How to Take Hand Held Pictures Indoors Without Flash

Taking pictures indoors without flash is always a challenge, but you can simplify the task by using only the ISO dial to set exposure. I'm going to assume you have a digital camera with the usual SPAM exposure modes. You can also use this technique with a film camera, but you'll have to change film.


  1. Image titled ChangeToAperturePriority Step 1
    Set your camera to "Aperture Priority" and open the lens aperture up wide. Why "A"? Because indoors hand-held your main enemy is camera shake, and to defeat it you'll need as much light as possible. Depth of field will have to take a back seat.
  2. Image titled CheckFocalLength Step 2
    Compose your picture. Look at the shutter speed. The slowest shutter speed at which camera shake is not a factor is any speed higher than the focal length of your lens (should be marked on the lens) ex. 45mm. If you're at or faster than that, take the pic.
  3. Image titled ChangeISO Step 3
    If you're slower than 1/45, increase the ISO if possible. If you're faster, you may be able to reduce the ISO to get a less noisy picture.
  4. Image titled ShootUsingISO Step 4
    You can now shoot using only the ISO dial to set the exposure. In a dark room, boost the ISO. In a lighter room, knock it down a bit. The aperture setting will always be locked at wide-open and the shutter speed will always be the best available for controlling shake.


  • If you're shopping for a digital camera, buy one with a maximum ISO of 1600 or above. Cameras with a top ISO of 400 are nearly useless indoors without flash.
  • Remember, shutter speeds which minimize shake may not stop motion. You can easily end up with a non-shaky picture with blurry subjects.
  • Before you take the shot take a good deep breath and hold it. Relax, and wait a couple of seconds to allow your body to settle. This will reduce the amount of movement being caused by your breathing and involuntary muscle movement.
  • On a digital camera, use a tripod, turn off the flash and then use the timer.
  • Camera shake is also related to the focal length of the lens you're using. The longer the lens, the faster the shutter speed must be to avoid shake. Indoors, keep your lens short and move in closer.
  • You can take less-shaky pictures by: bracing your camera against a solid object; pressing the shutter button smoothly; spreading your feet out; tucking your elbows in; using an image-stabilized lens; drinking less coffee ;0}
  • If you have some control over the ambient indoor light, try turning on any lights or lamps to boost the amount of available light.
  • On a film camera, you can do this by using a higher speed (ISO) film.
  • Get as close to your subject as possible, consistent with good composition. Camera shake is more noticeable the further away the object is from the camera.


  • Remember: the higher the ISO you use, the noisier the picture will be.
  • Fluorescent lighting will often cause some undesired shifting in colors. A location with multiple bulbs isn't as much of a problem, but a subject lit a single light fixture near by can cause some odd color shift.

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Categories: Photography Lighting