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Camera Basics – ISO

Are you ready to use that camera you’ve had sitting around for a few years? Ready to take the camera you’ve been using on auto and step it up a notch? You’re in the right place! Think it’s going to be complicated? Not here, I’m going to break it down in simple terms so you actually understand and can see a difference in your shots immediately.

What is ISO?

ISO measures how sensitive your camera image sensor is or in basic chat, thanks to my mentor, Amanda Hedgepeth, it adds light where there is no light.

With ISO, as with most things in life, there is a trade off to magically being able to just add more light to what your camera is seeing. The higher you go the grainer the image may become, digital cameras do a great job these days of letting you “push” your ISO higher but you can’t get crazy here and expect the photo you are taking to be crystal clear if you are shooting at 10,000 ISO.

ISO and Grain

Grain is also referred to as noise and occurs when your camera ISO gets in up in the higher numbers.

What is grain? It’s the almost dusty looking aspect you see on a photo, especially older photos of rock stars. It’s gritty it’s sometimes a preference in certain styles of shooting. The images below can probably better help me explain this to you.

Go Out and Practice

Now take that camera you’ve been shooting on auto with or haven’t messed with much because you just aren’t sure and set up your own practice.

To really get the feel for ISO it’s time to go full manual. Decide what you are going to be photographing, I recommend an object that isn’t going to move so you can really play with your settings. You’ve already read the APERTURE and SHUTTER SPEED blogs so you know what to consider when making those setting decisions.

For the first session, set your subject (or object) up outside in a nicely shaded area and put your ISO on 100. After setting your ISO change the aperture and shutter speed so the photo you will take is nicely exposed. Just play around with the aperture and shutter speed until you get it but don’t change the ISO. Once you get that set and click your shot, change the ISO to 3200. You will need to then adjust your aperture and shutter speed again so the photo will turn out. Are you able to add that much light? If so, can you tell a difference in the grain? The example below has each of the photos zoomed on the bottom so you can really see the grain in the one on the right.

Let me also note here I would normally never use a 1/80sec shutter speed for photographing a child but for the exercise took it as low as I needed to get the exposure I like.

For the second, do the exact same thing but inside where this light might not be ideal. For this set of images you will really be able to see how you will need to “add light”.

Both of the images aren’t great as the light is too low to shoot at ISO100 and where the image at ISO3200 looks fine far away the up close shows how “noisy” it is. That face though 😍😝

Ask Away…

If you have any questions, feel free to ask! This blog is the third in a series so stay tuned Exposure Triangle edition. Check out the Aperture and Shutter Speed editions, if you missed them.

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meet the photographer jaden

Working on my dream and meeting special families along the way, I believe everyone deserves amazing photographs which capture the moments in life that bring them joy. I photograph families, like yours, who wish they could freeze time, even for just a second, and always remember the special moments of life.

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