How to Use ISO Settings in Digital Photography

ISO should be one of the easiest aspects of digital photography to master, but many beginners in photography still have a hard time understanding this fundamental camera setting.

how to use iso settings in photography

“Streets Of NYC” captured by Björn Lexius (Click Image to See More From Björn Lexius)

I suspect this is because of the way it is being taught. You see, ISO started out as a property of film, and it was much easier to visualize it in terms of the old technology. So that’s where I want to start my explanation, before bringing you into the 21st century with ISO today.

ISO actually started out as ASA, which stands for American Standards Association. Decades ago, a commercial film manufacturer came up with a set of numbers to define the sensitivity of different types of film. That set of numbers was accepted by the American Standards Association, so all American manufacturers could use the same system. Later, the American standard was adopted by the International Standards Organization, so ASA became ISO.

What does all that mean? Well, it means that the letters ISO didn’t really stand for anything except for the name of an organization.

What is important is what ISO referred to, which was the sensitivity of the film. The emulsion on some films reacted quite slowly to light, and on other films much faster. Slower films had a smaller ISO number, like 25, 64, 100. Faster films had a higher number, like 200, 400, 800.

A slow film needed a relatively high level of light to create a well-exposed photo. That meant that to take a photo in darker conditions, you would need to use a fairly wide aperture and/or a fairly slow shutter speed to get a result. On the other hand, a faster film reacted to light a lot more quickly, so it needed much less exposure to light to take a photo.

Fast film sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? A chance to take a photo in any conditions without a tripod, and to freeze moving subjects with very fast shutter speeds. So why didn’t everyone just use fast films all the time?

iso settings in digital photography

Photo captured by Beebo Wallace (Click Image to See More From Beebo Wallace)

The answer is that the advantages of fast films came with a trade-off; loss of image quality. The grains of emulsion on a fast film were larger, so a photo taken on a film with ISO 400 or 800 had a rougher, ‘grainier’ look. This may not have been a problem in a small print, but became quite apparent with big enlargements. Consequently, most professional photographers preferred to use slower films of 100 or 64 ISO for most of their work.

So is this just a lesson in ancient history? After all, you have a digital camera, so what does all this have to do with you. Well, it may surprise you to know that despite the huge revolution in technology, the essentials of ISO have not changed one bit.

Your camera should allow you the option of adjusting your ISO setting. Just like in the days of film, if you set your ISO to a low number like 100, you will need more light to create a correct exposure. That means that you may need to keep a tripod handy for cloudy days, and in certain low-light situations you may not always get the aperture and shutter speed settings you want. If you set your ISO to 400 or 800, your camera will become much more sensitive to light; you will be able to shoot in exactly the same conditions without a tripod, and with greater flexibility to choose the aperture and shutter speeds you want.

But here is the amazing part. Higher ISO settings still come with the same trade-off that once existed with film. Along with the speedier sensitivity to light, you can also expect the image to have a grainier finish. I don’t know if it is pixelation, or digital noise, or a combination of both, but it is generally understood that for all their advantages, high ISO photos come with a reduction of image quality that becomes more obvious the more you enlarge the image.

iso settings tips photography

“Man at the metro” captured by Six Pixels (Click Image to See More From Six Pixels)

So there you have a quick introduction to what ISO is all about. Perhaps I am just showing my age, but I find this subject easier to explain in old-technology terms. For many people it is easier to visualize when related to something solid like film, rather than something that happens on a computer chip. Anyway, I hope this helps you if you have had trouble understanding what ISO is all about.

About the Author:
Andrew Goodall writes for and is a nature photographer based in Australia. He manages a gallery in Montville full of landscape photography from throughout Australia.

Tips for Using Shadows in Photography

Photographers tend to pay a lot of attention to light. In fact, we often think of light as one of the most important aspects of photography. On the other hand, shadows may seem to be less important – simply a lack of light. This would be a major mistake — for light is nothing without shadows.

shadows photography

“Apple Store in 5th ave” captured by Jet Rabe (Click Image to See More From Jet Rabe)

Shadows are not simply a dark mass that borders the light. Rather, shadows are an entity as alive as the light. It is the shadows that shape the light, draw attention to the light, and integrate with the light to produce striking photographic opportunities. If we are to reach our full potential as photographers, we must think as much in terms of mastering the shadows as we do of mastering the light. This article details five uses of shadows in creating dynamic photos.

  • Contrast and Drama
  • Focus
  • Directing the Attention
  • Revealing Form
  • Revealing Texture
Contrast and Drama

How to Digitally Add Shallow Depth of Field

How to Digitally Add Shallow Depth of Field.

Photography Tips on Shooting in Parks – The Vantage Points

Parks are one of the major places where a photographer can find many interesting subjects and challenges. But many of us shoot in parks in the same way we shoot in a birthday party. Here’s some of my personal tips that I have learned from jobs and experience that will dramatically improve the results of your park photos.

park photography tips

“Central Park” captured by Jason Lavengood (Click Image to See More From Jason Lavengood)

I. Searching for a subject

Parks are green, well most them are. So the first thing to search for is a non-green contrasting color object. Something that stands out. It can be someone walking their dog, or a tree/bush with unusual color or even an empty chair or structure in the park.

New Photoshop Video Tutorial: Color Splash Effect in CS6

This video tutorial by IceflowStudios will single out a specific color in your images, leaving the rest black and white in Photoshop CS6.

This method also works in previous versions of Photoshop!

Striped Road Inspired Text Effect

Create a striped road (street) inspired text effect using the Pen Tool, some Brushes, and Blend Modes:


Tips For Photographing Flowers

With the advent of digital cameras and the huge amount of features, close-up photography has become the domain for everyone. The simple macro feature on the current generation of digital compacts has opened up this world to virtually anyone with a camera. Of course the ideal situation is the use of SLRs but is not limited to them.

flower photography tips

“The Red Intruder” captured by Francois Novecento Boutiee (Click Image to See More From Boutiee)

One of the first accessories I bought for my film SLR way back in the 1980s was a set of close-up filters that screwed on the end of my lens. This added a new dimension to my photography and I was able to get in really close to my intended subjects, flowers. Although, I did dabble a bit in shooting some of the slower insects and bugs. But flowers were still my focus. Here are some simple tips that will help you shoot better flower photos.

How to Achieve a Realistic Tilt-Shift Timelapse Effect in Photoshop

Timelapse videos are awesome, and tilt-shift lenses are awesome, and when you put them together, you create something amazing. But tilt-shift lenses are not exactly something just anyone can buy. They’re very expensive, and it’s hard to justify investing that amount of money into one lens. Luckily, we have an alternative: Photoshop. In this easy-to-follow tutorial, Julieanne Kost explains every step you need to take in order to create your own tilt-shift timelapse using Photoshop CS6:

At first, the whole tilt-shift lens blur alpha mask Photoshop batch thing seems pretty complicated, but Julieanne has a skill for explaining things very clearly and concisely, especially for showing how to do the advanced technique rather than just add a blur gradient.

tilt shift photoshop cs6

Recording a series of actions will allow you to batch process hundreds of images very quickly

The result of the tilt-shift timelapse is beautiful, and leaves the door open to lots of photographic possibilities. Of course, this technique doesn’t have to be used for a timelapse video. This could also work on a single image in which you want a tilt-shift perspective.

Backlit Photography 101: Secrets of Expressive Backlit Portraits

Do you want to avoid an overworked edit in order to obtain golden portraits with sunrays and lens flares? Shooting against the sun is challenging, however three factors and a bit of practice can easily transform your backlit photography. One of the leading rules in elementary photography is to avoid shooting against the sun. Usually you will end up with . . .

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The post Backlit Photography 101: Secrets of Expressive Backlit Portraits appeared first on Photodoto.

Silhouette Photography Tips and Tutorial

Normally every time you take a photo, you want the subject to be as crisp and clear as possible. However, today, we will talk about a technique that hides almost everything from the viewer, leaving it all to the imagination and delivers a stunning effect at the same time.

silhouette photography tips

“Girl and Sunset” captured by Arman Zhenikeyev (Click Image to See More From Arman Zhenikeyev)

Silhouettes are used by artists and professionals to convey drama, emotion in a simple yet striking manner and we are going to give you a quick run down on how you can create magical silhouettes with your camera.

1) Look at your sources of light

Typically, when you take a photo, there are two sources of light, the natural ambient light and the light of your flash.

The first thing you need to do to get a silhouette is force the flash of your camera off. That way, you will heighten the contrast of the subject and ensure that the subject comes out as dark as possible.

The second thing to do is to identify the sources of ambient light. Silhouettes come out best when there is only one source of light ( eg: sunlight ) against which you can place your subject. If there are multiple sources of lights, try to shut down some of them or choose the brightest one for maximum effect.

how to take a silhouette photo

“Morning Blue” captured by Björn Lexius (Click Image to See More From Björn Lexius)

2) Compose your image

Create a mental picture of what you want to shoot. The magic of silhouettes is all in the shapes you create, so think about whether you want to capture dancers, romantic love scene or something else. This of course depends to some extent on your subject too.

Once you have a mental picture, place your subject in front of the light source and get the shape you want. If you are unsure of what you want, just try out some forms and see what you like. If you are taking the silhouette of a person, try to experiment with the positioning of their hands or features of the face – remember, its a silhouette so you’ve got to express it with the boundary of the object.

3) Fool your camera

Now this is the tricky part. Most cameras today are extremely intelligent, in fact so intelligent that as photographers we need to fool them sometimes to get what we need. To understand this bit, we need to get into metering of the photo.

Metering is the way in which a camera determines how to expose the photo. Remember, a camera can’t see colors, it can only sense the intensity of light – so when you point it to a scene, it sees shades of gray, finds the middle shade in the scene and sets the exposure accordingly.

silhouette photography tutorial

“People Against the Sun” captured by Jimmy Drougo (Click Image to See More From Jimmy Drougo)

This effectively means that if you are shooting a dark subject, the camera will figure it out and will increase the exposure to compensate. Now that’s not what we wanted, did we? The way out is to point the camera to the brightest patch in the scene and press half the shutter button ( this is when it does metering, so we are making the camera feel that the scene is really bright ) and then move the camera to the desired scene while holding the shutter button half down.

When the desired composition is achieved, press the shutter button completely to capture the photo. Thats pretty much it – you now have a great silhouette shot.

About the author:
Pranav Bhasin is an avid photographer and provides photography learning tutorials on his blog (lifeblob dot com). He also likes to interact and help amateur photographers.

12 Days of Christmas coming soon!
Both here in my Blog and in the Graffishop, special things will be happening during the 12 Days of Christmas! Stay tuned!