ISO Explained

What is ISO and what exactly does it do?

Ask any photographer about the basics of photography and they will mention the three pillars: aperture, shutter speed, and the ISO. The ISO of a camera is associated with controlling the brightness of the photographs by making the camera sensor more sensitive to light. Mastering the art of using ISO can help you take the best images.

If you are a beginner in photography and do not have much knowledge about what ISO is and how it works, read on and know everything you need to know about ISO here.

ISO Explained

What is ISO?

In simplest terms, ISO is a camera setting that is associated with making your photos bright or dark. Increasing the ISO level will increase the brightness of the photo and vice versa. It can come in really handy when you are taking shots in dark environments. But, should you just raise your ISO to get brighter pictures? No, because there are some disadvantages of high levels of ISO.

If you increase the levels of ISO too far, the photos will become too grainy and full of noise. Thus, such photos are not fit to be used or considered high quality.

When should you use ISO?

It is best to use ISO only when you are not able to get the optimum brightness in the photo using the aperture and the shutter speed and when you do not have a tripod. Your ISO settings should be the last settings you adjust. This will ensure the highest image quality possible. 

What are the Common ISO Values?

While different cameras have a different range of ISO, the most common ranges are as follows:

ISO 100, ISO 400, ISO 800, ISO 1600, ISO 3200, ISO 6400

Doubling the speed of the ISO will roughly double the brightness of the photo. Thus, a picture with an ISO level of 800 will be twice as bright compared to a photo captured with an ISO level of 400. Knowing the base ISO, also known as the lowest native ISO of your camera is very important. Most cameras have a native ISO of 100. Meaning that when your ISO is at 100 you are using all your camera pixels. This gives you an idea of what ISO levels will help you reduce the grain and noise and create the highest quality images. It also allows you to play with the ISO settings controllably.

What is ISO

When Should You Use Low ISO?

Sticking to the lowest ISO level of your camera is always recommended. This is possible when you have plenty of light. But, what happens when the light levels are low? There are different things you can try to keep the ISO levels to a minimum. Use a tripod stand to capture the photo. How will it help minimize the ISO levels? You can use a long shutter speed to take the photo since you don’t have to worry about camera shake. Try capturing some images using this approach and you will notice a marked difference in the photographs.

When Should You Use High ISO?

While it is always recommended that you use low ISO, sometimes using high ISO becomes necessary. One of the most common issues people face when taking pictures with low ISO and low shutter speed combined is motion blur (or a blurry picture). The trade-off, in these cases, is to choose between a blurry photo taken with a low ISO or a sharp image taken at a high level of ISO. As a rule, keep in mind that you should increase the levels of ISO if the camera is unable to capture a sharp image in the available light. Also, you will have to raise your ISO levels when you are taking pictures of a fast-moving object to ensure there is no blur in the photos.

As a beginner, you need to practice a lot before you master the art of using the correct ISO levels. But once you learn how to do it, you will be able to produce some truly amazing photos. Good luck out there and remember to keep practicing.