Photography Basics: Part 1 (ISO)

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Photography is an interesting skill to have, as it is something that involves 2 things: 1) your senses, and 2) your storytelling capabilities. In other words, look around you: The world is filled with very interesting things! Many, many items (or people) can be photographed (with their permission of course!); the question is, what is it that interests you? Is it landscapes, or photographing people in a journalistic way? Do you like architecture, or would you like to capture once-in-a-lifetime moments, such as Weddings?…. If you’re desiring to “capture” these moments in your camera, you first have to understand the basics of your camera (which is what these posts are for!). So here goes:

In our previous post, we said a camera is composed of 4 different elements: 1) ISO, 2) Shutter Speed, 3) Aperture, and 4) Lighting. Although Lighting is the most critical (and most challenging) of the 4 elements, we’ll start first with the ones that aren’t as “sexy” first (lol). And, as a final note, if you have a DSLR camera, or even a point-and-shoot camera, get it out of the camera bag for this post! It could be of benefit as we discuss the different elements….

 

ISO

So, what is ISO? Although the definition, according to Dictionary.com is quite technical in nature (you can see it here), we’ll summarize it for you here: ISO is a camera setting that determines the camera’s “sensitivity” to light. If you haven’t noticed, there are numbers within this setting (called “ISO levels”), such as 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600,and 3200. The lower the number, the “less sensitive” to light the camera is; the higher the number the “more sensitive” …. But then, here’s a caveat: If you increase the number too high, there is a chance you may get “noise,” or graininess in your pictures….

Here’s a real-life example: When we are outside, we tend to shoot with the camera setting at 100 because the sunlight is so powerful; however, at night, where the lighting isn’t good at all, we set the ISO level to 800, or even 1600 (depending on your camera). Unless you have one of the latest Canon cameras out there (starting with the T4i and later; 2012 models), you can get away with shooting your camera at the “ISO level” of as high as 3200 without a flash, and yet have “usable” pictures…. A few image examples are below:

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The above shot is of a mansion’s fountain in Hampton, Georgia, and the ISO Level was set to 100. Although it was overcast, the light was still quite powerful….

 

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This shot, on the other hand, is of the City of Atlanta, and the ISO Level was set to 800. In future posts, we’ll get into detail about “how” this was shot!

 

So, as you can see, the ISO Level on a camera can have a wide-ranging effect on how a picture looks! So, here’s a thought: To explore this feature, 1) change your camera’s settings to Manual, and then 2) go out and take some shots of scenery, changing the ISO Level settings in your camera! The best way to “see” the difference is simple: Take a shot of an object at 100, then another picture of the same object at 200, and so on…. This will help you in understanding what the ISO setting does in your camera!

In next week’s post, we’ll get into the next “element,” which is Shutter Speed….

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