ISO and How to Use It
The technical name for ISO is International Organization of Standardization, which honestly doesn’t seem to make of ton of sense to me personally. However, ISO is basically a mix of the quality of your image VS the camera’s sensitivity to light. A lower ISO will result in a higher quality image with better colors and sharpness all while letting more light into the lens.
More ISO, More Grain
Shooting with a higher ISO will result in more grain, less vibrancy in the colors, and typically a softer image. This will also allow your lens to be MORE sensitive to light. You should typically try to shoot with a lower ISO. However, on higher end cameras, a high ISO isn’t too much to be scared of. Modern tech is allowing us to shoot at higher and higher ISO’s while maintaining a stable image.
High ISO= More grain and a more sensitive image sensor, resulting in a lower quality image.
Low ISO = Less grain and a less sensitive image sensor, resulting in a higher quality image.
When to Use a High ISO
If a high ISO causes an unflattering image, why even bother? First off, like anything with photography, we will want to avoid the extremities of any of these settings. Secondly, a shot with a little grain in it is way better than the shot that doesn’t exist. Sometimes this really is the only option you have.
Alternatives & Fixes
This is typically when we will want to use a flash, if permitted in the location we’re shooting. Flashes will allow you to keep your ISO lower, while giving you more light shaping options that we will cover later. Another fix for when you just can’t use a flash or don’t have one on you is noise reduction in Adobe Lightroom. This is typically a last-stitch effort and should be used in moderation. Just be careful to not use the built in noise reduction in the camera. This noise reduction is baked-in and should be avoided since we can add it later if desired. The last thing you want to do is have an image that you can’t fix.
As mentioned above, you can use flashes to keep yourself from being pushed into the crazy high ISO world. Though this isn’t always a great solution, it works more than it doesn’t. If you can take the time to learn about off-camera lighting it will change your life. This will allow you to get images that other people are too scared to even try. All while keeping your ISO super low.
Some Camera’s Are Just Better in Low-Light
Some camera’s like the Sony a7sii or the EOS R are simply better in low-light situations, those pesky high ISO situations. Part of the reason for this is that they are full frame cameras. A full frame sensor can handle low light a great deal better than a crop sensor. We will cover that in detail in a later article though. Check out my review of the EOS R and the Sony a7Rii. The a7Rii is another low-light monster of a camera.
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