Why are my photos underexposed?

edited January 2017 Posted in » Nikon D3100 Forum
I have been trying to take pictures of my artwork for an online portfolio, but my photo keeps turning out underexposed when my flash is not on. It's in manual mode. When the flash is on, the pictures turn out alright, but still not the best.

Thanks, Sam


  • edited January 2017
    If you have auto ISO off, or if your ISO is already set high, manual exposure can expose wrong, and even with auto ISO, it may not be the best, especially if it sends the ISO too high. Flash will operate as fill, but may not compensate entirely for an error in setting. I would suggest that if you do use manual mode, you start at a low ISO, and use the camera's exposure meter as a guide. If you don't have good luck with manual exposure, set your camera to one of the other modes such as A or P, and try again. You're probably best off using a tripod and no flash, as the reflections from a flash can be a problem, but it depends a lot on what you're shooting. Lighting is an issue of its own.

    For most purposes you should seek soft, diffuse light with as few visible highlights or reflections as possible. If it's a sculpture or the like in which shadows can be distracting, you may need multiple sources of light. For a painting, a flash bounced on the ceiling might help, or multiple lights from an angle rather than straight on. Lighting art is the kind of thing whole books get written about.

    If accuracy of shape is important, you'll have to make sure you shoot your work from straight on, avoiding angles both sideways and up and down, and that in its turn can complicate lighting and reflection. Some linear distortion can be fixed in post production, though.
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