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The mystery that is your ISO setting.

Discussion in 'Camera and Photography Tips' started by Mark-60, Mar 15, 2010.

  1. Mark-60

    Mark-60 Little Dog

    ISO? What the heck is ISO?

    I get asked this question a lot by people who are new to digital photography. Your camera has a sensor in it that allows it to capture the image. ISO is that sensors sensitivity to light. The higher the ISO number, the more sensitive to light it is. This will allow you to achieve higher shutter speeds or lower f-stops when shooting in lower light situations, E.g., indoors or at dusk or dawn. The down side to higher ISO settings is that the higher the number, the more “grain” or “noise” you get in the image.


    The above image was shot at ISO 1250 with a Canon 1D Mark II (this is a fairly old tech camera these days) and a Canon 70-200 f2.8 L lens. Notice in the upper right corner where it’s kind of dark you can see “grain” or “noise” in the image very clearly. This is due to the Higher ISO number.

    Newer cameras are getting better and better about getting rid of the noise at higher ISO settings. The Nikon D3x and Canon 5D Mark II are supposed to be amazing at ISO 1600 and even higher. Point and shoot cameras tend to set the ISO automatically for you as does your SLR camera if you are in “automatic mode” which none of us use, right?

    The rule of thumb for setting ISO is use the lowest setting you can get away with using.

    Let me give an example of when you would or should change your ISO setting. Let’s say you’re in your house shooting your dog. The lighting in your house isn’t that great so you’ve got your ISO setting high so you can get faster shutter speeds to freeze the motion, you then go outside and want to shoot your dog some more. If you leave your ISO setting at 1200 or whatever, you will get really, really fast shutter speeds but will have very noisey/grainy images. Move your ISO setting down to 100 or 200ish. Now if you go back in the house, and try to shoot your dog some more, you’ll find the shutter speed is not fast enough to freeze the action of you dog moving around. Just adjust the ISO setting as high as it takes to get the shutter speed to increase enough to freeze the action.

    Does this make sense? Any questions? Does anyone else have anything to add that I may have missed?

    Comments/additions are welcome.

  2. 4PawsK9Svcs

    4PawsK9Svcs Good Dog

    What does ISO stand for?
    Heh, I know nothing about photography. I buy a camera that works for me, and I point/shoot. I just figured out how to take a panoramic pic with mine, lol!
  3. Mark-60

    Mark-60 Little Dog

    Good question. I should have covered that.

    ISO stands for "International Organization for Standardization" and is taken from the Greek word "isos", meaning equal.

  4. Vicki

    Vicki Administrator Administrator

    I'm very guilty of using the auto settings on my camera. I was hoping for on line classes from Mark...:D
  5. graphicpunk

    graphicpunk Little Dog

    What about like White Balance used in conjunction with ISO settings? When I am outside and the sun is shining I can easily get away with 100 or 80 ISO. Inside I try to stay no higher than 400 as anything higher the grainy effect comes into play big time. I have a point and shoot Sony DSC-h20 and it works great for natural light shots and shots with the flash but in the review it doesn't take great pictures in low light.

    I always try to play with the white balance or the exposure with the higher ISO to let more light into the pictures.
  6. Mark-60

    Mark-60 Little Dog

    As far as I know, white bal doesn't have anything to do with noise on higher ISO settings. It may help the way it may appear, but it may make the colors look off. The only way to reduce your ISO setting in darker conditions is to open the aperture or slow the shutter speed down to let more light on to the senor for a longer time. The down side to this is you get motion blur on the slower shutter speeds.

    I'm going to post a thread about white balance soon.

  7. Elizabeth

    Elizabeth Good Dog

    I must say, I am lovin this new sub-forum!!

    Thank you to Mark for all these awesome tips and information....I just figured out how to change my ISO setting! Yay! :D
  8. graphicpunk

    graphicpunk Little Dog

    Yes Thank you Mark for all this info! This will help me out a whole lot!
  9. Schwe

    Schwe Good Dog

    You adjust your white balance based on the lighting you are shooting in. Different lighting sources have different "temperatures." Flourescent lighting will tint your image a blueish purple, and the tungsten an orange-yellow. When you are shooting in these conditions if your AWB (auto-white balance) isn't picking up the appropriate white balance setting, you should set your white balance manually by either switching it to the appropriate lighting situation, or setting the white balance by going to the "set" option. Typically when you do this your camera "pretends" to take a picture, fires the flash if it is on, and adjusts its white balance to that exact place/lighting.

    Mark, it's no fair for you to show off that high ISO with your fancy 1D MkII. :p The one thing I regret the most about my 450D is its noise at higher ISO.
  10. twins86

    twins86 Puppy

    eheheh, we have the same "problem" :lol:

    But we'll try to do that and see what happens...

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