arsvie logotype

Define ISO Camera Meaning for Beginners

One of the main concepts in photography theory is ISO. This acronym stands for International Organization for Standardization. In traditional film cameras, ISO indicates the sensitivity level of the film to light. In digital photography, ISO refers to the sensitivity of the camera sensor. ISO in camera is measured in numbers, and the ISO scale varies depending on the camera model, but generally, higher values indicate greater sensitivity.

Understanding the suitable ISO camera setting for various situations in photography is essential for taking great photos. This fundamental aspect of camera operation directly impacts the quality and appearance of your images. 

The general ISO camera guideline is pretty straightforward:

Lower ISO values reduce noise levels and result in cleaner, smoother images. In contrast, higher ISO values tend to increase noise, leading to a grainier appearance in the final images.

This relationship between ISO camera values and image quality underscores the importance of selecting the appropriate ISO setting based on the lighting conditions and the desired outcome of the photo. 

Noise means graininess in the final image.  

iso camera noise example
ISO camera setting 12800
iso noise camera example
The result of extremely high ISO numbers is the noise/grains, especially evident in the corners of the photo.

During the day and in well-lit conditions, setting the ISO value to 100 is generally advisable. Higher ISO values come into play in low-light situations, such as concerts, museums, indoors, or at night, where using a flash or tripod isn’t possible. However, there are instances when using higher ISO camera values is both possible and necessary due to creative considerations. We’ll delve into those scenarios in upcoming articles.

It’s important to understand that increasing ISO camera impacts compact and professional cameras differently. Here’s why: it boils down to the sensor’s physical size. In professional cameras, the sensor is larger, which means that raising the ISO won’t degrade the quality of the image (resulting in graininess) as significantly as it would on a simple, compact camera.

different ISO meaning example
ISO menu setting in the Nikon camera
ISO meaning camera

Compact and semi-professional cameras often come with an “Auto mode,” where the camera chooses the necessary settings for you. However, if you’re serious about learning to capture truly stunning photos, conveying all the details accurately, it’s best to avoid this “Auto Mode.” Instead, try taking photos with the camera setting in Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, or Manual.

What does ISO in a camera impact?

ISO in the camera affects the brightness of the photo and the exposure. As one of the three main elements in the concept of exposure, ISO can significantly impact a shot’s overall exposure (brightness).

To demonstrate the effect of camera ISO, here is a collection of photographs that I took applying a consistent shutter speed of 1/200 and aperture of f/5.6 and with various ISO values.

iso camera different settings
high ISO settings camera

For a beginner in photography, it can be challenging to determine which factor – ISO, aperture, or shutter speed – has the greatest impact on the brightness of a photo. That’s why it’s best to follow this plan:

First, aim to achieve a properly exposed photo by selecting the appropriate aperture and shutter speed settings. If the image still appears too dark, then increase the ISO camera value.

Once you’ve established the composition of the frame, follow this order when adjusting the camera parameters: 

1- Aperture 

2-Shutter Speed 

3- ISO

Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO in the camera are all crucial components in photography, each playing a significant role in capturing stunning images. To truly grasp its effects and results, learning the fundamentals and engaging in plenty of practice is essential. So, feel free to experiment and explore; with perseverance, positive results will follow.

Below, you’ll find examples of photographs taken at high ISO values.

iso setting camera photos
ISO camera setting - 4000
examples high iso in photography
ISO camera setting - 3200
iso photography meaning
ISO camera setting - 5000

*All pictures posted in this article were taken by ArsVie Photo Studio. You cannot copy or share these images without permission from ArsVie Photo Studio.

Stay inspired,

Elena Sullivan 

Sharing is caring

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.