ISO - an approach


Yesterday I googled ISO. I had the feeling as if everything about ISO was written already. Pictures showed the different ISO settings applied on the same object. At the end I knew how useful ISO is and how powerful.

What was still missing is how to approach ISO in a more practical way. It’s great to know what is possible. But how can I use ISO when I take pictures?

  1. ISO is the first setting that I check on my camera. Before I adjust anything else, I adjust ISO to the current light situation. The first question is about the light. This is done rather fast. The correct ISO setting can save a picture.

  2. First orientation I got in a workshop. The teacher told us to use ISO 400 when outside and to use ISO 800 when inside a room. I found this as a very good start. From there I could fine-tune my camera. When the room is very dark I use a higher ISO. Once I was on a beach on a bright day I knew at once that ISO 100 would be great. When the main subject of the picture is bright I can use a lower ISO.

  3. ISO 100 creates pictures of the highest quality. The higher the ISO the more corny the picture gets. This can be wished. It can be a mean to express the night. Corny doesn’t equal bad picture. Yet usually one aims for a low ISO setting.

  4. By now I mentioned two light situations: Inside a room and outside on a normal day. But there are much more difficult light situations. A difficult light situation is when it’s very dark with bright light somewhere, and when in addition the main attraction of the scenery is moving. Then I adjust my camera to ISO Auto. Especially when the light is changing all the time, this is my setting.

  5. It’s a good tip to know the camera by heart. Also in a dark environment one should be able to adjust the camera.

    I remember how to adjust my camera to ISO Auto: Camera on - second button (back, from below) - wheel at the front.

    I remember how to adjust my camera individually: Camera on - second button (back, from below) - wheel at the front to ISO - wheel back to adjust individually.

    There are two respectively three steps to adjust ISO to the light situation..

  6. It’s difficult to forbid to take pictures these days when in a museum or a concert. Usually to take pictures is allowed, but without flash. With ISO a flash can be compensated. It makes sense to understand ISO and how to set it in different light situations.


I took the above picture with a Nikon 750. ISO was in auto mode. I later checked ISO. It was set to ISO 12800, which is the highest setting. Is the picture unpleasant corny? I don’t think so.

To combine situations with ISO settings might help to get faster:

Beach is ISO 100

Snow is ISO 100

Outside is ISO 400

Inside is ISO 800

Concerts is ISO Auto

These are only rough orientations, but it’s a beginning to get familiar with ISO and to adjust it.

I’d appreciate to hear if this post was useful for you. Please comment. Thank you.