ISO – Beginner Photography

ISO – Beginner Photography

ISO is the digital equivalent (or approximation) of film speed. If you remember, back in the day, you’d get 100, 200, 400 or 800 ISO. This still applies to digital photography, but it’s called an ISO instead of ASA. It’s still the same 100 and 200 for outdoors with a lot of light and 400 and 800 for indoors with less light. The same rule that the higher the number, the more light comes in still applies.

General rules for ISO settings

ISO 50, 100, and 200 are the lowest settings depending on the camera. It is for FULL SUNSHINE. (some high-end cameras have 50)
ISO – 400 – overcast cloudy, not so much sun.
ISO – 800 lower light – sunset time and so on.

Digital Noise and ISO

The noise level depends on the camera – You can see noise generally start around  800 and is apparent at 1600. Your more expensive cameras have a better tolerance to noise.
The downside to using a high ISO is that digital noise or grain will appear. Below is a picture of grain. Many despise grain and avoid it at all costs. Some artists use grain as an artistic effect.
Your lower-end camera will produce grain at a much lower level than your full-frame cameras. Lower-end cameras will see grain starting at 800 and visible at 1600. Your full-frame cameras will go much higher before you start showing any grain signs. High ISO settings are the most significant contributors to photographic noise. High-end cameras will pick up less noise at higher ISOs than low-end cameras, but the rule is always the same: the higher your ISO, the more noise you get.

Start by shooting outside with your camera and changing from a low number to a higher number using each increment in your settings. Watch as the picture goes from light to dark. You will need to remember the lower the number; the less light will come in. The higher the number, the more the light will come in.

Grain or Digital Noise Examples

Here is an example of grain in a picture. On the left. The stuff on the right is what you will need to edit your photos, and we highly recommend everything we advertise in our magazine.  Back to learning; the darker parts of images is where you will see more digital noise or grain. Grain is very common in night photography. Let’s talk about ISO and night shots.

Old Tennent Church Ghost Hunting Photography

Using ISO at night.

ISO should always be at 100 or your lowest possible ISO when using a tripod at night to do still photos,(except for milky way shots) here is why. We generally use the ISO to let more light in. If we go too high with the ISO, it will cause noise. When we are on a tripod at night, we have two other options to let light in. We can decrease our shutter speed and let more light in, or we can adjust our aperture to let light in that way. We do not have to increase ISO since our shutter speed range is unlimited on a tripod. We adjust the ISO as a last resort to let light in.

When we are on a tripod, and our subject is still, and there is not much light we can keep our shutter open for a very long time to let light in. We cannot do this handheld. Anything below 1/30th of a second will blur. The tripod keeps everything crystal clear. See our How to Shoot Night Photography Section when you get all of this down pat.

Here is an example of ways to use ISO on a tripod.
ISO 1600, 1-second exposure, f22
ISO 100, 5-second exposure, f22

We lower the ISO to 100. Less light will come in. Less noise will be created, but we keep the shutter open to let more light in that way. Here we have the same shot done two different ways.
Remember One stop = One jump or 100 ISO to 200 ISO or 200 to 400 ISO or 400 to 800. It’s one increment when you increase it on your camera.
One stop in shutter speed is 100 to 125th, 125th to 250 or 250 to 320. Be sure to read up on aperture to see how it will also affect your image — aperture Page.


beginner photography camera picture
ISO - Beginner Photography
ISO - Beginner Photography

Homework: Here is your homework. Look at your ISO settings on your camera and see the different increments. How high does your camera go up to? If you have read shutter priority Set your shutter speed for 1/200th of a second and take a shot at 100, 200, 400, 800 and all the increments to the end. Watch as your picture gets lighter and lighter.