What Is ISO? & How To Use It | Riane Roberts Photography

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Understanding ISO

Oct 24, 2018

I’ve said it before and I will say it again, your gear doesn’t matter.

That’s right. As a photographer, it doesn’t matter what gear you are using if you don’t know how to operate it! I wrote an entire post on this. And if you think spending thousands of dollars on a lens will make your photos look how you want but you don’t feel comfortable shooting in manual, you should read it.

Now, in order to help you understand the foundation of photography, I have done a few blog posts. First was all about understanding aperture. This is my favorite part of shooting in manual and the element I utilize the most to achieve the look I personally strive for with photography.

The next post was all about understanding shutter speed and how it can change the look of your photos. You can read that post if you need a refresher.

So, what is next? Well I want to go over ISO and touch on that.

ISO. What is it? ISO is most commonly referred to as just that, ISO. But it technically stands for something else! International Standards Organization. Basically, it is the industry standard for light sensitivity! When you are setting your ISO on your camera, you are setting the sensitivity to the light and telling your camera how much light it is working with when taking a photo.

For example, each camera has a various range of ISO, let’s look at when you would use a setting as low as 100 and when you may use a setting closer to 800 and even sometimes 3200 or more!

ISO 100! This is telling your camera that a light source isn’t a concern for you! The setting you are in to take this picture is fully lit. Maybe it is outside in direct sun during the day! That is when I would use 100 ISO. Here are some example images where the ISO is set to that!

ISO photography tips

(See more from this rock wedding shoot!)

Next up, 800. Now this is a setting I probably use more commonly when it isn’t necessarily bright but it also isn’t dark. Maybe I am in a shadowed area, sunset lighting or even indoors but in a well lit room next to a window. With the camera body I use, 800 is an ISO I am very comfortable setting my camera at.

ISO photography tips(See this trendy wedding days highlights here!)

Then 3200 ISO. Before using this, I encourage you to really get to know your camera and the boundaries it has. Having a higher ISO gives you the potential to have a more grainy image. This all depends on your camera! So do your research, test it out a bunch and see if a higher ISO changes the quality of your images of if you’re happy with it! Here are some 3200 ISO examples!

ISO photography tips

(More from this beautiful desert day!!)

Now, if you want to dive into it all a little more and learn how these three things go together to make the exposure triangle (or as I call it, the holy trinity of photography) then you need this.

This course is one I have taught in person multiple times and the last two events have been sold out! Well, now it is going to be online. There will be more content, you can go at your own speed and the link never expires so you can continuously go back and learn! Sign up now!

Keep practicing!!






A place to see all the beautiful weddings & engagements I photograph, as well as get tips and tricks for photographers, business owners and brides.


a blog by Riane Roberts

sharing life, travels and my journey with mental health and self love.