ISO to the rescue

A beginners tip, today. About ISO.

All being engineers, you all know that ISO stands for the International Standards Organisation, of course. And you all know that the engineers in Japan chose this term to indicate the camera’s sensitivity setting. You can set the sensitivity of your camera, where more sensitivity means you can take pictures in the dark.

It also means faster shutter speeds. Try this: have someone wave at you indoors and, with your camera set to 100 ISO and with its flash turned off, take a picture. You will see this:

Now set the camera to 1600 ISO.

That means 16 times higher sensitivity (four stops) – which means 16 times shorter shutter speed, as the camera does not need as long to gather the same amount of light; hence 16 times less time for motion blur.

So now you get this:

The price? Noise. More noise, just as when you turn up the radio when you are hearing  a weak signal. The volume will  increase, but so will the noise. In photos, we used to call this “grain”, after the larger silver crystal grains that captured the light on negatives.

But usually, that is a small price to pay if you want to avoid blurry hands.

0 thoughts on “ISO to the rescue

  1. Agreed that noise is to be preferred over blurry pictures. That’s why it amazes me when people say they won’t let the camera go over a certain ISO. I’d like to say that too, but that means not shooting in some situations where a higher ISO would allow decent shots.

    I don’t know about Canons but the Nikons I’ve used have a great auto ISO feature that allows you to set a minimum shutter speed before the ISO starts climbing. Everything just works as it should, if you understand how to set that minimum for your conditions to avoid shake and motion blur. Unless I’m in a specific exception situation, auto ISO sure beats forgetting to make the ISO adjustment from a dark area to a bright area.

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