Camera Basics: What Is ISO and How to Use it for Better Photographs (VIDEO)

Most photographers are familiar with the so-called “Exposure Triangle” that consists of Shutter Speed, Aperture, and ISO. But while there is plenty of discussion about how to use shutter speed and aperture settings for different effects, the proper use of ISO doesn’t always get the attention it deserves.

ISO is a simple concept that describes how sensitive your camera is to light. The higher the ISO setting, the less light is required for a correct exposure. This is particularly important when shooting under low-light conditions when you need a fast enough shutter speed to avoid motion blur.

In the quick video below, photographer and educator Mark Wallace uses simple animations to get you up to speed on using this powerful and important tool. He describes the tradeoff between sharpness and “noise” that occurs when shooting at extremely high ISO values. He also notes that today’s modern digital cameras deliver excellent high ISO performance thanks to advancements in sensor technology.

The bottom line for Wallace: “I’d rather have a noisy image that I can use than a blurry image I have to throw away.”

You can find more helpful tips on the AdoramaTV YouTube channel, and don’t miss an earlier tutorial we posted in which Wallace demonstrates how to balance flash and window light for better indoor portraits.