When to Use a High ISO (+ Tips for High-ISO Photography)


when to use a high ISO in photography

Are there times when a high INTERNATIONALE ORGANISATION FÜR STANDARDISIERUNG makes sense? Whenever should you consider using a high INTERNATIONALE ORGANISATION FÜR STANDARDISIERUNG? And what ISO can contemporary cameras handle?

In this article, I’ll explain all you need to know about high ISOs, which includes:

  • Whether or not high ISOs are actually a good thing (spoiler alert: they are! )
  • Tips and tricks for working with high ISOs for great results
  • How to determine the maximum suitable ISO for your camera
  • Much, much more!

Let’s begin.

When (if ever) should you use a high ISO?

Increasing the ISO is one of the most common photographic fears. Photographers – especially beginners – are afraid to boost the ISO previous 400 or so, lest they will ruin images with ugly, unwanted noise .

10 years ago, these fears were justified. Raising your INTERNATIONALE ORGANISATION FÜR STANDARDISIERUNG to 1600 or 3200 was a no-go for the majority of cameras.

Yet no longer. Things are altering. These days, it often makes sense to improve your ISO to get better images. In fact , the enhancements in camera technology are actually such that you can now comfortably picture at ISO 1600, 3200, and even 6400  with many DSLRs, Micro Four Thirds cameras, and mirrorless digital cameras.

Here are 3 simple situations when capturing with a high ISO is sensible:

1 . When you’re photographing indoors or even at night

For your camera indoors, or you shoot at night, you’ll rapidly run into a problem:

Your images will be dark plus lacking detail.

In such situations, you have 3 solutions:

1st, you can widen your aperture . Frequently , this can help (and it’s the key reason why many night photographers plus event photographers work with an ultra-low f-stop). But it’s rarely enough.

Second, you can drop your own shutter quickness . But unless your subject is completely still and you’re shooting with a tripod, you’ll end up with lots of obnubilate. Not ideal, right?

Which brings myself to the third solution:

You can raise your ISO.

when to use a high ISO in photography concert

Will it introduce several noise? Yes. But the sound produced by modern cameras from high ISOs just isn’t that bad; as I mentioned above, you can comfortably boost your ISO to ISO 3200 and ISO 6400 without much loss of quality.

And by raising the ISO, you’ll end up with much better images, even indoors as well as at night.

2 . When you’re taking photos of fast-moving subjects

The faster your issue, the faster the shutter speed required to render this with zero blur.

For instance, should you be photographing a runner, you might need the shutter speed of 1/500s. If you’re photographing a shifting car, 1/1000s might be more appropriate. And if you’re photographing the diving falcon, 1/3200s is really a safe bet.

Unfortunately, even in relatively good light, boosting your own shutter speed to 1/3200s will result in a too-dark direct exposure – unless you raise the INTERNATIONALE ORGANISATION FÜR STANDARDISIERUNG, that is.

After all, better to end up with the slightly noisy image than a completely blurry one, right?

So do not be afraid to increase your ISO when faced with a fast-moving subject.

when to use a high ISO in photography people walking at night

3. When you’re using a long lens

The longer your lens, the easier it is to end up with blur – because subject movement and camera movement are magnified. So with a long lens, you need a fast shutter quickness, just the same as if you were capturing a moving subject.

That’s why boosting your ISO is so important when working with telephoto lenses; this allows you to boost the shutter swiftness, too, and capture a clear , crisp image.

Sure, when the light is usually bright, you can keep the ISO at 100 or 200 and end up with sharp, well-exposed images.

But as the light begins to drop, you’ll need to increase your ISO with confidence. That way, you can capture bright and clear photos at 300mm, 400mm, and beyond.

when to use a high ISO shadowy man with briefcase
Canon 5D Mark II | 135mm | f/6. a few | ISO 1600

The high ISO allowed for a 1/320s shutter speed; this particular accounted for both the motion within the scene and for the longer focal length used.

But doesn’t a lower INTERNATIONALE ORGANISATION FÜR STANDARDISIERUNG give better image high quality?

Well, indeed – and no.

Yes, if you are setting up a facility shot and controlling the particular lighting. Yes, if you are using a tripod, if you are a panorama photographer, or if there is very strong natural light.   Yes, if you don’t have to compromise your shutter speed or aperture settings to expose the shot correctly. A photo taken at INTERNATIONALE ORGANISATION FÜR STANDARDISIERUNG 100 will always be significantly sharper and cleaner than a picture taken at ISO 1600, assuming the aperture plus shutter speed are the same, in addition to complete control over the subject and the lighting.

In most other case, however , the solution is no ; a lower ISO can not give better picture quality.

Increasing your ISO will help you capture a increased quality picture in many situations. Why? Since it lets you use a faster shutter speed and a smaller aperture to get a sharper result.   When creating a technically great photograph – one along with minimal blur and proper exposure – getting the aperture and shutter speed settings correct is much more important than using a low ISO.

If you want to know how great event photographers consistently produce such bright and stunning images, it’s not only because they use fast lenses and flashes. It’s because they are not really afraid to raise the INTERNATIONALE ORGANISATION FÜR STANDARDISIERUNG.

Plus, the appearance of grain at high ISOs in digital cameras has become more pleasing.   The newer camera models have never only reduced the strength of feed (noise) at high ISOs, but they have also created noise that looks more creative.

ISO has now become a luxury instead of an obstacle. We can photograph within dark areas while handholding the camera when we have to.

crop of the man with a briefcase
Cropped version of the above (ISO 1600) shot. Note the particular minimal, pleasing grain.

Tips for working with high ISOs

Now that you know when and why high ISOs are important, let’s take a look at several easy tips for improving your high-ISO images:

1 . When shooting at a higher ISO, get the exposure right

car at night

Here’s the major problem with photographing at a high ISO:

Raising the exposure in post-production will ruin the look of the grain.

Raising the direct exposure a small amount is usually alright, but if you are photographing having a high ISO, you need to be even more diligent than usual about exposing your images correctly in-camera.

2 . Focus on color noise versus monochrome noise

when to use a high ISO woman smoking at night

You should carefully evaluate how your camera deals with the look of noise inside your color images.   The Fujifilm X100S , for instance, handles color noise exceptionally well. Yet other cameras don’t do so well with color noise at high ISOs.  

In many cases, however , the problem can be solved by converting the photo in order to black and white.

Take a look at the image above. This was taken a while back with a compact mirrorless camera at the really extreme end of its ISO range, 6400.   Yes, there is a lot of grain, but it still looks good.   I prefer not to go over 3200 with my Fujifilm X100S whenever possible, but without using ISO 6400, I probably wouldn’t have been able to capture this particular image.

crop of the woman with a cigarette
Cropped version of the girl with a cigarette (above). Extremely significant grain, but superb color noise.

3. Test your camera’s ISO to determine acceptable noise levels

While I’ve talked in generalizations up to this point, I do think it’s important to evaluate the ISO capabilities of cameras you own (or cameras you’re thinking of purchasing). You should determine their own ISO range, as well as the volume and quality of noise at different ISOs.

If you’re considering particular cameras but can’t get your hands on a copy to try, there are plenty of in-depth reviews, each on this site and elsewhere. Nearly all of these reviews will talk about high-ISO capabilities, and they will often provide sample pictures.

Of course , if you own the camera already, test it out yourself.   Make sure you are using a fast shutter speed and an aperture of somewhere between f/8 and f/16; that way, each image you take is guaranteed to be sharp.

Focus your zoom lens on a nearby object, then take a series of shots, going from ISO 100 all the way to your camera’s maximum INTERNATIONALE ORGANISATION FÜR STANDARDISIERUNG.  

Then pull up the images on your pc and zoom into fully (both in black and white and color). And decide which ISOs you’re pleased with, and which usually ISOs you just can’t deal with.

If you have a photograph printer, I highly recommend printing out your test images to see how the grain appears in real life and to view the differences between images.

It is also important to remember:

If you are regularly printing at smaller sized sizes, such as 5×7 or 8×10, then you will likely not really notice a significant difference between ISO 200 and INTERNATIONALE ORGANISATION FÜR STANDARDISIERUNG 1600.   But if you wish to print at larger sizes, such as 20×30, then you will have a noticeable difference.   So test it out.

Here are a few examples of noise levels at different ISOs on my old Canon 5D Mark II and Fujifilm X100S:

birds flying around a building when to use a high ISO
Canon 5D Tag II | 28mm | f/9 | 1/500s | ISO 800

crop of birds flying around a building
Clipped version of the above shot. Insignificant grain at INTERNATIONALE ORGANISATION FÜR STANDARDISIERUNG 800.

people sitting in the park
Fujifilm X100S | f/9 | 1/250s | ISO 1600

crop of people sitting in the park
Cropped version of the over photo. Note the insignificant and pleasing noise.

Sound can be beautiful!

Now that you’ve finished this post, you know why high ISOs can be useful. And you know if you should consider working at a high ISO.

So don’t be scared. Embrace the noise/grain and create some stunning photos!

Now over to you:

What ISO do you generally shoot at? And how high do you move? Share your thoughts in the responses below!

when to use a high ISO in photography street at night

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