Photography 101: ISO in Photography


If you’re new to photography, chances are you’re still learning about the different features of your SLR or DSLR camera. Shooting in automatic mode would defeat the purpose of why you have an expensive camera so it is better that you explore its features and be able to shoot using different settings.

A good photographer – not necessarily a professional one – should be able to take control of and master the camera’s aperture, shutter speed and ISO in order to get the desired image effect. In this article, we will be discussing ISO and how you could manipulate it to your advantage. 

Defining ISO

ISO measures the camera’s sensitivity to light because aside from having the perfect setting, you need enough light to be able to capture the subject based on how you want it to appear in your pictures. Therefore, different lighting situations call for different ISO settings.

When you have a high ISO level, it means you can take photos in areas where the amount of light is limited. However, we should also take into consideration the fact that as the ISO increases, we should expect a photo that has more noise. As much as we would want to always use lower ISO levels to avoid grainy photos, there are instances where you have to deal with what’s available.

Here are a few tips on how you could properly set the ISO to achieve the effect that you want:

  • Know your ISO numbers

This is not rocket science. All you need is to remember a few numbers to know how and where you could use them.

100 to 200 – for an environment with more than enough light

400 – when it’s cloudy or shooting indoors with sufficient light

800 – when shooting indoors with limited light

1600 and above – for settings with insufficient light source

  • Use a slower shutter speed

If you have no choice but to shoot regardless of how limited your lighting is then you can use a tripod, decrease the shutter speed and it will allow you to use a lower ISO value.

  • Use a low depth of field

If there’s no reason to use a big depth of field then you can increase your aperture. This means that you will have more light, allowing you to lower the ISO.

  • Get artificial lighting

If you are one of those photographers who doesn’t want to rely on the built-in flash, you can always rent the right lighting equipment to achieve the effect that you want. There are lights that could make photos appear naturally lit, but of course, you have to pay the price unless you’re willing to save up to invest in quality lighting equipment.

  • Use grainy photos to your advantage

We get it, it’s a little dark and there’s nothing you can do about it. Did you know that there are people who find grainy photos visually appealing? The noise can sometimes complement vintage-looking images or it could give your photo added character and texture. But in order to do that correctly, you need to improve your skills first.

It is quite obvious that being able to manipulate the ISO setting correctly is critical especially if you want a certain effect achieved. ISO is just one part of a much bigger picture. There are other things to acquaint yourself with such as aperture, shutter speed and many more.

One vital tip is to get used to your camera; play with it and experiment with its different features and settings. You can also attend seminars and workshops to improve your skills and learn from professionals.




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