"You just spent $500 on a fancy digital camera, so why do your pictures of your kids make it seem like they're playing in the Carlsbad Caverns at night, rather than frolicking in your living room?
"The answer is that cheap flash setup that came with your fancy camera. These flashes are notorious for giving you the 'in a cave' look, the harsh shadows, pale blue-white skin, shiny faces and other artifacts. Few things scream 'amateur' as loudly as flash-wash...."
Okay - so "the answer is that cheap flash setup...." That's helpful - but minimally so.
This is a "wiki," and I'm pretty sure that someone, somewhere among Earth's billions, has better advice than the implied 'don't use a cheap flash.'
Happily, there's a link to a somewhat more informative page:
"Shoot Better Low-Light Pictures"
"You just spent $500 on a fancy digital camera, so why do your pictures of your kid blowing out the candles on her birthday cake look so terrible? The answer is that indoor, low-light photography is not always as simple as point and shoot. Here are a few tips to help you take better indoor snaps in every kind of low-light situation...."
This page gives fairly practical, specific advice - but assumes that you know some terms like "ISO." It's broken down into five sections:
- Avoid Using the Flash When You Can
- Beat the Blur
- Balance Your Whites
- Kill the Noise
- Not as violent as it sounds
- Timing Is Everything
I've used Photoshop, but when I'm at home I use the old Corel Photopaint - nobody's going to go 'oh, wow' when I mention the name: but it gets the jobs done.