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What is ISO sensitivity?

Tutorial to learn how to set the ISO on a camera 

What is ISO sensitivity? 


ISO sensitivity is used to adapt the camera to different light situations. As we have seen in other tutorials, it depends on three elements: 

  • opening of the diaphragm 
  • the shutter speed. 
  • the ISO sensitivity of the sensor. We will see it in this article! 


Increasing the ISO sensitivity of your camera makes it more sensitive to light. (It adds brightness to your photo). 

The higher the ISO value, the more light-sensitive the sensor. If you want to take a photo in a place with low light such as a poorly lit church, you will have to increase the ISO so as not to have a photo too dark (ISO 2,000 for example). 

You may say that the best ISO setting is the highest, but remember that too high ISO sensitivity produces a negative effect. We call this effect the digital noise. 

These are the small coloured grains that you can see on the right side of the cover photo with the flower. 

So dont overdo the sensitivity of your camera. 


Adjust the ISO sensitivity of your camera

Photo edited in Lightroom. [Click here to learn how to use Lightroom.] 


Adjust the ISO sensitivity of your camera 

It is possible to adjust the ISO sensitivity of the sensor of your camera in automatic mode or manually. Each brand and model of a camera offers different sensitivities, for example the Nikon D700 will allow you to take photos with up to 25,600 ISO, while a Nikon D5 will be able to take photos with the highest ISO of 3,280,000. 

ISO sensitivity numerically represents the level of this amplification. For example, ISO 200 is twice as sensitive as ISO 100. 



The ISO sensitivity :

 ISO 100 – ISO 200 – ISO 400 – ISO 800 – ISO 1600 – ISO 3200 – ISO 6400 – ISO 12800, etc…

Low ISO = less light <=================> High ISO = more light 



Between two values of the scale the sensor in your camera will be twice as sensitive to light – it will receive twice as much light. 

On most modes your camera will automatically choose a suitable ISO setting. If the light is sufficient, it will remain at fairly low values (ISO 100 for example). If it is dark, the camera will automatically choose a higher setting. You can manually adjust the ISO with the S – M – P – A modes. 

Let’s take one more picture in the very dark church. The setting of your camera is in the automatic mode, P mode, or A (or AV) mode. 

The camera will measure the ambient light, fully open the diaphragm, and choose a low shutter speed so that the photo is well exposed. The problem is that the speed will be too slow, so you will have a motion blur. 

To solve this problem increase the ISO! This will bring a lot of light to the sensor, so the camera will increase the shutter speed and your photo will be sharp. 


Increase the ISO sensitivity for more speed 

Let us now imagine a beautiful summer day during which you want to photograph drones in full flight. By increasing the sensitivity you will force the device to set a very fast shutter speed, and the wings will be sharp. 



Photo edited in Lightroom. [Click here to learn how to use Lightroom.] 


Advantages and disadvantages of the ISO 

The advantages of the ISO 

The advantage of the ISO is the ability to take pictures when it’s very dark. By increasing the brightness we can increase the shutter speed, or close the lens diaphragm to get a greater depth of field


The disadvantages of the ISO 

The appearance of digital noise when you push the ISO too high. (There is software for reducing the digital noise in a photo). 


Advantages and disadvantages of the ISO 

Photo edited in Lightroom. [Click here to learn how to use Lightroom.] 



The slower the ISO, the less light your sensor will be sensitive to, the less bright your photo will be. 

The higher the ISO, the more sensitive your digital sensor will be to light, the brighter your photo will be (but be careful about noise). 


You now know “what is ISO sensitivity?” Give us your opinion, and share your experience in the comments. 

And if you think that this article helped you, share it! 

Have a nice photoshoot! 

Lightroom and Photoshop Tutorials 

December 19, 2019

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