April 20, 2011

#16 – Turn up the ISO for more light.

Don’t freak out.

The next few posts are going to cover the three things that tend to scare people who don’t understand them. I’m talking about “ISO,” “shutter speed” and “aperture.” By the end of these posts, you’re going to be a master of all three and they won’t scare you one little bit.

The reason? Each of these three is designed to do just one thing – get enough light into the camera for you to take a decent picture. That’s it. You don’t need to know fancy math or weird photo techniques to make it all work. All you need to know is: more light into camera.

The first way you get light into your camera is with a higher ISO. “ISO” is how sensitive your camera is to light. On point-and-shoot cameras, it’s usually measured in numbers like 100, 200, 400, 800 and 1600 – with a few numbers in between here and there. Look at the top of today's post and you'll see images at each of those settings.

First, the good news. When you shoot with a higher ISO, you let more light into the camera. Go from 100 to 200 and you’re letting in double the amount of light. It’s really handy for shooting indoors and at night.

Now the bad news. The higher the ISO, the more grainy your shots. Take a close look up above. You’ve probably seen pictures you’ve taken that look all noisy and grainy. Those have an ISO that’s too high. Most point-and-shoot cameras are pretty good in the 100, 200 and 400 range – sometimes even 800, depending on your camera.

And really, that’s all there is to it. Open your manual, find out how to switch your ISO and you just added a really useful tool to the next photo you take.

When to use a higher ISO.
·      In darker settings.
·      No tripod.
·      You can’t change the aperture.
·      You can’t lower the shutter speed.

When to use a lower ISO.
·      Photo looks too grainy.
·      Lots of light.

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