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Old Sep 29, 2004, 12:35 PM   #1
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I recently bought the 7440 and love the speed and size. However I find that shots taken using the auto setting (or the Portrait setting) indoors come out dark. See examples:

For these shots I was no more than five feet away - Why so dark? The background is gone. The lighting for both shots come from regular room lightbulbs.

Since the plan for this cam is for my wife and I to take spontaneous shots of our kids I want to know if these are typical results. I realize I could use some of the manual, shutter or aperature options to get better shots but this kills quick shots. And finally I'd rather not have to tweak every indoor shot with PS.
The outdoor shots are great.
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Old Sep 29, 2004, 1:49 PM   #2
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A typical home interior at night (as in your photo with the dark background), lit only with incandescent lighting, usually has an EV (Exposure Value) of around 5 or 6. This is the way light is measured.

Although it appears bright to the human eye, it's actually very dim to a camera.

Without a flash, you'd most likely need shutter speeds of around 1/4 to 1/8 second at wide angle and f/2.8 (the maximum aperture for your lens) at around ISO 100. This would be too slow to prevent motion blur without a tripod.

Your camera is using a shutter speed of 1/60 second with flash. The photo with the darkest background was taken at ISO 80 (where you'll have less noise). As a result, with the flash, it's using shutter speeds around 10 times as fast as it would be able to use without the flash.

To keep from overexposing the subject, it must keep the flash strength low (especially at closer ranges). As a result, due to the tremendous difference in lighting levels between the subject and the background, you will get a dark background in many indoor conditions. A camera has a limited dynamic range (ability to record both bright and dark areas of an image). In contrast, the human eye has dramatically better dynamic range.

So, your issue is a common one with most digital cameras using a flash.

If you want slightly better subject exposure, you may want to try using Flash Exposure Compensation (which I see is an available feature on your model) to compensate, if the results are consistent. However, be careful not to use too much. While it's relatively easy to brighten your subject using software later, it can be virtually impossible to recover lost detail from overexposure.

From what I can see about your model, it does not have a tendency to underexpose flash images (and we're talking about the subject, not a very dark background from incadescent lighting only). So, you may want to make sure that you didn't accidently change any settings.

Most models will pick a shutter speed of around 1/60 second for flash photos. This is usually a good compromise setting. You can actually take flash photos at much slower shutter speeds in a dark room. This is because of the short flash burst (usually 1/1000 to 1/10000 second). Since the subject is not bright enough to be exposed except for the flash duration, the flash itself has a tendency to freeze the action. This is the principle behind the night portrait modes you see in most cameras (keeps the shutter speed open longer to allow exposure of the scene in the background, then uses a momentary flash to expose the foreground).

You can actually use this technique indoors at night withsome cameras with typical home lighting (night portrait mode) and still get acceptable results (with better background exposure), provided you keep ISO speeds set low, and the camera doesn't go below around 1/8 second (which will vary between models using Night Portrait Mode). Although some brighter lights in the background may have a little motion blur from using it this way without a tripod.

Where you can get into trouble trying to use a slower shutter speed is when you have a lot of ambient light (for example, an open window letting in light from outside during the day). Then, you may have enough light to expose the subject some by the ambient light if you try to use a slower shutter speed. So, around 1/60 second is what you usually see from most manufacturers when using flash (to help prevent motion blur if there is a lot of ambient light).

You can experiment with the settings to see if you can find a combination that works better for you. Using slower shutter speeds and/or higher ISO speeds will allow brighter backgrounds indoors with flash (since the ambient light will contribute more to the exposure). However, you will have higher noise levels (similar to film grain) by increasing ISO speed; and a greater chance of motion blur from ambient light exposure if youuse slower shutter speeds.

Another way to get more even lighting indoors is with the use of an external flash (for example, bounced from the ceiling). Your model does not appear to directly supportan external flash. However, you may be able to get a slave flash (designed to fire at the same time the camera's flash fires) for it if you wanted to experiment more with lighting techniques indoors.
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Old Sep 29, 2004, 1:58 PM   #3
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And the winner of the most comprehensive response goes to…JimC.

Thank you for taking the time to not only provide an answer but rational and background as well.

If there's a forum tip jar I'd like to drop a buck into it.
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Old Sep 29, 2004, 2:57 PM   #4
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