Digital Photography ISO Setting - Digital Camera ISO

If you have recently purchased a new digital camera or you are reviewing and comparing ones to buy, you may come across an unfamiliar term called ISO. Originally, it was only high end professional DSLR cameras that had this option on them. However, these days, even inexpensive point and shoot cameras have ISO adjustment options on them. Consequently, photographers are having to learn what it is and what it does.

Back before digital cameras became so popular, ISO indicated film speed and you could only change the ISO in film cameras by buying different ISO rated film itself. Today though, digital cameras can adjust themselves as if you had changed the type of film you are using. All you have to do is change the ISO setting on your camera.

The majority of cameras have an automatic ISO setting on them, and most cameras are set to this auto ISO by default when you first buy them. However, most cameras also offer a way for you to change this setting.

ISO settings are in the form of numbers. The lowest is often ISO 100, but there are some cameras that offer ISO 50 too. How high the ISO settings go will depend on the camera though. Many point and shoot cameras will only go to ISO 400 but DSLR cameras often go to ISO 1600 and some even go as high as ISO 3200.

You will need to read your camera's manual or specifications to know the specific ISO ranges for the camera model you own or are thinking of buying.

Now, with all that said, what is the point of ISO? Well there are many uses for it, but the most common one is lighting control. The higher you have your camera's ISO set to, the easier it is to take pictures in dark places.

If for instance, you are taking pictures of your child's school play in a dark auditorium, you will have an easier time taking those pictures if you can set your camera to ISO 800 or ISO 1600. This is because the camera needs less light when you are using higher ISO settings. So you would be able to take a picture in a dark place without having as many problems with blurring. The blurring is caused by camera shake when you have a slow shutter speed, and the darker the place you are planning to take pictures at, the slower your shutter speeds must be.

By increasing the ISO, you can also increase your shutter speeds or the camera can do it for you automatically and this will help decrease the blurring in your pictures.

One important point to remember with digital cameras is that the higher you make your ISO setting, the less detail and clarity you will get from your pictures. A high ISO setting will actually make the pictures look grainy to the point of being almost old fashioned in many cases.

So if you want crystal clear, sharp looking pictures, you need to use as low of an ISO setting as you can. As a guide, try to use ISO 100 as much as possible, but when you are taking pictures in the dark, you may need to increase your ISO or else you will not be able to get a picture at all.