions, such as when you are shooting indoors, the auto-focusing system could face the problem of focus hunting. This is a dreaded condition when the camera’s focusing system cannot lock focus. Manual focusing will help you to override this situation.


A higher ISO has the same effect on your pictures as increasing the exposure. ISO basically increase the sensitivity of the sensor to light. But this has a drawback and that is noise.

Related Post: Shooting Indoor Photography Sans Flash

Leave a Comment