Are you struggling with your camera settings when taking pictures in low light? Learn ISO in Photography and how to choose ISO.
First lets talk about ISO – do you remember ISO film? You would walk down the film aisle and have the choice of 100 ISO film…200, 400 and maybe 800 speed film. You could walk into a specialty camera store and get much higher ISO Film – but in my mind that was for the “professional” photographers who knew all of the right camera settings!
Well ISO is just simply this…a sensor inside your digital camera that sense light. Thanks to technology we can change our ISO camera setting for each picture if we needed to (but don’t worry you don’t have to!!!)…unlike film days where you were stuck with 400 speed for at least 24 images, as a roll of film.
What does ISO Stand For?
Let’s define what ISO is by definition. ISO simply stands for the International Organization of Standardization, which is the main governing body that standardizes sensitivity ratings for camera sensors.
In Digital Photography ISO measures the sensitivity of the image sensor. The same principles apply as in film photography – the lower the number the less sensitive your camera is to light and the finer the grain. … By choosing a higher ISO you can use a faster shutter speed to freeze the movement. A lower ISO number means less sensitivity and a higher ISO number means more sensitivity.
ISO is just a way to manipulate light, within the camera, and get a good exposure. Within the exposure triangle you have ISO, aperture and shutter speed. In our digital cameras we have a sensor that we tell the ISO to be set to a particular number. This sensor will help create more light or less light when light hits the sensor inside your camera body.
ISO is the first thing I suggest setting when you are figuring out your camera settings to shoot in manual mode. ISO will not change often unless you are going from a dark setting to a light setting. For example if you were shooting inside for a birthday party, all of the lights were turned out as you sing happy birthday and the birthday girl/boy blows out his/her candles. Then you stepped outside the home into the back yard to take pictures in the day light of the birthday party game time. Make sense?
Another example of not changing your ISO camera setting often – if you are shooting your family enjoying the day at the beach, more than likely you will be there for a few hours…so your ISO camera setting will be set and will not change during that time.
Each DSLR camera setting can be found (generally) near your right hand placement/around the top dial as well as within your menu/screen area. The easiest place to learn to change your ISO setting is around your right hand dial area. Get out your specific camera manual, if you aren’t sure how to change your ISO, and learn how. If you don’t have a camera manual I know you could simply put into google in your camera make/model and the term ISO setting. You’ll probably find videos as well as articles showing you step by step how to change it.
Standard ISO numbers are: 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200 etc. It doubles as you get higher – I suggest steering away from the “digital” ISO numbers and sticking to the standard and true ISO camera settings. I find this helps keep a sharper image, keeps it straight in my head and I feel like I have a better handle on what I’m telling my camera I need/want in order to shoot in Manual Mode – which means I’m fully taking control of my images! Isn’t that our goal?!?!
#1 High ISO Number: i.e. 800, 1600, 3200 etc.
If you are shooting in low light- you will want your ISO at a higher number- this higher number tells your camera sensor you need more light to expose this image properly. So in essence you are telling your camera to give your image more light.
Low light meaning in your home where there isn’t a lot of available light, it could be inside a building that isn’t well lit, at dusk when you are taking a walk outside or during the opening of presents at christmas time and the room is lit by only the Christmas tree lights.
#2 Low ISO Number i.e.: 100, 200, 400
If you are shooting in a lot of available light you will want your ISO at a low number- the lower number keeps light from the camera sensor, therefore keeping your image properly exposed. A lot of available light would be outside during the day at the park, pool or beach or even in a very well lit, bright auditorium.
This sounds basic to some of you, but it’s the first step in getting a well exposed image when shooting in manual mode.
Canon Low Light Lens
Many ask me what my favorite lens for low light situations is and I have to say I always find myself going right back to my Canon 50mm 1.2 lens. The aperture can open up wide and my camera has an unbelievable ISO setting all the way to 6400 which is amazing!
Then a tripod is always super beneficial, unless you are always wanting to juggle it on the fence, rock or car hood. Anytime you shoot in low light you will want to have your camera stable because hand held gets tricky, causing camera shake which makes your image blurry – which you don’t want!
More tips can be found: Low Light Photography Tips