Thursday, February 18, 2010

Camera controls that can improve your travel photography - part three

There are three photographic concepts that can make a considerable difference in your travel photography. We touched on aperture and shutter speed already. Today’s topic is ISO settings.

ISO (or EI – exposure index) settings refer to the sensitivity of your camera to the light being allowed through your lens while taking a photo. In the old days, when we used film, we would buy film with various speeds, depending on the situation we were shooting.

Lower speeds like 100 or 200 were generally accepted as the best film for adequately lit, outdoor scenes. It gave the best photo with virtually no “grain” noticeable. 400 or 800 film was suggested for indoors shooting and more action sports. 1600 or 3200 speed film could be had for shooting under extremely low light – like nighttime high school football games. I don’t know of any high school stadiums around Cleveland that offered anywhere enough light to shoot good pictures at night.

In the photo above, I was able to shoot this nighttime mass outdoors at ISO 1600. The camera was hand held without a tripod. Exposure was f5.6 at 1/30th.

The downside to the higher speed films was more noticeable grain – those little pebbly looking spots that made up the image. Today, the same concept holds true for our digital cameras.

Most digital cameras can be set from 100 to at least 800 ISO. You can think of those speeds just like the old days of film selection. If the lighting is adequate, you will get your best photos if you stick with 100 or 200 speed settings. This will minimize the “noise” which is the digital equivalent to the old film emulsion “grain.”

When lighting gets lower, raise the ISO setting to 400 or 800. While the additional noise is not wanted, there are other advantages. Having a higher ISO speed enables you to shoot with a faster shutter speed or a smaller aperture (which gives additional depth-of-field.) It also allows your flash to illuminate objects further away from your camera.

If you have a more expensive camera, you may have ISO speeds of 1600 to 6400 or higher. These are what sports photographers will use during indoor sporting events to get the fast motion stopped in a 1/250th of a second or faster.

If you’ve shot people in low light situations and they are always blurred, try raising your ISO speed. That enables your camera to take in an equivalent amount of light in less time, hopefully capturing your subject without the annoying blur.

ISO settings, shutter speed and aperture all work together to create your photo. Reread the posts below until you understand all three. Still have questions? Leave a comment below and we’ll get you answers.

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