how-to-take-great-indoor-shotsWith the holidays around the corner, now’s the time to get some great shots of your family. But here’s the challenge: Most of your photo opportunities will happen indoors. This is something I know a lot of people dread. As a professional photographer, my clients are constantly asking how they can take better indoor pictures. They also want to know what equipment they should use. So here it is. The five best tricks and equipment for taking better pictures inside with your dSLR camera.

1. Ditch the Pop-up Flash: I say it all the time, but it’s so true. Is the pop-up flash a truly horrible thing? No. But I avoid it all costs. The pop-up flash tends to be too harsh and leaves shadows throughout your pictures. An external flash, like the Speedlite {for both Canon and Nikon}, gives you more control. With an external flash, you control the intensity of the light. You can also buy attachments, like the Gary Fong diffuser, to help soften your light. Also, with an external flash, you can control the direction of your light source. Always try to bounce the light off the ceiling or a nearby wall. Don’t want to buy an external flash? You can also pick up a Lightscoop or put some wax paper over your flash.

2. Find a Large Window: Have a bay window or sliding glass door? If so, plop your subject in front of them. They bring in a ton of light. Remember, always want to put yourself between the light source and your subject.

3. Jack Up Your ISO: When you are working in a low-light setting, you need to up your ISO. Normally, I keep mine around 200. When shooting with low light, you may need to up it to 600 or 800 {and if you camera goes higher, go higher}. Be warned: When upping your ISO, your pictures will be grainier.

4. Lower Your Aperture: When you lower the aperture on your lens {also known as widening the aperture}, you are allowing more light to enter. The lower the f/ stop, the wider the lens opens. Be careful though, your picture can get a little shaky and blurry when you are shooting with a low f/ stop. You can control your aperture settings by either shooting in Manual Mode {M} or Aperture Mode {Av}. So how low should you go? Well, it depends on your lens. You can find the f/ stop range on the side of your lens.

5. Shoot with Good Glass: You don’t have to shell out a ton of cash for good glass (aka lens). Most kit lenses are great walk around lenses, meaning they are good to start with and work for every day pictures. However, they usually don’t have a wide aperture. My favorite lens these days is the Nikon 35mm f/1.8. If you are a Canon shooter, the thrifty fifty is your best bet {Canon 50mm f/1.8}. Both lens are reasonably priced and under $200. They are perfect for portraits and every day use.

Practice, practice, practice.  A day or two before guests start arriving, experiment with the settings of your camera, flash and lens.  When your guests arrive and the shutter starts clicking, you’ll feel confident that the memories you’re capturing will look great in print.

If you follow these five simple tips, you can achieve great indoor photos this holiday season.