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Understanding Camera ISO Settings Can Eliminate Unwanted Side Effects
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Understanding Camera ISO Settings Can Eliminate Unwanted Side Effects

Digital cameras work by utilizing a sensor that records the light which passes through the lens. The ISO scale, or International Organization for Standardization, is the universal measurement of that light sensitivity. It has a direct, proportional effect on exposure; twice the ISO number equals an image which is twice as bright, and it is one of the three ways that you can control exposure from your camera. If you understand how to effectively use camera ISO settings, you can have a wonderful asset in your efforts to produce an image that is lit just right. However, if you don’t understand them, you can inadvertently cause your image some unwanted side effects.

High ISO settings will impact the quality of your photos in two ways. One thing you might notice is that an image might be heavily polluted with noise. A second problem that you might notice is that colors might not be as rich. As far as noise goes, technology has been advancing so as to reduce the effect, but that isn’t something you can rely on. Having said that, it is generally a good idea to turn the light sensitivity down as far as you reasonably can. However, there are still benefits to using ISO that can’t be ignored.

For one thing, each of the three ways to control exposure have trade-offs. For this reason, there are situations in which a higher ISO may be the only way to get the exposure right.

Something else you may consider is that a higher light sensitivity will allow you to increase shutter speed if you want to freeze motion. Let’s say that you want to have an image of a bird in flight, but you don’t want to record any motion in that image. You don't want any blur in the photo at all; not even in the wings. By increasing the ISO from two-hundred to four-hundred, you can also double the shutter speed.

Of course, if you want to be creative with your photography, there are instances in which the ‘side effects’ that were mentioned may be desirable. If you want the image to have the feeling of antiquity, higher noise pollution can actually be an asset. Let’s say for example you are photographing old furniture. If the image is a little grainy, it will have an old feel.

Of course, you probably won’t want to create antiquated feeling images all the time. Under normal circumstances, it is a good idea to keep the ISO number down as far as you reasonably can in order to reduce noise and get richer color. But again, there are circumstances in which using a higher sensitivity is necessary, so don’t be afraid to use it if you have to.


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