Camera frustration

I love my Nikon D5000. I really do. For the most part, it takes fantastic pictures with very little fiddling and adjustment from me. My bedroom, for some reason, poses a major problem if I'm not shooting with natural light. Take this picture, for example:

I shot the picture this morning with four lamps on and very little natural light coming in the window (it's overcast here). The holly wreath on the mirror is bright red and there are little, red jewels in the wreath that shimmer a little bit. In this picture, you'd think this was one of those old, dried up wreaths you find in the back of a craft shop. It looks dead.

Anyone have any suggestions? I shot with a flash and the wreath looked great, but the flash was bouncing off the lampshades and looked silly. Should I have turned off the lamps? Perhaps the light coming from them was messing up the shot?


  1. There should be a setting on your camera that allows you to adjust for different types of lighting (daylight, incandescent, etc.). If you find that and adjust it that should help (or you can adjust the white balance yourself). Also, I don't know if you do any editing to your photos after taking them, but a lot of programs allow to correct the white balance a bit (even free ones like Picasa). FWIW, I feel your pain. It can be so hard to make the photos look as good as the real thing!

  2. I definitely think you should turn off the lamps and try again. Then I'd correct the exposure in Picnik. (It's easy, really it is). Ever since I discovered Picnik, adjusting photos that didn't have good natural light has been a snap.

  3. The first comment is the best bet. You must set your white balance without having it on Auto. You can also set the number on whether you want it cooler--left (bluer) or warmer-right (orangey). The button should be in the front that you can change with your index finger (before the shutter button). And you can always fix on Picnik.

    Good luck.

  4. I find that unless you have an external flash (the Nikon SB800 is great but SB600 is all an average user needs) it is difficult to use a DSLR in lowlight.

    As others have said, check the white balance settings for your camera. Also, I love It's an online photo editor similar to Photoshop. If you look under the Adjustments > Curves section, there are pre-set curves which can siginificantly transform the white balance (or in this case yellow imbalance!) ;)

  5. White balance. Not that that means anything, as I don't really know how to adjust it, other than by doing what Kate said- just make sure it's set for "indoors" or whatever. I know you can adjust it yourself, too (it has something to do with pointing it at the "real white" in the room at the time, and telling the camera that that's your white). That was totally unhelpful.

    Also, I've heard that pictures come out better when all lamps and lights are off. I'm not sure I'm totally convinced of that, though.

  6. Do you do any post-processing? I usually do, at the very least, auto-leveling in Photoshop, and that helps out a lot for when you have incandescent lights that make the image look yellow. You can also play around with the Color Balance to take away some of the yellow.
    Like the others said though, start with your on-camera settings for white balance, and set your white balance for the room using a white sheet of paper, if you have to.
    I can come over some time and try to help, if you want!

  7. Yup. White balance. I set my white balance shooting against a white piece of paper. Check out some How To's on YouTube (that's how I learned to do it).

  8. I did not read the other answers, so hope this is not a repeat:

    Pointing at the bright lamps and firing means that the camera's internal light meter sees all that bright light and thinks it does not needto keep the aperture open very long to get the shot. So it keeps the aperture open too short a time, which causes the camera not to receive enough light from the scene. This makes everything dark. You want to force the aperture to stay open longer, so you can do one of two things (1). Set your exposure manually (aperture and shutter speed) pointing the camera away from the lamps and pointing at a normally lit scene. Then turn and shoot the lamps. THis will result in a longer shutter speed and hence more light into the camera (and better brighter photo). Or (2) you can shoot in auto mode, but use your +/- button to adjust the exposure by a couple of stops....just click the button a few times and you will see it go to +1/3, +2/3. +1 (one full stop extra light). This is just forcing the camera on auto mode to give more light.

    I like to shoot without the lights on for this reason, so that everything in the scene is evenly lit and the camera is not confused.

    Sorry of this is confusing. I studied photography so long ago that I am beginning to forget the explanations...

    Just remember this. If you point at something very bright (lamps, snow), the scene will appear dingy and grey or too dark unless you force the camera aperture to be open longer (manually choosing or using the + button on the +/- exposure stops button). Same is true if you shoot something dark. A black dog is always jet black and the detail is lost unless you shorten your exposure (less light). It is counter intunitive but it works. It is based on an 18% grey card which is what the camera light meter is based on and thinks it is seeing. A long story. Read Ansel Adams old book "The Zone System" and it is all clear as mud.

    xo Terri

    P.S. In iphoto or photoshop you can also adjust the exposure....I would rather do it WHILE I take the picture, not after. Why spend twice as long getting a good shot?!!


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