The Basics of ISO

Low light, no light, some light and everything in between. Early on in my photography, ISO was a setting on my camera I was scared of, and just didn’t understand. People I learned from and worked with always were paranoid about using higher ISO but sometimes I just need to do things against the grain.

ISO is the setting of how sensitive the sensor in the camera is to light. It’s like if you could change how your retina sees light in your eye. Let’s dive in deeper!!!!!!!!

Just so you have an idea of how I am setting up this post.

All the images were taken on a Sony Alpha a7II Mirrorless Digital Camera – Body Only with a Sigma MC-11 Mount Converter Lens Adapter (Sigma EF-Mount Lenses to Sony E) w/ Essential Photo Bundle and a Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM Lens for Canon EOS SLR Cameras. This camera has been an amazing upgrade from the Canon EOS 7D 18 MP CMOS Digital SLR Camera Body Only (discontinued by manufacturer) I was using for so many years. There is a link to the Amazon pages for these pieces of gear below so you can check them out and buy them if you are wanting to upgrade.

Let’s start with the numbers. What does it mean when my camera has an ISO number? To keep this answer simple, I’ll explain it this way. the lower the number the less light is picked up by the sensor. But won’t my images be dark if there is less light???? Yes, but the lower the number also lowers the noise(speckles in your image) and you can also adjust other things to compensate(I will be covering the exposure triangle later, stay tuned).

Now some examples!!!!!!!!

These images are taken directly out of the camera. No color correction, noise reduction or anything. #nofilter

1: ISO 80-F4-1 Sec Shutter


2: ISO 200-F4-0.4 Sec Shutter


3: ISO 800-F4-1/13 Sec Shutter


4: ISO 2500-F4-1/30 Sec Shutter


5: ISO 25600-F4-1/250 Sec Shutter


If you look at the darker areas around the lamp, in the dark section on the right, you can see the noise begin to appear. It looks like fuzz or dots in the image. Sometimes this can be reduced in Photoshop or Lightroom. You want to avoid using noise reduction in your photos as much as possible.

So as you can see, changing the ISO of your camera can help a lot in different lighting situations but can also be a sneaky devil. It can totally ruin an image if your not careful, but don’t be afraid of it.


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