My pictures are washed out!

Ahhh! Christmas and New Year’s is over and it’s time to look at the photo’s. You pull them out and that really special and beautiful moment of the kids in front of the tree opening presents is completely washed clean of any ambient warm light because of the flash. How can you keep the great colors and mood and still get a good exposure?

That’s fairly easy to solve. On DSLR and moderate to higher quality point and shoot’s there is a setting called ISO. What this is basically is how sensitive the photo sensor is to light as you take a picture. The lower the number the less sensitive to light it is but the sharper the image is; the opposite is for the higher ISO.

Now let’s say you went outside or the room is well lit, it will be fine to set the ISO to 100 to 400 and still keep a reasonable fast shutter speed for good non blurred images. But now your in a living room, the drapes are pulled and your only getting ambient sunlight and one or two tungsten lamps light the rest of the room. This is where your going to run into problems with a low ISO setting.

The camera slows the shutter speed to compensate for the lower light and as we all know people and kids tend to move, so there’s the motion blur. So now we must makeĀ  decision turn on the flash and get cold washed out images or up the ISO and get slightly noisy images.

Turning the ISO up to 800 or 1600 will get the shutter speed faster and you’ll get warmer pictures and the subjects will be frozen but just as film does, the images tend to get more noise. This is that slight static or grainy look to an image that you’ll get. Now keep in mind that, depending on the camera, this effect could be very noticeable or hardly there at all. This all depends on the quality of the camera.

It is my firm belief that some grain is better than blured people or washed out cold scenes. This last Christmas I shot entirly without flash, with the camera set at 1600 ISO and when I got home to look at the shots I was very pleased. The shots were nicely exposed and had a sharp look. Plus my family didn’t want to kill me for poping a flash in their faces over 140 times.


About Mark Birks
Professional photographer specializing in fine art photography and portraiture.

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