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Blog Photog 101: Film Speed

Photography has always been something I was interested in, but not something I really got serious about until I started blogging. My very first blog was a food blog (called My Culinary Quest) and I quickly realized that if I wanted anyone to read my site, I needed to start taking much better food photos. One of my wedding photographer friends gave me a super quick run down on my manual settings that made so much more sense than it ever did through high school class photography class. After that, my photos were immediately better and have continued to improve since then. I finally had my first post accepted by Foodgawker and saw my traffic grow a lot. It was so exciting and exhilarting and it really got me hooked on photography.

Manual Photography Tutorial for Bloggers — via @TheFoxandShe

Anyway, I know I say this a lot, but good photos can really make all the difference in whether or not someone decides to come back to your site. Thankfully, learning how to take good pictures isn’t really that hard, it just takes a lot of repetition and practice. The first thing you need to master are the three pillars of photography. Learning what those are, how they work together and what they can do to an image is the foundation of taking really amazing photos.

The three pillar of photography are:
1. Film Speed or ISO
2. Shutter Speed
3. Aperture (or f/stop)

I’m going to break these three pillars down into sections over the next few weeks so that you can start practicing and getting used to all the new settings and understand what they do to an image.

This week we’re going to talk about film speed, also known as ISO.

[clickToTweet tweet=”The single BEST thing that helped grow my blog traffic? Photography.” quote=”If you don’t learn anything else from this site, I hope you go away with a better knowledge of photography — it’s the golden ticket.”]

ISO or film speed refers to how sensitive your ‘film’ is to available light. A low ISO like 100 is not very sensitive to light which makes it perfect for bright, sunny shots, while 800 is far more sensitive to light making it better for indoor or low light settings.

Let’s go over that once more because it’s just that important!

For low ISOs (100-400), think outdoors on a sunny day and really bright lights.
You’ll want to use a high ISOs (500-3200) when you shoot indoors, at night or during a darker, cloudy day. Think indoors, night time and dark stormy days.

For the most part, you want to shoot at the lowest ISO possible when the lighting allows for it. This will produce an image with the clear and crisp edges. Obviously, there will times when shooting at ISO 100 is not possible. So when should you increase it? When there’s not enough available light to quickly capture an image. If you’re shooting at a low ISO, but the shutter speed has to be slow to capture it, then you’ll want to bump up your ISO. Cameras are designed to handle all kinds of lighting situations and you’ll need to adjust your ISO to get the correct exposure.

Here are a few examples so you can see what changing the ISO does to the exact same shot. You’ll also notice that the shutter speed changes greatly to make up for the ISO changes. Another thing to notice is the quality of the image. The higher the ISO, the more noise (grainier) in the image — yet another reason to shoot at a lower ISO whenever possible.

Manual Photography Tutorial for Bloggers — via @TheFoxandShe | www.blogbetterbyleap.com
(ISO: 100 | Aperture: f/2.5 | Film Speed: 1/60)

Manual Photography Tutorial for Bloggers — via @TheFoxandShe | www.blogbetterbyleap.com
(ISO: 800 | Aperture: f/2.5 | Film Speed: 1/500)

Manual Photography Tutorial for Bloggers — via @TheFoxandShe | www.blogbetterbyleap.com
(ISO: 6400 | Aperture: f/2.5 | Film Speed: 1/5000)

In the last image, you’ll notice that there’s a lot more noise in that image compared to either of the first two. For the most part, I suggest going no higher than ISO 800. If it’s darker than that, I prefer to wait until the lighting is better.

ISO is an important one to master, but it’s not the only one! Along with aperture and shutter speed, the three pillars work together to create a perfect image. So start playing around with your own camera to see what’s changing. I’ll be covering the other two pillars over the next few weeks, so make sure to stop by and learn those too. Questions? Leave them below and I’ll try my best to answer!

If you’re just getting started and looking for recommendations on photography equipment, here are my favorites!