What is ISO in photography?

By Katebackdrop | November 9, 2021

A picture is better than a thousand words. However, you could argue that the story your image tells depends on how effective your photography skills are.

The better your capturing skills, the more complete and well-rounded the story. And while anyone can take a photo, it takes time, practice, and patience to get the perfect shot.

Read the light

An essential skill that every photographer should perfect is to capture your photo in the perfect light. To achieve this, you will need to adjust the brightness to brighten or darken the object or background.

Three main factors determine how bright or dark your image is. These are ISO, aperture and shutter speed. Today, let’s take a look at what ISO is, how it affects your photos, and how to control and master it.

Image: Getty

What is ISO in photography?

As mentioned above, ISO is one of the factors that determines how bright or dull your photo is. Essentially, ISO controls the amount of light entering your camera’s lens. This can then have an impact on the dark and light qualities of your image.

Initially, the International Organization for Standardization was responsible for defining the numbers used by ISO in portrait photography.

Today, while most digital cameras still follow this numbering format, the photographer has more control over their ISO settings. You can adjust the settings to match different backgrounds and photography backdrops.

For example, the ISO you use in a studio may be very different from the ISO you use outdoors. By mastering the principles of ISO photography, you will have better control over your subject and the surroundings.

How does ISO affect your photos?

Any amateur photographer will tell you that ISO increases and decreases the brightness of your photo. However, it also affects noise or grain levels and dynamic range. Your photos will likely have the highest dynamic range and the least amount of grain at the lowest setting.

Therefore, it gives the photographer more flexibility in the post-processing of the image. As you increase your camera’s ISO setting, the dynamic range decreases and the graininess or noise level increases.

Image: Getty
Image: Getty

What is the best ISO range for photographing?

As with any other aspect of photography, there is no one solution for all situations. Fortunately, there are several guidelines for finding the best level of ISO sensitivity for your environment. Here is a quick description of the best ISO settings for different situations and environments;

ISO 100: It is the ideal choice for outdoor shooting on a clear or sunny day. Since natural lighting will provide brilliant reflections in the image, you don’t need high ISO.

ISO 400: This ISO setting is best used when there is ideal but less intense lighting. For example, you can use this ISO sensitivity when shooting outdoors on a cloudy day or indoors near a window. Depending on the environment and light exposure, you may need to opt for a higher ISO level.

ISO 800: Since this range is medium to high level, it is ideal for indoor shots where you don’t have the help of a flash or other augmentation lights.

ISO 1600 and above: If you’re shooting indoors in dim lighting or when it’s dark outside, you’ll need high ISO. Also, if there is movement in the photo, you need to combine high ISO sensitivity with fast shutter speed to improve the quality of your image.

Pro tip: At first, set your camera to auto ISO and study how the camera differentiates between environments and lighting situations to determine the correct ISO. However, you can’t always rely on Auto ISO, so use it to learn and develop your style.

How do you control the ISO?

Depending on the type, make and model of your camera, ISO settings can be found in several places. However, locating your ISO shouldn’t be that difficult, and if you’re having trouble finding it, you can always refer to the camera’s user manual. That said, here are the most common ways to find and control ISO settings on most cameras.

1. If you have a standard DSLR or mirrorless camera, you will need to open the quick menu settings and find the ISO section. Select your preferred value and start filming.

2. Most high end cameras have a dedicated ISO button on the camera. Press the button and rotate the dial to the desired setting and start taking pictures.

Ultimately, ISO plays an important role in the quality of your photographs. Mastering the use of ISO will give you more control and improve the quality of your photos. Remember to be patient, keep exercising, and continually learn to improve your skills.

For more photography tips and tutorials, visit katebackdrop.com/blogs/katebackdrop-blogs

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