Party photos

edited January 2016 Posted in » Nikon D3100 Forum
Good morning.

My husband bought me my camera on our vacation in December, so I am very new at this.
I tried to take some photo's at a party we had. It was very dark inside (we had some really bad weather), and most of the photo's I took were really bad.
I tried a few settings but ended up using AUTO.

My question is, what settings would you recommend for this type of environment?


  • edited January 2016
    Did you get good photos with auto?

    For some things like casual party snapshots when you don't have time to make adjustments, that may well be the best option, though it's less useful than many when you want more control. In Auto mode the camera makes all the decisions, and you're sort of at its mercy.

    If you're indoors and it's dark, you pretty much need flash, unless you're getting creative with natural light, and people are cooperating by not moving around much. But you can get a lot done with artificial light and no flash.

    If there's enough light inside or out or both, you can get by without flash. Open the window shades, turn on the lights, put your camera on its widest aperture, crank the ISO up to 800 or so (but not the very top, too noisy), put your lens on its largest aperture (smallest F number) and use either Aperture Priority or Manual mode. In manual, you must keep an eye on the meter and adjust shutter speed to be right. In A mode, the shutter speed is set by the camera. Make sure it does not go too slow to hand hold in either case. If it does, up the ISO.

    Keep the auto focus on, and the VR on if your lens has VR, and use single point single servo auto focus. Aim at a person's face, preferably the eyes of the person you most want sharp. If you are shooting a group of people at different distances, aim for someone more or less in the middle, a little more toward you than away. With wide open aperture indoors your depth of field will not be terribly good, so don't expect much more than your subject to be in focus. Keep track of which focus point is lit. The control on the back of the camera moves it. The [OK] button re-centers it quickly.

    If you do need flash indoors, you can still do as above, but manually open the flash. In M or A modes, the flash should provide as much fill light as needed. Unless faces are in shadow, though, you'll probably get a nicer look without it.

    Some of this will come with practice and familiarity. You need to experiment some to find out what shutter speeds you're comfortable with at various focal lengths. As a general rule, when hand holding, the 18-55mm lens will want a shutter speed of about 1/30 to 1/80 between 18mm and 55mm without VR. With VR you can go slower, but exactly how much depends a little on how steadily you can hold the camera and how many misses you're willing to tolerate.

    You will also have to experiment a little with how you tolerate digital noise, which will depend a little on how large you print your pictures, and what you're taking. The higher the ISO, the more noise you'll get, but how bothersome that is depends greatly on the subject matter as well as the printing size. People indoors can look good at a much higher ISO than, say, a still life, or an architectural view, in which the speckling in dark areas and the slight blurring of edges can distract. When trying to catch people in action, the advantage of higher ISO is likely to outweigh the disadvantage.

    In all the above modes, you can use auto ISO if you need to, but be aware that it will go higher than you might like, and that it will switch at a shutter speed of 1/30. If you do go to auto, you might, after experimenting, want to change those defaults in the menu. If possible, you're better off with manual ISO, and keeping an eye on the settings (you turn Auto off in the menu).
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