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Focus on Photography: Tech Talk {ISO}


Last month we discussed the advantages and disadvantages of a Point and Shoot camera versus a DSLR.  Once you’ve made the decision to make the jump to a DSLR, it’s important to learn to use your camera and take it to it’s full potential.  Over the next couple of months, I’ll share a few articles to get you started and get you out of auto mode and into shooting all in manual mode. 

You’ll hear a lot about the “big three” or the “exposure triangle” when learning to shoot in manual mode.  These refer to ISO, aperture, and shutter speed.  I shoot in manual mode exclusively and when I go to set my settings, I always set my ISO first, so we’ll start there.

One advantage I wrote about in the previous article of DSLRs is that you can increase the ISO and they handle better in lower light situations. ISO refers to the sensitivity of the camera sensor  to light. Lower numbers are less sensitive to light but produce little noise/grain while higher numbers are more sensitive to light and tend to produce more noise/grain. Of course, we’d all love to have the highest quality images, but the disadvantage of shooting with higher ISOs and having an increase in noise/grain can be a small price to pay when capturing memories at night or at a ballet recital. 

It’s great to think of choosing an ISO with these basic tips:

ISO Cheat Sheet

               100                        Full Sun

               200                        Lots of sun – partial shade/slightly overcast
               400                        In the shade or indoors with lots of indirect light

               640                        Indoors on a slightly overcast day
               800                        Indoors on an overcast day or near sunset- near a window
               1000                      Indoors but away from a window
               1600+                    Evening or with incandescent light- As the amount of available light 
                                             descreases, the ISO increases (night, theaters or sporting events)  
               3200-6400            VERY little light available

When scrapping a photo with a lot of noise, just remember- it doesn’t have to take up the whole page!  Try a more minimalistic approach, as I have done below.  I wanted to capture my daughter’s first day of swimming lessons, but the pool area is very dark in the evenings.  At ISO 6400, I was able to grab a shot and add it to my album.  I used Jimbo Jambo’s Dream Machine template and A day at the pool papers and elements by Designs by Anita and elements by Gina Cabrerra. 

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