Teaching Myself By Teaching You Part III: Simple ISO

It’s pretty simple, ISO. If you’ve ever used film, you probably already know what it is, but to the digital crowd, its definition may be a little hazy. For me, all I knew was: Low ISO=clear photo , High ISO=grainy photo.

So let’s look a bit deeper into what ISO really is.

For a DSLR, the ISO represents the light sensitivity of the image sensor. “In terms of film, ISO is used as a rating system to tell you how sensitive the film is to light, or how fast the film is.  The lower the ISO number the more time the film needs to be exposed.  The faster the ISO film speed, less light is required to take a picture.” (here.) 

Digital cameras generally measure ISO in doubling increments (from low to high: iso200, iso400, iso800, iso1600) where a low ISO will provide a clearer photo, and a higher ISO will provide a “noisy” or grainy photo. Why would you want a grainy photo? Well, in certain cases, lighting is too low to capture a clear photo, so a higher ISO is necessary.

For example, I went to my city’s “Occupy WallStreet” general assembly a month and a half ago in order to take a few shots. The meeting took a few hours, and by the time it was over, the sun was long gone. Taking photos in a setting where the lighting is quickly diminishing, such as dusk, forces me to alter ISO in order to still be able to capture decent photos (I didn’t have my Speedlight on me).

This photo was taken using ISO400, it was kind of an overcast, dusky time of day.

But as the light diminished, I had to hike my ISO up to 800, then to 1600. Below is what an ISO1600 photo looks like:

Yay grainy! From my experience, ISO helps you to capture movement a little clearer in dim light. This crowd obviously could not stay still and the light was almost gone, so ISO1600 really was the only option. Good news is, there are programs out there that are especially made to get rid of that annoying “noise.” I just do not own anything like it. Honestly, the only thing I’ve ever done in order to make my grainy photos look a little clearer is upping the contrast and maybe using a sharpening mask.

If you find any cool, (even affordable!), programs that can help with the loud noise, let me know!

So What is ISO?

“ISO is a standard telling you how sensitive your film/digital sensor is to light.

  • Higher the ISO, the more sensitive the film/sensor is to light.
  • ISO speed affects allowed aperture and shutter speed combinations.
  • Higher the ISO, the more grainy or noisy pictures may appear.”

Yeah, sometimes I steal stuff from other sites. I can’t explain everything! 🙂


Teaching Myself by Teaching You Part II: Basic Aperture


First, DFS tells me that aperture is the ‘size of the opening in the lens when the picture is taken.’

Got it. Looks like this:

What a beaut.

Anyway, aperture is measured in f-stops, and moving from one f-stop to another either halves or doubles the size of the amount of opening in your lens. One thing all the sites I checked emphasized is the concept that: the higher the f-stop, the smaller the aperture—the smaller the f-stop, the higher the aperture.

So remember that, they said it’s important.

(I also learned that manual focus lenses are where it’s at.)

Moving on. I’ve also learned that aperture has everything to do with depth of field (DOF) and depth of field has everything to do with aperture.With a smaller aperture opening, there will be a greater DOF (the background of the image will be sharp). With a larger aperture opening, there will be a smaller DOF, (background of the image will be blurry). This is important to know.

Here’s a cool chart I see all over the internet:

“As you can see in this diagram the F-stop f/16 has has a very small aperture opening (so by using this f-stop you will let in less light, so your image will be darker but there will be more depth of field, so your background will be sharper).

The F-stop f/1.4 has a very large aperture opening ( so by using this f-stop you will let in more light, so your image will be lighter but there will be less depth of field, so your background will not be very sharp).” taken from here.

Below are the aperture/shutter speed equivalents. Now I have to memorize them and junk. (I’m so sorry I’m sounding so unintelligent right now, my sources are kind of choppy…and it’s 1 AM.)

Aperture value(s): f/64, f/32, f/22, f/16, f/11, f/8.0, f/5.6, f/4.0, f/2.8, f/2.0, f/1.8/f1.4 etc. (WE ARE HERE) Control via the lens section
Shutter speed(s): 1/8000, 1/4000, 1/2000, 1/1000, 1/500, 1/250, 1/125, 1/60, 1/30, 1/15, 1/8, 1/4, 1/2, 1 sec, etc. Control via the Camera section

Enjoy! And thanks for reading. What did you think…helpful? Not? What else is important to know about aperture?

Teaching Myself by Teaching You Part I: Basic Shutter Speed

Way back when, shutter speed represented the length of time that film was exposed to light. Nowadays, it represents the amount of time a camera shutter stays open to expose itself to the image. It’s usually measured in fractions of seconds—the larger the denominator, the faster the speed. Anything lower than a 1/60 is difficult to use, and requires a tripod or some kind of image stabilization. When considering what shutter speeds to use in an image, it would be wise to first look to see if anything in the scene is moving and how you would like to capture that movement. You’ll have the option to freeze the shot or to create a blur. To freeze a movement, you’ll want a faster shutter speed. To create a blurry effect, you’ll want a slower shutter speed. 

i.e.) 1/3000 is much faster than 1/30

1/30 of a second looks about natural for running water.

1/500 of a second freezes everything.

For sports use the fastest speed you can for most things unless you want deliberate blur.

Several full seconds will make waves look like a big, foggy blur.


 (got that from here.)

Anything else you think is important to know about shutter speed?

Teaching Myself by Teaching You Project.

Okay, so this blog was originally a project for my ‘Writing and Editing in Print and Online’ class, but now that project is over and now this is just my personal photojournalism/photography blog. Good deal. Therefore, I’m going to start a little project. I feel like any serious photographer needs to know the ins and outs of manual photography in order to be successful, so, I’ve dedicated some time to researching and blogging about my findings about how basic manual photography works. On my Tumblr, I’ve been kind of exploring manual photography by posting about what I’ve learned through some extensive Googling. So far I’ve posted about basic shutter speed and basic aperture. You’re allowed to check them out in my archive ( http://www.youshinelikestars.tumblr.com/archive ).

I’m new to this. I’ve been an auto-shooter since I got my DSLR 4-5 years ago. Isn’t that sad? My poor, forgotten dial.

Inspired by the photojournalists that I’ve already highlighted, my best friend (and amazing photographer), Tumblr, and just the looming gigs I have coming up (I shoot my first two weddings in December,) I’ve gotten serious about learning how to speak camera the right way. I also think that if I do want to get ahead in the game of photography and photojournalism, I’m gonna have to know my stuff, while everyone else thinks their camera can think for themselves. (Nah Brah.) I’m ready to get this show on the road.


P.S. Just for some random reasons, I’m going to post the first two Tumblr posts about Shutter Speed and Aperture on here so you don’t have to scroll through my annoying re-blogs.

Photojournalism: Then and Now

So I’ve been posting a lot about iconic, historic photojournalists, and one modern photojournalist that may be the last of his kind. Or will he be? The history of photography and photojournalism is filled with very expensive means of capturing photos–making it originally difficult and costly to be a photographer. However, nowadays, everyone has a camera. Everyone has the ability to take a shot of anything happening around them either from their point and shoot, DSLR, or smart phone. What does that mean to the serious photojournalist?

I’ve been really stuck on this issue lately. What does that mean to me? The ever-more-competitive and exceptionally skillful field of professional photojournalism is becoming more and more difficult to become a part of. Luckily, along with the many challenges entering the modern photojournalistic world presents, comes many, many opportunities.

I posted about the NPPA earlier today, and have become quite smitten with what they offer. Their website, programs, and resources strike me as incredibly uplifting and inspiring.

What do you think about the NPPA? Or the field of “professional” photojournalism? Is it dying? Is it changing?