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Indoor Natural Light
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Indoor Natural Light

Because much of our vacation time is spent indoors in hotel rooms, restaurants and museums, it's important to know how to shoot in these situations. You can usually get away with just using a flash, but the indiscriminate blast of flash destroys the intimate mood of existing light, whether it's daylight or artificial lighting. By using a fast ISO setting, a fast lens (f/2.8 or faster), and a tripod (or some combination of those three things), you can shoot nice pictures even in the most dim ambient illumination, and without resorting to flash.

Museum and other interiors lit by daylight are often bright enough so that you can work at handheld shutter speeds and still get a natural color balance. Window light also has a soft and even quality good for casual portraits; be sure, however, to position yourself to shoot with rather than into the light, or it will fool your meter into underexposing your subject's face.

When shooting pictures indoors using artificial light, you will have to make a decision about which white balance setting to use. Because all artificial light sources produce light of a different and specific color, it's important that you try to match the white balance to the existing light, or the scenes may have an incorrect overall color cast. If you know the source of most of the lighting (tungsten lamps, for example), you can simply choose the white balance setting that matches the lighting. Things get trickier when a scene contains unknown sources (in a hotel lobby, for example) or when there are several different light sources. In those situations, try to make your best guess about the main light source. If you guess wrong, or if you're combating multiple sources, you can easily correct the color balance during editing.

Often when shooting indoors, you'll work with a mix of natural and artificial lighting, and the results can be evocative. In taking an informal portrait by a window in a pub, for instance, you might have daylight from a window, a lamp on a nearby wall, and a candle at the table. The color balance will be natural in the areas lit by daylight but have a warm glow in areas lit by the lamp and candles.