Photography 101 : ISO

6 years ago

Understanding that SLR camera that you have may not always be easy, and let's be real, who has time to study the handbook? My hope in these photography posts is to help you take better photos with your digital SLR camera! As a photographer I can honestly say that practice REALLY does make perfect whether a hobby, profession, or just for fun...please remember that as you digest this post.

We shoot with Canon cameras, but this basic tip of the day will help no matter what brand of camera you shoot. Take a step with me beyond the auto focus...

photo by ABJ Photography (f/2.2 1/3200 1600 ISO)

What is ISO?

The ISO determines how sensitive the image sensor is to light. The most common ISO settings are 100, 200, 400, and 800. Some cameras may even allow you to shoot at an ISO of 64-6400. The real world example that I always lean on goes back to the day of film....Yes, film!

What kind of film would you buy at the store for everyday use?

A: 200-400 speed Why? Because this is a good all around setting, especially if you are shooting on a semi-automatic camera setting. On the Canon cameras this is any setting where you can select ISO and adjust the numbers.

What kind of film would you buy for shooting a night baseball game?

A: 800 speed, or higher. Why? Because this higher ISO will allow more light to be captured in a low light setting. This might actually allow you to shoot with no flash!

What kind of film would you buy for photos at the beach?

A: 100-200 speed. Why? Because when you are at the beach there is A LOT of light. You can catch light from the sun, and natural reflectors like the sand or water.

Now, we may not be buying film, but you can select to shoot on any ISO with your digital SLR. Using these basic tips (remember practice makes perfect) and troubleshoot to find what ISO looks good through your preview screen. Also, make sure that you practice NOT using your flash, you will get a better idea of what we mean by adjusting the ISO.

So, in the photo above I chose an ISO of 1600. Why? Because I was shooting down a dark stone stairway, without a flash, up toward the light. I wanted their faces and bodies to be light, but I did not want to blow out the photo. Some other tools are needed to compose this photo though, like Shutter Speed and Aperture. Please check back to see how all these can work together for you!

Was this post helpful? I would love to know! Post any questions on ISO below, I would love to help you troubleshoot!



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