top of page


In a nutshell, ISO stands for your camera sensor's sensitivity to light.  Back in the old days when people shot with film, different film types had different ISO sensitivities.  

Camera ISO's range from 100-40,000+

If you've ever noticed when you take pictures with your cell phone, pictures in low light settings are super grainy.  That's your camera's sensor causing all that grain.

Each camera's ISO max is different.  This is where the more expensive camera's take the lead.  

The higher your ISO setting is, the lower the light you have the ability to take photographs in.  

So, Mrs. B, why don't I just bump my ISO to full max to take low light photographs?

Well, kind of...

Every camera has a "sweet spot" as to how high you can turn up your ISO without losing quality in your image.

The higher the ISO, the "grainier" and "noisier" your image will be.  The image on the right is an example. Compare the image shot at 100 ISO vs. 3000 ISO of the same scene. That sand-like or "dusty" look is what we call "noise."  It is, in most cases, not an ideal effect you want on your images.

The more expensive digital cameras are able to go up to 3000 ISO and up without losing image integrity.  

The more basic digital cameras usually cap out in quality around 800-1200 ISO.

Wedding photographers are a good example for photographers that depend on high ISO's to get the shots they need.  They're frequently shooting in low-light situations, as well as indoors.  They are constantly shooting at ISO's 1200+. 





These next two images were shot when I first got my D610. I was actually shooting these to see how high I could go on the ISO. Your typical images of not wanting to get up so you just shoot whatever is next to you.  In this case, my husband.


I've been able to shoot at about 2500 ISO with this particular camera before it starts to get too hairy...but I prefer to stay below 2000 ISO. 


With my first DSLR camera, the D3000, I could only go up to 800 ISO or so before losing quality.


My second camera, the d7000, it was around 1200 ISO.

You might be wondering, "the images look fine zoomed out, who's going to be zooming in that close to tell if it's grainy or not?"

Great question!  When you're wanting to print images or have them big in size for display, that's when all the little secrets start to show.  Especially that good ole' missed focus point we discussed in the APERTURE section.


ISO 100

Shot with a Nikon D7000

ISO 3600

Shot with a Nikon D7000

ISO 4000

Shot with a Nikon D610

ISO 6400

Shot with a Nikon D610

Denton, TX Low ISO

ISO 100

When looking at the quality or the amount of noise in an image, the darkest areas are usually the dead give aways.  The image to the left was shot at the lowest possible ISO.


The darkest parts are as smooth as my baby's bottom.  :D

Shot with a Nikon D7000

So you ask, "Mrs. B, what's the max ISO I can shoot with my camera without losing quality??"

That's for you to go shoot around to find out!  

bottom of page