Tips for Using ISO Settings.

By beginnerphotography | Camera Settings

Sep 20

ISO is the level of sensitivity to light; either film sensitivity ( remember the days of ASA?) or digital camera sensor sensitivity.

Example of ISO sensitivity setting listed in the shooting menu.

EXAMPLE: ISO sensitivity settings viewed in the  shooting menu.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The light sensitivity may be increased or decreased by using either:

  • Auto ISO setting.
  • Manual adjustment.

 

Example of a camera menue showing the setting of ISO H2..

EXAMPLE: ISO setting H2, a high sensitivity.

Example of a camera menue showing the setting of ISO 160.

EXAMPLE: ISO setting 160, a low sensitivity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What can ISO do for you?

ISO will help you if you’ve experienced challenges with shooting in:

  • Low light outdoors.
  • Low light indoors.
  • When you need “a tool” to help you increase shutter speed.

 

In the auto ISO setting your camera takes care of business, and determines if adjustments are necessary.

  • Your camera is going to work to help you capture the scene.
  • In low light the camera will increase the ISO.
  • In brighter light the camera will decrease the ISO.

 

The lower the ISO number, the less sensitive the sensor, or film (ASA number), is to the light.

The higher the ISO number the higher the sensitivity, making it easier to capture subjects in low light.

Additionally, the benefit of digital cameras, compared to most film cameras, is in this ability to make adjustments to the ISO at will, depending upon the circumstances.

Remember, however, that in addition to ISO settings the aperture and shutter speed settings play an important role in helping you capture the subject, or scene.

Challenges may arise if your ISO setting is too low especially for moving subjects in low light, thus causing you to be frustrated with the end results.

Why?

Your photos may be turning out to be too dark, underexposed, blurry, or both.

Let’s pretend you’re on a photo shoot in low light and attempting to capture moving subjects.

If you’re shooting in ISO Auto Mode the camera will make adjustments for you.

However if you’re in ISO Manual Mode this is the time to make adjustments.

How will manually changing the ISO setting help you?

Example of a photo taken indoors in low light using an ISO setting of 4000.

EXAMPLE: Camera setting ISO 4000.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In this building the lighting is abysmal for photography, even though you wouldn’t necessarily think so by looking at this image.

With the arena floor covered in dark brown soil it makes things even worse as it sucks up any spare available light.

How did I capture the subject?

First I took a few test shots, and you can too by using either the:

  • Auto Mode camera setting.
  • Manually setting the aperture and shutter speed.

 

After the limits of the aperture and shutter speed have been “maxed out” is when ISO comes to the rescue.

Note:

Photographers debate that with the ability of digital cameras to handle high ISO more effectively than in the past it’s no big deal to shoot with high ISO.

Personally I prefer to keep my ISO at 100 or 200 unless necessary, which keeps digital noise to an absolute minimum.

By taking “test shots,” reviewing the results, and making adjustments along the way I determined ISO 4000 would create a photo with acceptable exposure.

Why not use a flash?

Personally, I prefer:

  • The flexibility to choose a low ISO when there’s sufficient light.
  • The ability to adjust to a higher ISO when the light is dull, and in low light situations.
  • The preference of using a higher ISO to increase the shutter speed, after considering the aperture setting.

 

In a nutshell, by increasing the ISO the camera is “fooled”  into thinking it’s brighter out than it really is, hence the ability to capture the subject satisfactorily.

In the above image the aperture setting was f/2.8 and the shutter speed 1/200 second.

Increasing the ISO was necessary as the lens was at it’s limits for the amount of light it could let in.

I did not want the shutter speed any slower than 1/200 to keep the risk of blur to a minimum, which happens if the subject is moving and the camera takes too long to take the photo.

In comparison, the image below is taken using a low ISO of only 200. Even though the horses are black the details are still visible and a high ISO is not required.

This is made easier by bright afternoon light, even though there is some cloud cover, and the benefit of reflection of light from the ripened oat crop.

Example of horses walking in a rip oat field with bright light.

EXAMPLE: Low ISO at 200.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In conclusion…

Adjusting your ISO setting to increase the sensitivity is not always necessary.

My suggestions:

  • Keep your ISO at 100 or 200 as often as possible.
  • Know at which level you begin to see digital noise in your images.
  • Understand how ISO is part of the triangle with aperture and shutter speed.

 

Note:

Photographers debate that with the ability of digital cameras to handle high ISO more effectively than in the past it’s no big deal to shoot with high ISO.

Personally I prefer to keep my ISO at 100 or 200 unless necessary, which keeps digital noise to an absolute minimum.

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