Howdy, Stranger!

If you're just starting out in the world of photography and want to learn how to get the most out of your camera, then this forum is your new secret hangout spot!

Take better photos today with my Nikon D3200 Cheat SheetsCheck 'em out!

Pictures inside church

edited October 2014 Posted in » Nikon D3200 Forum
Next weekend I will be taking pictures inside a church. In the past when using a digital camera my pictures have turned out dark. Any suggestions for the best settings to use on the D3200? Thank you!


  • edited October 2014
    It will depend a lot on the church, the subject, and how much noise you can tolerate. The D3200 can provide a high enough ISO to get pictures inside most churches. It's usually easier to hold an SLR steady while viewing through the viewfinder than it is to hold a point and shoot camera in front of you.

    The default setting of the D3200 is "auto ISO" and a shutter speed that is rather higher than a steady hand needs with VR on. What I would do first is experiment in darkened spaces such as indoors. Switch to shutter priority and take some pictures as if you were in church, at different shutter speeds. Try to find the slowest shutter speed at which you get a reasonable percentage of clear shots. If you're steady, you might well find you can get down to a speed that is quite slow. Now get into the menu, and reset the shutter speed for "auto ISO" to the lowest speed at which you get a majority of successful shots. If you're a bit wary,set it one speed higher, as conditions in the church may be less comfortable than they are at home.

    The next thing you need to do is to switch auto ISO off for a while, and take a series of pictures in compromised light at different ISO settings. Decide now what level of noise you are willing to put up with, remembering that a sharp noisy shot is better than any blurry one.

    The D3200 can make a pretty decent shot at ISO 1600 or even 3200. Above that it's pretty obviously grainy, but the choice is yours. If you have set the shutter speed low enough, the highest ISO will only appear when all else is lost. Now go back to the menu, and set the ISO upper limit of your choice.

    Now all you need to do is decide how much depth of field you will need, and try to keep your aperture in that range. You will probably have to sacrifice depth of field to a great extent and keep your lens aperture near its maximum, but if you are happy with high ISO you can afford to stop the lens down a bit.

    OK, we're almost there. At this point, you can set your camera to auto ISO, with a starting point of something like 400. Put your mode at A with your chosen aperture, or at P, letting the camera choose both aperture and speed. Auto ISO will raise the ISO as needed to keep the exposure right, but only if shutter speed dips below your chosen point. P mode will tend to favor the highest available shutter speed at the expense of aperture, before shifting ISO, so it might work best in this situation.

    The auto white balance works pretty well indoors, but if you have time, you might want to experiment with the best white balance setting. If you can't do that, I suggest you save files in RAW mode so you can adjust white balance more easily in post processing.

    If your purpose here is to shoot a subject such as a wedding couple in a dark church, I suggest you change your metering to center weighted. This will bias metering toward the subject, sacrificing the background. If you're on matrix, it might try too hard to get the irrelevant parts of the church well exposed, and overexpose the subject. Differences here are often pretty subtle, but you'll likely get good results from center weighting.

    Keep "Active d-lighting" on to maximize dynamic range. Use standard or neutral picture control (neutral gives a slight boost in dynamic range at the expense of color saturation).

    Set auto focus at A and center or dynamic area. Do not use auto area because it might try to focus on a rose window or lighted object instead of your subject. In dim light you might have to aim for a lighted subject and hold focus and exposure using the half-pressed shutter button, if you need to put that subject off center.
  • edited October 2014
  • Jm4Jm4
    edited October 2014
    Wow this is amazing! Thank you for taking the time to leave such a detailed response. I am going to stop by the church this weekend to try out these settings. Thank you again I really appreciate it!
  • edited October 2014
    One last thing I forgot. Active D-lighting, though it increases dynamic range, it also may increase noise in dark areas at high ISO. If you don't need to open up dark areas, you might do better turning it off to keep them a cleaner black. If you shoot RAW, you can brighten up shadows with View NX2 later if needed. It was off in the shot shown above.
  • edited October 2014
    So if i set the camera on P instead of A will there be any difference inside a church? I am talking about shooting the couple mostly.
  • edited October 2014
    If you set the camera in P instead of A you will not have immediate control of the aperture. If depth of field is a major factor I'd stick to A, because otherwise P will open your lens to max before it jumps ISO. P will tend to choose a compromise between aperture and shutter speed when it can, but as light falls off it will sacrifice aperture first. So if you find max aperture works alright, and are more concerned with noisy high ISO and subject movement, I'd stick with P, which will go a bit longer before it jumps to a higher ISO. If you need more depth of field than the lens provides at its smallest F stop, stick with A. For my own preference, I choose A first most of the time.
  • edited October 2014
    Thank you @Bruto, I will stick to A. :)
  • Thank you again for all of the tips! I am now adding a sb700 speedlight to the mix! Any suggestions for that?
  • edited October 2014
    I'm afraid I have no experience with the speedlight. Flash will change everything and make a lot of things easier. At any reasonable distance it should do away with ISO problems, and make it easier to control depth of field. You will have to keep an eye out for how shadows are cast, especially if you're shooting straight on. Make sure that everyone in the party is OK with you using flash.

Sign In or Register to comment.