5 Dec 2007

How to take indoor pictures without tripods Part 1

It’s midday in Menorca and the sun is blazing down from almost directly overhead. That means toplight – horrible. It’s time to go for a beer or change subjects - look for better light indoors maybe.

There are plenty of interior subjects to go at, churches, for instance, but what do you do if you are not carrying a tripod to enable the slow shutter speeds you may need for those low light levels indoors.

The first picture taken was as I approached the shop and the owner's dog put her head around the door and looked up the street (right). Always have that camera ready for these unexpected opportunities. Not an interior shot, but a lovely bonus

Well, for a start you can up the ISO setting to around ISO 400 or more, but, of course this will mean some loss of image quality. There are any number of lightweight gizmos on the market to help steady a camera during the necessary long exposures indoors – bean bags, adjustable clamps and so on, but I don’t own any. I simply look for make-shift camera platforms and do the best I can with these. It’s amazing how steady you can keep a camera using a set of step ladders, a spectacle case, a handkerchief and a bit of ingenuity.

I asked the owner of the Mahon’s ironmonger and gun shop - a wonderful place selling everything from wicker baskets to sporting guns and three-pronged wooden hay forks - if I could spend some time taking pictures in his shop. I often take my students there on the photography holidays I run in Menorca.

I had just one lens – 17-35mm and a Nikon flash unit. No tripod, no reflector, no cable release, no extension cable for the flash. The task was to create a set of pictures that captured the atmosphere of the shop. I used a combination of technique including long exposure using the self-timing facility on the camera; upping the ISO, and flash both on and off the camera.
The picture I feel captured the atmosphere of the shop is of the owner stroking his dog while his assistant served a customer. The sidelight is coming in through the door and the window to the right. ISO was up to 400. Shutter speed down to 1/30 aperture f4.5. No tripod, I simple leaned on a wall beside me
Next, in Part 2. Using makeshift camera supports

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