ISO Explained

May 26, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

What is ISO?

How to manage exposure and noise with your ISO settings on a digital camera

Today we're taking a look at the ISO settings on your camera. Put briefly, ISO refers to how sensitive the camera is to light. The lower the number the lower the sensitivity to light, so an ISO of 200 is not very sensitive and an ISO of 3200 is very sensitive. If you have a lot of light available the camera can be set to a low sensitivity; whereas if you are in a dark area with limited light you may need to set your camera to be more sensitive to compensate.

Lets look at some terms:

  • Noise - this is where random spots of colour appear in an image that has been shot at a high ISO
  • Grain - noise is also referred to as grain as it makes an image appear grainy

Let's see what effect changing the ISO will have on an image. For this set up I have used my 50mm lens on my Nikon D800.

The first image is at ISO 200, this is a low sensitivity setting. As you can see the image is clear and has no visible grain or ISO noise.

ISO 200ISO 200

This next image is set to ISO 3200. For the camera I used this is where you start to notice the presence of noise in the image. As you can see there are some flecks of colour that were not present in the subject I was shooting.

ISO 3200ISO 3200

For this last image I maxed out the ISO settings on my camera to 25600. As you can see the image has a lot of noise in it; this noise makes the image appear less sharp as the edges are not as defined.

ISO 25600ISO 25600

When might I want to change my ISO?

ISO is a very handy setting to manipulate when shooting in low light situations using a high shutter speed. It is best to stick to the lowest ISO you can use in any situations to avoid a noisy image. Have a little play and see if it can help you get a better exposure on your images.

How do I change the ISO settings on my camera?

All cameras are different, so this time I'm afraid I will have to bow down to your user manuals. But if you've having difficulties finding your settings please ask in our Facebook group.

Emma Elliott Photography - Pet PortraitsJoin us on Facebook!

Happy Shooting!


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