Photography Tips – ISO

Shot by Shot Adjustable ISO

Is a wonderful thing in a digital camera

Consider film – a roll was what it wasforever

But you must use it properly (many don’t)

Or suffer a loss in image quality

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Washington National Cathedral

Big Mistake – ISO 1600 on a camera where 1600 was max ISO

With camera on tripod, a faster shutter speed wasn’t needed

So why 1600? I plain forgot to reset the ISO. Dumb!

I meant to be shooting at ISO200

At least I got the composition I wanted 😉

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On this Nikon D70, ISO1600 was its limit – up in the stratosphere noise-wise. Got set there during an experiment and then never reset – for the rest of the day! Taught me a real lesson. 🙁

Before & after

Noise reduction can reduce (not eliminate) noise

BUT – at a loss of detail & image quality


No excuse. A dumb mistake. While the final image doesn’t look terrible, it could have been a lot better.

and at 100% – (click & see the difference)


Be a quiet photographer –

don’t make noisy images.

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Never use an ISO above your camera’s native ISO** unless you –

Need a faster shutter speed than is otherwise possible or

You want to intentionally introduce noise

Never use an ISO below your camera’s native ISO** unless you –

Need a slower shutter speed (typically twice as long) or

Want to “smooth” your image (may not be perceptible)

.
** Native ISO – without getting too technical, this is the default ISO of your camera

It’s the ISO that gives the best image quality (IQ) for your camera

It’s part of the camera’s design

It’s not the same for all cameras

Most users know that they can raise the ISO but not all realize that lower values are also possible on most cameras

Native on my D300 is 200 but it can be lowered to 100

Higher ISO’s introduce noise

Lower ISO’s result in some loss of detail (usually slight)

think of its effect as similar to that of a typical blurring noise reduction program

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Image Quality is precious. It cost you big $$. Why would you throw it away?

Today’s tip is based on examining the EXIF data of lots of photos over the years.

EXIF that routinely shows ISO values above the default  –

often even for a well-lit & basically still subject

Resulting in shutter speeds of 1/1000 when 1/100 was plenty

Why? Don’t do that!

Sure, today’s camera’s ISO can go where no others have gone before.

But still – degraded IQ is degraded IQ.

Don’t develop bad habits.

Leave the ISO at the default value until

you know a change is needed

and then immediately reset it to default (or I guarantee you’ll forget – do as I say & not as I did)

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My post
OOPS! My camera settings were ALL wrong!
Might be of interest.
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0 thoughts on “Photography Tips – ISO”

  1. I am the Queen of Forgetting to Check the ISO. And of forgetting to reset it after bumping it up for a low-light shoot. Sigh. I have made up a luggage tag that is attached to my camera case that says:
    Have you checked:
    – the ISO?
    – which filter you have on?
    – if your batteries are recharged?
    – whether you have a memory card in the camera?
    I’m hoping it will help…

      • Yeah, it’s a hazard of the game. I set my camera to lock if there’s no memory card and bought a couple of extra batteries, so those foibles are covered. The ISO gets me every time, though. I think I must actually flick it accidentally sometimes, since the finger motion for changing the ISO on my camera is very close to that for changing the focus spot. Going to reprogramme my brain to check ISO when turning on camera…… Wish me luck.

  2. I did that recently with some portraits that I was shooting of my wife. The night before I was taking shots inside my house at night and had adjusted the ISO to 1600. The next day while shooting my wife at a park I did not realize I had forgotten to change the setting until maybe 20 shots into the shoot.. Sadly some of the best shots were when I was at 1600 so I had to keep those anyways other wise it would have been a complete bust.

    • That is exactly how I ended up at 1600 for the cathedral shot. I was experimenting the night before. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize my error until downloading the images the next day after the shoot was done. Good thing I’m an amateur and the only person disappointed was me and not a client.

    • Let me add another to the list – forgetting to reset Auto Exposure Bracketing to OFF.
      You forget to do this & go back to “normal” shooting but, lo & behold, the subsequent captures are at different exposures as you step through the AEB sequence (unbeknownst to you).

  3. Some of the newer cameras where they have tried to increase the resolution but not changed the sensor size, makes us very prone to acquire digital noise , thanks MJ

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