Explaining Camera ISO and Its Huge Importance

Often, a photographer talks about ISO settings.  I shall explain what it is and its huge importance.  The term ISO originated in film photography.   If one were to look at a roll of film, they would more than likely see these numbers: 100, 200, 400 and 800. These were usually the typical numbers one would have found in almost any store selling camera film. Yet, there were films lower and higher than these numbers.  Usually, you would find these in camera stores.

ISO numbers described the film’s sensitivity to light. The higher the speed number, the more sensitive to light the film is.  Anything less than 200 speed was generally used for non-moving objects.  Also, anything less than 200 was used for capturing high detail in an image.  For sunny days, some folks used 100 and 200 speed film. Still, one could have used 400.   400 speed was generally recommended for capturing moving objects.  One would use 400 for events like car races or for things like capturing birds in flight.  Also, for general use, some photographers used 400 film. In my humble opinion, for a family trip, 400 would have been the ideal film to buy.  Like I mentioned earlier, it was good for daylight and good for moving objects.  800 speed and up was used for low-light situations.  When one photographed a concert without using flash, they used a high speed film.  Yet, there was a draw back; high speed film was known to cause grain. For flash photography, many photographers used 400 to 800 film.  As for grain, when using 400 and 800, you really couldn’t see it when using flash.

Here’s another thing about ISO.  Remember when I mentioned 800 speed for low-light? If one were to use anything less in low-light, the image would suffer from camera shake. As some may recommend 400 speed for low light, my humble opinion says 800.

I misled you somewhat.  I explained as if film is no longer used.  It still is.  So, for you “photography purists” still using film, my deepest apologies if I offended you.

Everything I mentioned about film, applies to digital photography. Just like with film, you would use digital ISO for light sensitivity.  All DSLR cameras possess an ISO setting. Some compact digital cameras have them also.  Now, you know what ISO means and its huge importance to photography.

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