Unveiling ISO In Photography – A Beginner’s Guide!

ISO is considered as one of the three essential settings along with aperture and shutter speed that you have to know while purchasing the best DSLR camera. In this article, we will discuss all you should know about ISO and how it influences your photography.

What is ISO?

ISO is a camera setting that makes a photo brighter or darken. While capturing an image, if you increase its number, the captured photographs will look more radiant.

Digital display of ISO Setting
Digital display of ISO Setting

Therefore, you can capture bright pictures in low light environments. If you capture an image by increasing the ISO too high, in the photograph you will see a lot of grain. This is called noise and that will be a waste photograph.

So, you should raise the ISO only when you are unable to brighten the picture by aperture or shutter speed.

The ISO sensitivity is measured by the numbers. A higher number will provide brighter images.

Therefore, you need to set it for low light photography. Every camera manufacturer offers different ranges of ISO, and this range can be defined by the difference between the highest and lowest numbers.

Image gets brighter as ISO is increased from 100 to 1600
Image gets brighter as ISO is increased from 100 to 1600

These numbers ranges from 100 to 6400. If you increase the value by 150%, then the image brightness will increase by 150% also. You can see the ISO 600 will provide two times brighter images than ISO 300 and will provide six times brighter images than ISO 100.

The Meaning of ISO

The full form of ISO is the International Organization for Standardization. When talking about the ISO of a camera, it does not refer to the organization actually that creates different technology and product standards.

In 1974, two film standards named ASA and DIN were linked into International Organization for Standardization. From that point, they were referred to as the word ISO.

Though initially, it was defined as film sensitivity, later it has been adopted by digital camera manufacturers for maintaining brightness levels.

Common ISO Values

When you purchase a camera, you can see a different range of ISO values that you use during photography. There are some common ISO values, such as 100, 200, 400, 600, 800, 1600, 3200, and 6400. Remember, when you double the ISO value, you are enhancing the brightness of a photo by double.

Higher ISO Resulting Noise / Grain
Higher ISO Resulting Noise / Grain in the image

What is Base ISO?

If you purchase a camera, you can see it comes with a base ISO. It is the lowest value present on the camera. It is a vital value that displays the ability of the camera to take high-quality images while decreasing the noise of the image to the lowest.

Presently, most of the cameras come with a base value of 100. It will be best if you choose the base setting to click high-quality pictures.

But, there are some situations when you have to use a higher ISO to capture high quality images.

To go High (Hi) or to go Low (Lo)

While you purchase a camera, you must have seen Hi and Lo on the ISO settings, that are meant to enhance the range beyond the native range of the camera. This process is done by software simulation and reduces the quality of a picture.

It is recommended that you should go for a lower setting to get the best picture quality.

How will you make the ISO settings during photography?

During photography, ISO setting is a crucial thing that you have to understand correctly. Even many experienced photographers struggle to choose it correctly to get the best quality images.

ISO Settings Guide
ISO Settings Guide

Now the question is how will you make the most of the ISO settings?

Here, you will get the answer.

We have seen earlier that low ISO is preferred to get high quality images. If you are shooting in a daylight condition or in a place where you will find enough lights, you should go for lower setting such as ISO 100 to minimize the noise in the pictures.

You also can use low setting in low light conditions with long shutter speed. But, If the shutter speed is long, the object in the picture should be steady.

Sometimes you may have to go for high ISO settings to get some excellent images. 

For example, if you capture a flying bird with low ISO settings and lower shutter speed, the picture will undoubtedly be useless. Instead, if you click the image with high ISO setting and increase the shutter speed, then the picture will be worth to see.

flying owl
Flying Owl image captured at ISO 800 and Shutter Speed 1/2000

If you shoot indoors, a higher ISO setting will help you to capture a high-quality image. If you are shooting a very fast-moving object, you need a high ISO setting.

Things to keep in mind while tinkering with ISO

If you want to enhance your photography skills and want to improve the quality of your images, here are a few things that you have to keep in mind.

Photography Exposure Triangle
Photography Exposure Triangle
  • Always choose a particular aperture that will give you the required depth of field.
  • During photography set the ISO to the lowest with proper adjustment of shutter speed for capturing enough light. 
  • If you want to remove blur from the image, while capturing an image, increase the ISO and the shutter speed. 
  • While shooting, use a wide aperture for reducing the ISO numbers.
  • For capturing such masterpieces, keep your camera steady, increase the shutter speed a bit and widen the aperture.

Final Words!

Presently, almost all of the cameras come with automatic ISO feature that works quite well in low light conditions. You just need to increase the value as your convenience.

Also, you will get auto settings in your camera. Many photographers think that they should stick to the base ISO, but there is no proper logic behind it.

With such conditions, you have to cross this limitation. If you are shooting in a place where you will get fair light, you may stick to the base ISO setting.

But, If you are capturing something moving continuously, you have to raise the shutter speeds with high ISO.

Source: Digital Trends, Photography Life, ExpertPhotography

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