Hen House Photography Series: All About ISO

Hen House Photography Series: All About ISO

Hello and welcome (back) to the Hen House Photography Series. Today we begin part 4 of the series, all about ISO. Now if you are new to this we have been discussing the means behind becoming a photographer. Part one of the series revolved around all the equipment one needs to get a photography business (or hobby) started. Part two was the beginning of our how to shoot in manual mode and part three was focused on aperture. That brings us to today talking about shooting in manual mode and what to know about ISO.

First a little about me, just for the credentials..

I would like to first thank you for coming to this page and taking time to learn about the art and technology behind photography. In 2016 I began shooting professionally and started my own photography business, Hen House Photography. Note that I started shooting in 2011 and didn’t begin charging clients until 2016. I chose to do this out of respect to other artists. I did not buy a camera and call myself a photographer the next day. I learned the ins and outs of how to shoot and how to properly use the equipment on hand. Again, if you are reading this I commend you for taking the time to educate yourself!

The following year I studied photography and graphic design  at a local community college. Taking courses in the subject helped a lot, especially taking a film photography class. Film is absolutely amazing, and a good dark room session does wondrous things for the soul! I am now going to let you know all I know about ISO and how it can help you get amazing photographs.

(Disclosure: There are affiliate links through out this post. At no cost to you, if clicked upon it is possible I may make a small compensation.)

ISO: What is it?

ISO is simply the sensitivity setting when it comes to light. On most cameras the ISO ranges from 200-1600. It is actually very easy to understand once you get the feel for it. The greater the light the lower ISO you are going to want, and vice versa.  Although many DLSR’s come with an auto ISO setting I encourage you to shoot in manual. Cameras have become more developed over the years but they can confuse themselves on automatic settings (thinking they may be in a lower lit setting than they actually are). This can result in the image having more noise or less  than you would want. 

Noise, to simply put it is the amount of grain you see in the image. Most of the time we try to avoid having any noise in an image unless wanting to go for a more vintage look. The beauty of this is that we the photographers have complete control of the amount of noise in each image because we can manually adjust the ISO.

Understanding ISO

Since we know what ISO is, now let’s talk about how to use it. By having the correct settings it opens up to the door for longer exposures and low lighting shots. For most cameras ISO goes up by 100’s.  If there is little to no natural light (typical when shooting indoors) you are going to want a high ISO

The image above was shot in a very low lit setting. Because I wanted the chair to be the main focal point I wanted to have the aperture at a lower number. In order to do this I set the ISO to 800. For indoor and low light shooting you will want your ISO to be around 600-1600. If you are using a speed light or flash, lower the ISO to about 400.

When shooting outdoors in or in a bright setting set your ISO to a low number. I usually have mine on 100 when shooting outdoors. If it is overcast or the sun is starting to go down I will bump the ISO up to 400.

Though this image is partially indoors (in a van with all doors and windows open) the lighting is still strong enough to have a lower ISO. With this shot the ISO was set to 100.

Here is a little cheat sheet for shooting with ISO:

If you shooting with one of Nikon’s D3000 series DSLR’s you will have to press the menu button and find ISO, then you can adjust it from there. If your are shooting with a full frame such as the Nikon D750 you will hold down the zoom out button and move the dial until you have reached the setting you are happy with.

So you see ISO is actually the most simplistic settings when it comes to shooting manually. If you have a general idea of your surroundings when shooting you will be able to properly set the ISO, and then the rest of the settings will be based off of that. Yes, it is simple but VERY important! 

Here we come to an end of our quick crash course on understanding ISO. This concludes part 3 of the series but stay tuned for part 4 which will be the final piece of our shooting manually puzzle:shutter speed!

Thanks for the read!


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