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Photography “SAY” What?

Posted by on April 23, 2012

If you’re new to photography, or even if you’ve been doing it for awhile, those photography terms can get the best of you. And you can get OVERWHELMED fast!

Each Monday I’m going to dive into a Photography Term so we all have a better understanding of what it means.  After the article, in the comments, please feel free to ask questions.

ISO: (International Organization for Standards) When referring to digital photography measures the sensitivity of the image processor.  The lower the number the less sensitive to light your camera is and the finer the grain.  You would use a higher ISO setting in darker situations: “night photography, an indoor sportings event, etc.) however there will be more “noise” or “grain” found within your shots.  Having a tripod can help with lowering the ISO to a lower level by the use of “long exposure” but that is for another day!  (

By utilizing Auto Mode on your camera, the ISO is usually chosen for you, but a lot of camera’s today do give you the option of choosing your own ISO.  By giving you the means of choosing your own ISO, your shutter speeds can open up along with your aperature (the size of the opening of a lens when a picture is taken.) www.

How to Choose the Best ISO:

Before any shot, evaluate the situation:

Light: Is it sunny out?  Is it cloudy?  Are you indoors, or outdoors?  What is the light around my subject?

If there is a lot of light, you will be okay with utilizing a lower ISO setting, however, if you’re in the shade, you will have to increase your ISO setting.

Grain: Do I want a shot with a lot of grain, or little grain?  This is a huge factor in the kind of ISO you’ll be utilizing.  Remember, the higher the ISO the more grainy your shots will become.

Tripod: Am I utilizing a tripod?  If I am, I have more options in keeping my ISO low.  However, if I’m in a low lighting situation without a tripod, unfortunately I”ll have to increase my ISO speed, and the shot will be a lot more grainy.

Movement: If your subject is stationary, and there is a lot of light around you, you will be okay with a low ISO setting.  However, if you have subject that is moving you will want to increase your ISO setting to give you more options when it comes to your shutter speed.

If you were to utilize a small ISO setting during the night while you were walking around, the majority of your pictures would come back blurry, and you know those blurred lights you see in pictures from time to time? That’s based on movement during the night.  A huge reason why tripods are such a need for night photography.

So, get out, grab your camera and begin playing with ISO speeds, and see if you notice the results.  Start with your lowest setting, focusing in on one subject then continue to up your settings.  Tell me, what was your favorite setting for that subject.  Go out, have fun and share with me the results! =)

And my general rule of thumb with the ISO speeds I use are this:

Outdoors and Sunny: Lowest ISO possible.

Indoors with lots of light: I can push it 200, sometimes 400.

Indoors with low lighting: I like to keep it to 800.

Night Photography, walking around: I will push it to 6400, if your camera doesn’t go that high, try it at 1600.  My SO told me the key to night photography when walking around is that you need a shutter speed of at last 1/60 second, so if I’m using an ISO of 1600, but can’t get my shutter speed to 1/60 I need to up my ISO from there.


11 Responses to Photography “SAY” What?

  1. Daniel Wheaton

    Thanks for the tips. I worked as a newspaper reporter/photographer for a while. The photographer side of things was something that I enjoyed, but I probably wasn’t particularly good at it. (I think I got lucky a lot with some nice shots.) Although I’ve had some technical photography training, I’ve never really gotten the hang of all of the settings possibilities on the camera. Perhaps I just don’t have the patience to really learn it and love that “AUTO” setting. At any rate, thanks for sharing–a great reference post.
    Daniel Wheaton recently posted..Get paid on time by being clear and up-front.

  2. Jamie

    Thanks Anita! My goal is to explain enough in the simplest terms possible so everyone can take something away from it =) I hope it helped.

  3. Nisha

    Oh, so much to learn! I’m glad you’re keeping it simple. I feel like cameras have so many features with so much to offer, but most of the time we just use all the “auto” settings because we don’t know how to use everything! And then, what’s the point of having all the features??? 🙂 I look forward to more Monday posts.
    Nisha recently posted..Healthy In A Hurry: Salmon Burgers

  4. Helena

    Thank you so much for explaining this! I’ve been trying to figure out how to take half-decent night shots with my little point and shoot. I know it’s got a manual function on there, so I will try your suggestions and see what happens.
    Helena recently posted..Five Ways Being More Assertive Helps Build Your Self-Confidence

  5. Kelly

    Oh that seems like so much to remember! I think I would have to print out your post and carry it with me every time I think about taking photos for a few weeks before I would get the hang of it.
    Kelly recently posted..Playing Games is Not Playing for Keeps

  6. Dale Anne Potter

    THANKS Jamie for detailing this for us all. I always wondered & didn’t take the time to research. GREAT POST!!!
    Dale Anne Potter recently posted..Re-Inventing

  7. Jennifer

    Thanks for the great information. Whenever I buy a new camera I tell myself I’m going to read the manual and actually figure out how to use this one. Of course, that never happens. Now I know at least one thing ~ and it’s something I’ve heard about and been clueless on before!
    Jennifer recently posted..5 Tools to Focus Your Business and Double Your Profits

  8. Romina

    Love this post and am looking forward to more of the series. I told you that I wasn’t a very good photographer, but now with your help, I can at least start to understand stuff about my camera. I would love to read the manual, or even watch the DVD, but with 2 young kids, I’m not sure when I can start.
    Romina recently posted..Green Paper™ Products Green Party Ware Pack Review & Giveaway (Celebrate the Earth)

    • Jamie

      Id love to help you out anytime =) there is a lot to discover especially with all the options and menu items.

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