ISO Rule of thumb

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 (it won me a media award):

7 thoughts on “ISO Rule of thumb

  1. Was the picture above shot with an Image Stabilized Lens, or do you have exceptionally steady hands?

    My EOS-30D has a ISO 100 setting. Is there any downside to using the lowest ISO possible that provides an acceptable set of shutter speed / aperture combinations? I always choose 100 and only go up if I have to.

    I guess on modern DSLRs there’s no dietectable quality difference between ISO 100 and 200 so you advised 200 because it allows higher shutter speeds.

  2. First off, thanks for your great site with lots of good information!

    Secondly. I’m genuinely interested in knowing why that picture won a media award?
    Is it just me or am I not seeing what makes that picture a winner? Is there something one should know about what’s going on in the picture to know what makes is special? Don’t get me wrong, the colors are great, I just don’t get it.

    Best regards


  3. That explains it. I didn’t see that there was a tac team working right there. Thanks for the fast answer. Congrats on the shot, I get it now. πŸ™‚


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