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How To Set Perfect ISO Setting for Digital Camera

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In simple terms, ISO is the sensitivity level of the camera to the light. Changing the ISO setting changes the sensor’s sensitivity to light resulting in brightening or darkening the image.

The higher the ISO setting, the more a camera captures the light resulting in a brighter image and vice versa.

It is usually displayed in the form of numbers, which on average range from 200 to 1600. High-end cameras offer an ISO up to 6400 and even higher.

How To Set Perfect ISO Setting for Digital Camera?

ISO is one of the three sides of the exposure triangle; the other two are shutter speed and aperture.

Especially in professional photography, setting ISO properly beside the other two sides of the exposure triangle is the way to achieve the desired results.

Before the modern-day digital camera, cameras with the film didn’t offer anything like ISO setting. Once the film was inside the camera, the photographer couldn’t control the sensitivity of light.

This was also one reason ISO wasn’t even part of the exposure triangle before digital cameras.

Nowadays, a photographer can easily control the sensor’s sensitivity to the light and the amount of light reaching it. This bought massive improvements in low-light and night photography.

It is such an important part of digital photography that some high-end and medium-end cameras offer dedicated buttons to control ISO’s value.

Camera with ISO setting 800

How ISO works?

ISO determines the in-camera amplification of the light signals produced by specific scene luminance of the scenery, F-stop, and shutter speed while keeping the image sensor’s same sensitivity.

Increasing one point of ISO settings doubles the amount of light reaching the sensor resulting in double brightness.

Low and High ISO Settings

Each ISO setting has its significance. High ISO values come in handy when shooting in less-illuminated situations and for night photography.

For shooting in manual mode with increased aperture and shutter speed, perfect results cannot be achieved without taking ISO settings into account.

Usually, photographers are aware of this setting, but they aren’t aware when to use higher settings and when lower.

This results in two problems: either a very dark image. After all, ISO was lower than the required or a grainy image full of noise because the ISO was set on a very high number. 

Shooting in an ISO setting higher than the required results in increased noise and decreased footage’s sharpness. It is caused by fluctuations in image signals.

Noise in the footages can be explained with higher ISO’s. The image signal is generally close in magnitude to the noise, resulting in noise entering the image. This results in an image with a visible grainy effect.

On the other hand, low ISO ratings give out very different results. One advantage of the low ISO is that the light given in exposure is more accurately represented.

The only way to deal with the noise issue in images is to decrease the ISO settings.

Camera with ISO setting 200

Setting the Perfect ISO

To set ISO, some cameras offer a dedicated wheel or a dedicated button to change its value instantly.

Otherwise, the photographer has to choose the value manually. From there, one can choose either the Auto mode or set it on a certain value.

The best thing is, once you set this side of the exposure triangle, you do not need to change it again and again for every picture. Setting ISO once works until or unless lightning conditions don’t change.

Next thing: What is the perfect value of ISO for your Digital camera? This is a question which no-one else can answer for you.

The ISO of your camera while shooting depends upon the lighting conditions around and aperture + shutter speed.

Shooting in low light or with increased shutter speed and aperture, it is necessary to shift ISO to higher numbers to get a clearer and brighter image.

ISO for outdoors

Usually, ISO 100 or 200 are good enough for outdoors and regular shooting conditions. To avoid the grain issues and retain the sharpness of images, in these conditions, it is best not to use the higher values:

  • When using a tripod. It enables to use of slower shutter speed, which automatically allows more light to reach the sensor. Increasing ISO is unnecessary with a tripod.
Sony camera on tripod
  • When you can increase light while shooting, it is possible to increase light using artificial lightning and increase light instead of ISO value.
  • Is the image is going to be enlarged? Enlarging images make flaws like grains more prominent. If the image will be displayed on a larger screen or printed in larger fonts, avoid higher ISO and try to enhance the amount of light in surroundings using artificial lightning.
  • When shooting with a lower depth of field. In manual settings, shooting in a lower depth of field usually means you are shooting with increased aperture. With more aperture, more light can reach inside the camera. Shooting in higher ISO isn’t required at all in this situation.

Anyway, in my personal opinion, the grain isn’t always a bad thing.

Increase noise in the image and graining effect do ruins the image, but sometimes you can use it creatively to add a certain mood or atmosphere in your image.

To set ISO manually:

  • First, set the required shooting or exposure mode, capture an image, and analyze the scene’s ISO requirement.
  • Once you have the requirements in mind, long-press the ISO button. If your camera doesn’t have a dedicated button, manually go to the settings and find the ISO settings in Menu Tab. Some cameras also have a rotating dial with several ISO values mentioned around it. You can also use it to set a manual value.
  • Set the ISO on the desired value.

Auto ISO

Once ISO shooting is on, the digital camera automatically lowers or increases the ISO depending upon the other exposure settings and lightning around.

Using the camera in Auto mode uses the Auto-ISO.

Usually, even in Manual mode, photographers seem to prefer ISO in automatic mode.

We also highly recommend it. Once adjusted, you do not need to change the ISO again until the lightning situation change, but even if you are shooting inside, the lighting level can still fluctuate.

In that case, automatic ISO is pretty helpful as the camera automatically adjusts the light reaching the sensor, making shooting an easy job.

You must keep in mind while using Auto-ISO: the range of ISO is limited in most of the cameras.

Camera with AUTO ISO setting

Auto Mode cannot use all the ISO numbers, especially the higher ones. If the shooting requirement is shooting in very higher values, it is suggested to set it manually.

You can check the ISO limit by Menu > ISO Settings > ISO Speed Settings > ISO Speed Range.


Using ISO might seem technical, but once you do it, you can achieve wonderful results.

The light sensitivity of the sensor matters a lot when it comes to the final result of your image.

Once you learn to deal with light sensitivity via ISO, you can create different effects, and you will become pro at handling the camera in different lighting conditions.

It must not come to you as a surprise that the first important thing for a photographer is to have a camera, and the second important thing is lighting conditions.

ISO settings assist the photographer with both camera and lighting conditions.

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