How to Use ISO in Photography

ISO in Photography

Learn to take picture is easy, but learn to take good pictures are challenging for me. If photographers don’t understand about the most three important pillars of the photography (ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed), photographers will not be able to capture good images at all and so do I.

Previously, I have written an article about the Aperture and in this article, I am going to write about my experiences how to use the correct ISO and I keep my explanation as simple as I can for helping beginner photographers.

What is ISO in Photography?

The ISO is the level of sensitivity of light, building in a DSLR camera. It is not easy to understand, right? No worry, let me put it simple in this way. In general, beginner photographers should know where to set ISO in the camera. It is not difficult to find it. I assume you find it now. So let’s go together and try to take pictures with different ISO.

Now, you have a feeling on how ISO works, right. So when you lower the number of ISO, you will get pictures with less sensitive light. When is the right time to take pictures with lower the ISO? Good question, we normally set to lower number of ISO, when the surrounding environment contains more light like where you see the place is bright (out door pictures at daytime).

Picture with ISO 400
Picture with ISO 400

How about you set a higher number of ISO? Yes, it is simple. Your camera will increase the sensitivity of light on your images. You can increase the number of ISO when you capture images in a darker place (low-light environments like indoor photo/in room…).

Picture with ISO 1000
Picture with ISO 1000 (low-light place)

However, if you take picture at low light and you don’t increase the number of ISO. Your photos will be resulted in too dark or (under exposure). Please see example below.

Picture with ISO 100 (low light place)
Picture with ISO 100 (low-light place)

And also keep caution that if you capture picture at low-light environment and you increase number of ISO to high, your pictures will be also resulted in too bright or (over exposure). Please see picture below.

Picture with ISO 5000 (low-light place)
Picture with ISO 5000 (low-light place)

It sounds simple, right. It is not so easy as you thought. Lower the number of the ISO will result in less sensitivity of your images, but when you increase the number of ISO, it will bring a bigger sensitivity into your photos and the produced images will be resulted in noises. So you have to keep caution in mind. What is that?

Okay, you need to understand a little bit about “image sensor” or normally “sensor” that it is built in your camera machine. The sensor is the most expensive and very important part of your machine. The image sensor will not only responsible for collecting light, but also it will transform the light into an image. At this point, what I want you to understand and keep caution is about increasing the number of ISO, it will rise sensitivity that can allow your camera sensor to capture pictures in low-light environment by ignoring a flash. However, your produced image will be added number of “noise/grain”.

What are the correct ISO that photographers should use?

Answer to this question, photographer should try to use “base ISO” because it will produce the best quality image with free noises into the pictures. The Base ISO refers to the lowest number of sensitivity of ISO. What about if you have to take pictures at low-light, should you still use base ISO? Ah-ha, if you will do so, you will produce black or blur photos or completely all black in your picture. Oftentimes, photographers have no choice and you need to increase number of ISO, it is better than you don’t have this image.

What else should I mention more about ISO?

ISO’s Sensitivity Number

I am talking about how to chose the correct ISO for producing good image. Earlier, I mentioned about the based ISO. Generally, photographers who are in love with Nikon or Canon and others camera brands, the base ISO is typically from 100-200, considered as the lowest ISO. The ISO sequences are: 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400 …etc. It increases the doubles sensitivity of the sensor in between each ISO sequences. Example, if you set the ISO to 200, it is twice more sensitive than ISO 100, while ISO 1600 is twice more sensitive than ISO 800. This means ISO 200 two times more sensitive to light than ISO 100 and ISO 800 eight times more sensitive to light than ISO 100. What does these mean, if you set the ISO 800 (sensor eight times) more sensitive to light? It means it will need eight times less time to produce a picture.

I don’t want to go deeper on the very technical aspect that make beginner photographer feel not comfortable to use it. I recommend you to practice by switching your ISO around from the lowest number to the highest number ISO at exact the same shutter speed. Then, you will find out many of your inquiries.

In conclusion, you should remember two things when you play on ISO (I am not talking about Auto ISO): first thing, you should use bigger number of the ISO when there is less light at the place in order to let your camera quickly able to produce an image (possible noises might happen on your pictures). Second thing, when there is enough light at a scene, you should try to lower the number of the ISO as much as you can, so you will get good quality images without grain or noise on your pictures.

I hope this article will give readers some ideas and only keep practicing will bring you to the top in taking beautiful pictures. Any comments and constructive feedback, please feel free to drop in comments for improving photography skill together.

Next lessons:

How to Use Shutter Speed in Photography
How to Find Best Time for Taking Beautiful Pictures in Photography
How to Use Aperture (f.) in Photography
How to Use ISO in Photography
How to Use Camera Modes Auto or Manual for Taking Beautiful Picture in Photography
How to Use Picture Composition in Photography
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I love the people I photograph. I mean, they’re my friends. I’ve never met most of them or I don’t know them at all, yet through my images I live with them–Bruce Gilden

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