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Newbie Chronicles: ISO

Hey everyone! Glad you guys are enjoying! Please keep reading!

The last part of the Exposure triangle is ISO.

Your ISO determines how sensitive your camera is to light.

So a low ISO( say 100-400) would be used when you’ve got a lot of light. Like you are outdoor on a sunny day or you’ve got lots of studio or natural light in your house.

Week4Day1 White Balance/100%natural light
Settings: ISO: 200 SS 1/40 f/5.0

A HIGH ISO( 1600 and above) would be used in low light situations. Like my house, or a concert, art galleries, churches.

Week4Day1 White balance/Unnatural Light
Settings: ISO:3200 SS:1/80 f/3.5

So the obvious thing would be to just crank up your ISO if you get into a low light situation where no matter how wide your aperture is or how slow your shutter speed is, you still get a dark photo.

But whoooo nelly!

You have to be careful with those high ISOs! They lead to grainy or low quality photos like this….

Settings: ISO 6400 F/2.0 SS:1/80

Now, you have a choice. You can embrace the grain like I did here….

Settings: ISO 6400 f/2.8 SS 1/160
Or take another photo!

So that my friend is the exposure triangle. It’s like the holy trinity of photography: they all work together. None is independant. You have to consider them all when you stop to take a photo.

So how do I start?

First, I ask myself: How much light do I have?

I personally, always set my ISO FIRST. That’ s just me. If I’m in my house, I start high. around 1600. If I’m outdoors, I start at 100 and go up if necessary.

Next, I think about what I want my photo to look like. Do I want my background all blurry? Do I want everything in focus? Or do I want to focus on just ONE detail? Once I’ve decided that, I set my aperture.

Finally, I look at my shutter speed. What am I photographing? Pookah? A plant? C-Dub? how much light do I have? I try to keep my Shutter speed at or around 1/125. Or at least start there. But usually, my shutter speed falls into place based on my other settings. And if I can’t get my shutter speed up to 1/125, I can usually adjust my ISO and it magically makes it better!

Put it all together, and I get a photo like this!
Settings: ISO: 400 f/2.2 SS:1/2000

And that’s it for the exposure triangle. The only way to get better is to practice practice practice! I’m still working on it!!

Stay tuned for next week. Now that I’ve got the basics out of the way, we’ll talk about White Balance and Metering.

See you next time!



Friday 24th of February 2012

You do a GREAT job explaining!!!


Monday 27th of February 2012

Thanks! I'm trying!!


Thursday 23rd of February 2012

This is a great intro to ISO. When I first got my DSLR, I would always shoot with a high ISO and then in reviewing my pictures for editing, I would wonder why they always looked so grainy or too bright (if shot outside). lol. Lessons learned.


Monday 27th of February 2012

It took me a while to get this too. I was always just trying to make the picture brighter!