Almost all of the articles I have read about exposure states that you need to keep the ISO setting as low as you can to obtain the best image quality and ensure that digital noise doesn’t become an issue. Many of these articles state it is okay to push the ISO higher, if you need to, but not to go over around 1800, because that is where you will run in to issues with noise.
Okay, I agree that it is best to keep the ISO as low as possible, there are no arguments against this but not pushing the ISO over 1800 is utter rubbish. Okay, a few years ago using ISOs around this level would have meant noise but technology has moved on and modern day dslr cameras all ow you to push the ISOs far higher than this for noise free images.
It would be great if we could use ISO 50 or ISO 100 all the time and get the shots we are after, or at least achieve the shutter speed required for sharp handheld shots, but this simply isn’t going to happen. Nope, in the real world light levels fall where obtaining sharp handheld shots at ISO 50 or ISO 100 is just not possible. In these situations we need to push the ISO in order to get faster shutter speeds.
So how far should we push the ISO? The answer to this will vary from camera to camera and this is something you should test out at home before going on a shoot.
All you need to do is set your camera in aperture priority mode and dial in an aperture of say, f8 or f11. Set the ISO at its lowest and take a shot. Increase the ISO by one stop and take another shot in the same position. Increase the ISO again and take another shot, and so on until you have a shot taken at all ISO settings.
Once you have all the shots load them on your computer and view each one, zooming right in close and personal, and see at what ISO setting noise starts becoming an issue. A little noise is okay, however “a little” is subjective and what one person considers a little another may consider a lot. There is no right or wrong here, you need to decide on the highest ISO that gives an image that is acceptable to you.
Once you have sorted out the level of noise you are comfortable and okay with, and what ISO setting this noise occurs you know how far you can push your ISO when out on a shoot.
When I first did the “ISO test” to see how far I could push it before the images became too noisy I was surprised just how far I could push it, and the ISO settings I was using. Doing this test will give you confidence in your camera and prove to you that pushing the ISO to get sharp handheld shots (which is very important when you can’t use a tripod) is not a bad thing.
Knowing just how far I can push the ISO revolutionised my photography and I think it will yours too. So go on, give it a go and get noise testing your camera.
Keen photographer addicted to cameras, lenses and everything photography related. Feel free to follow me in my photography ramblings, and if you have any thoughts, comments, queries or anything else to add I would love to hear from you.
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