What is ISO?
ISO or ISO speed is your camera’s sensitivity to light. In the old times with film cameras, this was known as “film speed”. The higher the ISO setting you use, the brighter the photo. If you use a lower ISO setting, then the photo will be darker. To perform amazing tricks in photography, you must master this setting
ISO is only a support setting
Even though technically this setting is important, your photos’ brightness is still at the mercy of your camera’s shutter speed. Read my first article, Photo Tricks and Effects For Beginners to learn more about that. For example, Lets say you use an ISO at 6400 or higher. If you are taking pictures at high shutter speed like 1/1600, then your picture will almost be guaranteed to come out dark or pitch black.
That’s why before you calibrate your camera’s ISO speed, you must first calibrate your camera’s shutter speed, not the other way around. ISO only serves as a minor adjustment to the overall brightness of the photo. If you are serious about being good with tricks in photography, then don’t ever confuse the priority.
General ISO settings
In general situations, ISO 100 – 400 is recommended. If you are aiming to create photo tricks in special situations, then that’s a different story.
ISO settings for light painting
If you are performing special photo tricks and effects like light painting, then you must do it at night with little to no light at all. It’s impossible to do it in an environment with bright lights. While you setup for your light painting, it’s recommended that you at least make your ISO 100 or lower.
If possible, make your camera’s ISO “1”. For those using point a shoot cameras that doesn’t have that capability, look below later for more information on how to change that for free.
The reason you want a lowest ISO possible is because light painting involves capturing bright light trails. If the ISO is too high, the light trails will start “splattering”, and you will also start noticing “ghostly shadows” from unwanted subjects around you.
ISO Setting for Sports Photography
If your goal is a spectacular sports photo tricks, then you must do it during the day time with bright sunlight, or in a very bright environment. Sports photography involves capturing a “frozen” moment of your subject at the climax of the game, so the goal is to avoid having too much motion blur. The only way to reduce motion blur while the athlete is in motion is to increase your camera’s shutter speed to at least 1/500. This shutter speed makes your photos very dark.
Even if you max out your camera’s ISO speed, it will still be dark. That’s why taking sports photos in a dark environment is impossible. There won’t be any tricks in photography that can help you.
However, if the above conditions are satisfied, then alter the ISO speed to general settings of 100 – 400. Since you probably desire crisp clear photos, any higher ISO is not recommended. I recommend you use ISO bracketing within that range to reduce chance of missed shots. Read my article, Tricks in Photography With Bracketing to learn more about that.
ISO Speed Setting for Portraits
If you are taking regular portrait photos or family photos, then your ISO speed can be a little more flexible. Just remember that high ISO speed creates noise which makes your photos come out with grainy effects. This can increase drama and romantic emphasis.
ISO settings can vary greatly depending on the environment you are in. If the setting is a bright sunny day then use lowest ISO possible, matched with 1/50 to 1/80 shutter speed. If you are taking pictures indoors, then use a slightly higher ISO setting of 250 to 400.
I hope this article has helped you performing amazing photo tricks and effects. Good luck.