Shooting in a cave

edited September 2014 Posted in » Nikon D3100 Forum
I was wondering if you can advise on shooting in a cave. I recently was shooting in some ice caves and had to switch to AUTO as I was struggling to get settings right. Any ideas? The caves have light from the entrance and it reflects fairly well into about 30 feet due to the ice. I don't like the flashed images as much since it causes unnatural light.



  • edited September 2014
    Here are some general tips for low-light situations:
    1) Use a lens with a large maximum aperture (i.e., primes or fast zooms).
    2) Shoot at your lens maximum aperture.
    3) Use a high ISO setting, but know that this will increase image noise.
    4) Use a slow shutter speed but keep it fast enough to avoid camera shake and motion blur. It helps if you turn on your lens’ image stabilization. Nikon calls it VR, Canon calls it IS, Sigma calls it OS; it’s all the same.
    5) Underexpose a bit to enable faster shutter speeds and then just boost the exposure in post processing. This works best if you shoot in RAW.
    6) Use your pop-up flash, but know that your photo will come out crappy; at least you got your shot.
    7) Use a speedlight and bounce or diffuse the flash.
  • edited September 2014
    Thanks ohyeahar! I just need to slow down and plan before I walk into the cave!
  • edited September 2014
    Amplifying above: remember to shoot in RAW mode, and if you then use a program such as ViewNX2, you can adjust exposure by two stops up or two down without penalty. When you're at the limit in shutter speeds, that can be a life saver. There are several things you can do with a RAW file that are impossible with any other.

    You also get some options for opening up shadows in post processing. In normal use I usually turn off "active D-lighting" because it opens up shadows when I don't want it to. Make sure it is on when you're in a cave.

    If you have any possibility, take a monopod for a little more support.

    When you review the pictures you've taken, get the EXIF information on the ones you took in auto mode, and try to figure out what the camera did to get them. I'm guessing that one thing it did was boost the ISO way up, but if there's anything else you can do manually, you might find a clue there.
  • edited September 2014
    Thanks for the response bruto.
    Shooting in RAW was the first thing I was taught a few years ago, so I always do so. I use the EDIT function in iPhoto with great success in adjusting settings, but I will explore the EXIF comment further!

    I hope to go out and grab some more images this weekend with this new knowledge!
  • edited September 2014
    Bruto, here is a link to some of the images I took.
  • edited September 2014
    I think you did pretty well. A couple of the near highlights look a little blown out from the flash, but you have a lot of dynamic range. I'm guessing that if you try oyeahar's suggestions you'll be able to get there without the flash. I'd try underexposing a bit and then bringing up the shadows, though you have to watch out for blue-gray snow and unrecoverable black shadows.
  • Great info! Thanks!
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