Camera Tutorial – A Lesson on ISO

October 1, 2007

in Camera Tips, Photography Tutorials, Rachel Durik

Have you ever heard about a picture being noisy? Since when did pictures start making noise? Noise refers to the graininess of a picture, and that has to do with the ISO.

ISO refers to a standard speed set from the ISO group. From what could find, ISO stands for International Organization for Standardization. (Thank you, wikipedia!)I don’t get that though, cause wouldn’t it be IOS? In any case, ISO is all about sensitivity to light. On your DSLR, you’ll see settings of 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600 and maybe even 50 and 3200 on some cameras.

Those numbers should look familiar to you. Remember in the days of using film? You could buy different film speeds and ISO is the same sort of deal in digital cameras.

So what setting should you choose? ISO 100 has the lowest sensitivity to light. The higher you go, the more sensitive the sensor becomes. That means, in high light conditions, an ISO of 100 will do fine. In lower light conditions, you’ll need to change the ISO. So, if you’re shooting at night, an ISO of 1600 will probably let you get the picture you want. However, the trade-off is that the higher ISO you have, the more noise your picture will have. Let me show you an example.

I took this shot while watching fireworks on the 4th of July. Where we were sitting, it was very dark. I didn’t want to use a flash because I wanted to capture the fireworks and the sky. I opened the aperture as wide as it could go and turned the ISO up to 1600. It captured just what I wanted. The only bad thing is that it’s noisy. Photoshop has noise reduction filters or you can even buy fancier noise programs to help reduce the noice.

You might be wondering how to change the ISO. Again, I’ll show you on a Canon Rebel XTi. You can manipulate the ISO on any of the manual settings (the settings to the left of the rectangle on the top dial). On the back of the camera, find the up arrow button. It’s shown in the circles in green below. Push on that button, and your ISO options will pop up. Choose the setting you want using the up and down arrows. Click on the shutter to get back to the main screen. You’ll see the ISO setting you selected on the LCD screen. It’s circled below – on the left.

Ideally, use the lowest ISO setting you can get away with without getting camera shake. Your pictures will be better quality. Now, if you want to go have some fun, pull out you camera, turn the flash off, and play with ISOs!

Find more great tutorials about your camera:

Rachel is a self-taught blogger-turned-photographer and mother of two. Once the “bad picture taker” of the family, she opened up her own photography business within a year of buying her first DSLR. She is located in Eastern North Carolina and can be found at Savor Photography and her blog, The Adventures of an American Mum.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Toni Joyce August 25, 2010

I would love to be able to take better pictures. My kids are now teenagers so I am running out of time. Please pick me to be in your class. It would be a great motivation for me..


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