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The Best ISO Settings of Your Camera.

Updated on September 9, 2013
Canon Powershot A1200 at ISO 1600 2MP 1/25s
Canon Powershot A1200 at ISO 1600 2MP 1/25s
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Tips on how to effectively use the ISO setting of your camera

The ISO setting in cameras, both in film and in digital cameras, denotes the sensitivity of the film or the Image sensor of the camera. Digital cameras have an ISO range around 80 to 1600 and film also has around 80 to 1600. The Higher the ISO setting, the more sensitive the image sensor or film is to light. However, higher ISO settings will produce more noise or grain.

Noise occurs in images taken with a digital sensor while grain comes from film. These are those bright specs you see in pictures when you zoom in them. These are undesirable when high quality photographs are required. Noise and grain also have some artistic purposes but it is up to the photographer. Most of the time, you would want minimal noise in your images.

The default setting of digital cameras is an Auto ISO. This means that the camera will evaluate the scene you are taking and set an ISO that is as low as possible. If the scene is dark, the camera will increase the ISO just enough to keep the image from too much blur. For many cases, the Auto ISO setting is just enough but in more cases, you would want to manually control it yourself.

Lower ISO settings have crisper and clearer images. Higher ISO settings will give more noise but will allow you to increase your shutter speed without compromising exposure. Higher ISO settings will also increase your flash’s range. Consider the following when selecting an ISO setting:

Tripod: If you have a tripod, you have the luxury of lowering your ISO setting to the lowest without having a lot of blur, unless your subjects are moving. You either would want to use your flash or increase your ISO setting. Slow sync flash is good for taking a still subject and the background at low light scenes but will still blur at moving subjects. Use low ISO settings with tripods when you can put our camera on a steady surface like a tripod.

Moving Subjects. If you want faster shutter speeds at bright light, increase your ISO setting. Increasing ISO when there is plenty of light, like outdoors on a sunny day, will introduce less noise than when it is a bit dark, like when overcast. When you need higher ISO settings but still want a crisp and clear image, you can use a noise removal tool like Noise Ninja or Photoshop’s reduce noise filter.

Poor Lighting Conditions. When you want to take a picture when the lighting is very bad, you may need to increase your ISO to its maximum. Some cameras have a range, where the highest ISO is lower than the maximum, when set to AUTO ISO. When you need the cameras maximum, you might do it manually. Don’t get very frustrated about the noise you get from these pictures. It is expected at low light conditions. When you want that picture and you have little time, take it at the highest ISO or else you risk losing your opportunity or you’ll get a blurred image.

Exaggerate Motion. Most compact cameras do not allow you to set an aperture or shutter speed settings. If you want longer shutter speeds to exaggerate motion of an object, increase your exposure compensation and lower your ISO. This forces the camera to use longer shutter speeds.

Long Time Exposure. When taking pictures of cityscapes at night, you will want to use the long time exposure setting of your camera. If the longest shutter speed is enough to get good exposure, set it at the lowest ISO setting. This will keep noise from degrading the quality of the image. However, if the shot is underexposed at longest shutter speed at lowest ISO setting, increasing the ISO speed will help you get better exposure. Select a setting that is not too high but yields good results.

Again, getting the best ISO setting for taking any picture is a trade-off. Higher ISO means you can use a faster shutter speed but would result to more noise. Lower ISO means you're shutter speed will be limited but noise is reduced. Balance your ISO settings to suit any given situation, there isn't any single best ISO speed. It just depends on the situation.


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      Lynn S. Murphy 5 years ago

      Great information that I shall attempt to put to use.