How To Set Your Camera ISO

A few days ago I received an email with the following question- “how do you select the correct ISO?” This is a great question because the correct ISO depends on the situation. But before I answer this question lets discuss native ISO, as this is important too.

With film, the lower the ISO the better. The slower films were considered the best, like Kodachrome 25. With digital however it’s not quite that simple. Every camera has a “native ISO” and the native ISO will produce the best digital files. This is not to say that shooting at a high ISO is bad, because camera’s today are incredibly at high ISO’s. The native ISO is also not the same with camera’s from the same company. For example, the Nikon 810 has a native ISO of 64, while the Nikon D4s has a native ISO of 100. Other brands can go as high as 160 or 200 for the native ISO. Consult your cameras manual to find your optimal ISO.

 

Now, how do you select the correct ISO?  You want to first think about your shooting conditions. For example, If you’re shooting a wedding inside a dimly lit church, and you can’t use flash, you will want to select a high ISO. An ISO of 1000, 2500 or even 10,000 may be best in this situation. Not very long ago the idea of shooting images above ISO 800 would have scared me to death, but today technology has advanced and cameras give incredible images at high ISO settings

 Lighting condition: Hazy day - Buddha photographed at ISO 400 with Nikon D4s

Lighting condition: Hazy day - Buddha photographed at ISO 400 with Nikon D4s

 Lighting condition: dark - Inside Buddha photographed at ISO 1000 with Nikon D4s

Lighting condition: dark - Inside Buddha photographed at ISO 1000 with Nikon D4s

 Lighting condition: overcast day - photographed at ISO 200

Lighting condition: overcast day - photographed at ISO 200

 

In studio, I like to shoot at the camera’s native ISO, as I have control over lighting conditions.  If my subject is moving fast, like during a FIFA soccer game, or maybe you’re shooting the NBA Finals or fireworks during the 4th of July. When it comes to selecting the right ISO, always think about three things: What you’re shooting, the lighting conditions and how you want your final image to look.

 Studio Lighting - photographed at ISO 200

Studio Lighting - photographed at ISO 200

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