The art of photography stands on three pillars namely camera ISO, Shutter speed, and Aperture.

ISO helps manage the brightness of your image and is a tool if used correctly can help you click beautiful pictures. In this article, we would try to explore ISO in plain terms.

What on earth is ISO ?

Simply put, ISO is a setting on your camera to manage the brightness of an image.

ISO sensitivity is measured in terms of ISO numbers, the higher the ISO number the brighter is your image. ISO is, therefore, a handy tool for low light photography, It can also be used in consonance with aperture and shutter speed to create artistic renditions of your images.

That being said there is a price you pay when you raise your ISO. Take a photo at too high an ISO and it will look all grainy, such picture will contain too much noise and would practically be worthless.

So, always use ISO with caution while brightening your photo. Only use it in situations where you can not brighten a picture using aperture and shutter speed settings.

Every manufacturer has different ranges of ISO available on their cameras. ISO range can be defined as the difference between the highest and the lowest ISO values aka ISO speed.

some ISO ranges are as low as ISO 100 and it can go as high as ISO 6400.

If you increase the ISO speed you are brightening the image proportionality. If you increase ISO value by 150% your brightness will go up by 150%. ISO 600 will be twice as bright as ISO 300 and six times brighter than ISO 100.

Base ISO explained?

Every camera comes with a base ISO it is the lowest ISO value on your gadget. It is an important value as it tells you about the ability of your camera to take high-quality images while reducing the graininess to the lowest.

Most cameras these days have 100 as base ISO. It is advisable that you use the base ISO as often as possible to click high-quality pictures. There are situations when using higher ISO is necessary and you can’t make do with base settings, like shooting in low lights, here use ISO to make the picture possible.

TO go HI or to go LO

You must have seen Hi and Lo on ISO settings in certain cameras these are meant to increase the ISO range beyond the camera’s native range, this is done by software simulation and reduces the picture quality and is so best avoided.

Here is an example of a picture taken at two different ISO numbers. If you take even a cursory look you would realise that the picture with higher ISO is grainier, and even the colours are not great. This is why, as advised earlier it is best to shoot at lower ISO whenever possible.

How to make the most of ISO settings

It is one thing to have a conceptual understanding of a concept quite another to put it in practice. Even experienced shutterbugs struggle to choose optimum ISO settings for clicking photos. What should then one do in different scenarios. let’s look at a few.

As is made amply clear above, Low ISO is always preferable. If you are shooting somewhere with enough light around always go for low ISO such as ISO 100 to minimize the noise or grains in your photos.

You can also use low ISO in low light conditions provided your camera is steady, here you can use low ISO in consonance with long shutter speed. It should be remembered that if your shutter speed is long the object in your picture should not move or they will look like eerie ghosts.

Life is not a utopia though, and there are many scenarios where you would have to use high ISO to take a great picture.

A photographer is many times struggling with motion blur if the choice is between a crisp photo at large ISO, and a blurry on at low ISO one would always incline towards higher ISO.

If for example, you want to capture a bird in flight at low ISO you would have to lower the shutter speed which would result in motion blur as the bird is moving very fast, in simple word you would land up with a useless picture.

Instead, if you increase shutter speeds with a high ISO you freeze the bird and capture it without any motion blur.

The idea here is to use ISO when the light is too low for the camera to capture a crisp, sharp image by any other means. If you are shooting indoors higher ISO may sometimes help get the most out of the image.

High ISO is also crucial while shooting very fast moving objects as discussed earlier, as there is no other efficient way to negate motion blur.

Almost all cameras come with automatic ISO feature which works quite well in dark or low light scenarios. All you need to do is give the camera the highest level of ISO you are willing to accept and the camera manages the rest. There are trade-offs to auto settings but that’s life.

A lot of people think that one should always stick to base ISO no matter what. But as we discussed above, this is not a gospel truth. Sometimes there is no choice but to cross the red line.

If there is ample light around one should stick to the base, but don’t cling to ISO 100 in low light situations, if you do so the images will turn up way too dark and you would only see silhouettes.

If you are capturing something that is moving rapidly, you would need to crank up the shutter speeds, this situation is practically same as low light photography because due to high shutter speed only a small amount of light can reach the sensor, so using high ISO is simply unavoidable here.

What is ISO? Photography tutorial for DSLR beginners

What to keep in mind while tinkering with ISO

If you want to enhance the quality of your photos, here are a few pointers.

  • Always choose apertures that give you the needed depth of field
  • Set the ISO to lowest with proper shutter speed adjustment to capture enough light.
  • If you are experiencing blur, increase ISO along with the shutter speed to remove the blur.
  • Use a wide aperture to reduce ISO numbers, though, it will come at a cost of your depth of field.
  • Steady the camera, increase the shutter speed a little, widen the aperture a bit. And you may find a masterpiece lurking somewhere.

Source: PhotographyLifeDigitalPhotographySchool

So here’s to great pictures. Happy clickin’