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Digital tips from a local Photographer. Melissa Sheets

Thursday, January 5, 2012

What in the world is ISO?    
 Warning this post will be boring if you aren't a camera junkie

     Yesterday a friend came in, he told me that until recently he didn't realize the importrance of ISO in his camera settings. He has been an active member in our photography club, and he said until he heard us going on and on about ISO he hadn't given it too much thought.
      Well that made me stop and think. Most people want to know how they can instantly take better images, and my answer is usually.... Manual mode, and up your ISO. Even outside I like to shoot with my ISO around 400, because it gives me a quicker shutter speed, which results in crisper images. But, if I'm telling folks to change their ISO and they have no idea what it is..... it it really helping them? No! So this post will explain my take on ISO.
     In photography, the ISO is pronounced "EYE-so," not "eye-es-oh," however it does not have anything to do with the Greek "isos," as others have claimed.  ISO" is a word that represents the International Standards Organization. This Switzerland based company measures lots of things including the sensitivity of film. So this term has been carried over from our days of shooting film.
     In a nut shell, a typical digital camera will have ISO values of 100, 200, 400, 800, and 1600 as a minimum. The higher the number, the more sensitive the camera is to light. These values are relative to one another, so ISO200 is twice as sensitive as ISO100, and ISO800 is four times as sensitive as ISO200, and so on. Every time you double the ISO setting, you halve the required exposure time, and vice versa.

Now I'm going to head up front and take some quick shots to demonstrate.

                               OK, So in the pictures my camera settings stayed the same except for the change in my ISO. By increasing the ISO you can make a darker image brighter. This means in a low light situation by bumping up your ISO you can have a faster shutter speed. This is the best trick ever, even if you are just taking pictures of your children blowing out their birthday candles.

Now with all that being said, it is important to note that all cameras are not equal. Entry level cameras can not handle a higher ISO without creating digital noise. This is what makes an image appear grainy. Use your ISO settings at your discretion. Noise isn't always a bad thing, for smoky dark shots, I think noise adds to the ambiance.

I could go on and on about ISO, but I think this was enough to get you started. Happy shooting!

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