Master ISO to Skyrocket your Success.
So you’re comfortable with how aperture affects your images. You know what effect different length exposures have on your shots. But, do you still encounter some problems?
Do you have situations where there isn’t enough light to freeze the wings of that hovering bird or the wiggle of that bee as it buzzes from flower to flower?
Do you want more depth of field in a shot but the time for the exposure is too long to avoid camera movement?
ISO (International Standards Organisation) or how sensitive are you?
The key to unlock these dilemmas is ISO, the measure of how sensitive your sensor (or film) is to light. At ISO 100, your recording media is less sensitive, it takes more light to get the right exposure. At ISO 6400, your media is very sensitive and needs less light to create the image.
In the old days of film photography control over ISO for the photographer was via the film used. An ISO 100 film was normal for landscape and portrait. ISO 50 film was used by many professionals.
To change the ISO you would have to put an entirely different film in your camera. To facilitate taking different kinds of shot, a photographer took a couple of bodies loaded with different film. For the hobbyist, that was too expensive, so you had to manage with the one setting until you’d got through your 24 or 36 exposures.
The Digital Revolution
Digital photography has changed all that. Now, at the touch of a couple of buttons you can have access to a huge range of ISO settings. You can take landscape shots at low ISO for the best quality possible or you can take shots of fast action at much higher ISO settings without having to use a different film. It’s a liberating situation for those of us brought up on film!
Of course there are consequences to increasing the ISO. Noise.
Noise vs Speed
Noise in an image is the speckly grain most obvious in dark areas and shadows. On film, this can introduce some pleasing texture, especially in Black and White. Digital noise can be ugly and was one of the reasons early digital work was nowhere near the standard of film. In colour photographs in particular, coloured spots, known as artifacts would appear in the darker areas of shots.
These days the performance of digital cameras and the algorithms that reduce noise, both in camera and post production, has improved enormously, giving us great shots at previously unimaginable ISO settings.
When and how to alter ISO
One of the main instances you may need to increase your ISO is when taking shots of action. Do you want to take a shot of your dog shaking water off? A racing car as it accelerates down the straight, bees as they collect nectar at your flowers, birds as they take flight? Wherever you would like to freeze fast motion an increased ISO will let you have a faster shutter speed for the same aperture.
Altering ISO is a simple matter of changing the settings in your camera’s menu. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you where that is on your camera but instructions will be in your user manual.
The key to understanding, as ever, is to get used to making that change by practising. Make a point of changing the setting every time you use your camera so you’ll be able to do it quickly and efficiently when the need arises.
Over to you
Now you know how to change your ISO, you will have access to a whole range of shots that previously seemed impossible. From perfect pooch portraits to candid cats, low light landscapes to magical macro.
Good luck and let me know if this article has helped :-)