ISO guideline

FROM SEVEN YEARS AGO: What ISO setting to use? High is good for shooting without blur or shooting in the dark but gives you noise (“grain”). What is optimal?

The following may help.

If you do not use AUTO ISO, my rule of thumb for starting points is:

  • Outdoors, or when you are using a tripod: 200 ISO
  • Indoors: 400 ISO (whether or not you are using flash)
  • Problem light, such as museums or hockey arenas: 800 ISO

You can vary from there of course, but you will not be far off.

Here’s an 800 ISO handheld image (200mm, non-stabilized lens). It won me a media award:

TODAY: so what has changed? Only that you can now shoot, on a modern camera, at higher ISOs before you start no notice grainy noise. What worked then works now—but you can now go higher, sometimes much higher,  without noticeable noise. Life is good.

One flash is enough?

Can you do anything worthwhile with just one flash?

Sure you can. This, of Sheridan student Steph, is a single flash, off camera, without softbox or umbrella, but fitted with a 1/4″ Honl Photo grid::


1/125 sec, f/8, 100 ISO (the studio settings); flash at 1/4 power with grid.

Learn to take your flash off camera and have fun!


A reader asks

A reader asks:

I need your device on buying a secondary speed light . I currently have the canon 430 Ex 3 RT  speedlite. I wish to purchase a second speedlite.  Should  I purchase the Canon flagship or should I buy a secondary 430 ? Are the 430’s more than enough for off camera work? Does it make sense to purchase a speedlite with more power? Any advice would be helpful ?

Well. “It depends”.

If your camera cannot use its pop-up flash to drive other flashes, then buy a 580/600, the flash that can be a “master”. The 430 can only be a “slave”.

Also, the 580/600 are more powerful. And they can rotate a full 360º, which is important when bouncing.

Or… you could do it all in manual mode with all remote flashes. using radio triggers like Pocketwizards. In that case, buy cheap flashes, like 430s or the even cheaper Yongnuo clones.

The choice is yours.


The Pro Flash Manual gives you more information: see

Summer Savings…

Summer. Time to get your camera out and start becoming the pro you always wanted to be.

And if you have not done so, now is the time to purchase my e-books and start practicing your pro skills. Or to get some personal training, one-on-one, either in the same room or via the Internet, worldwide.

And there’s great news. To encourage you to do that, I have just created a temporary summer savings discount code. ANY purchase over $100 is 30% off. Only until the end of May, so hurry and order now. Go to and upon checkout, enter discount code SUMMERSALE.