Sunday, November 7, 2010

Magical, Mystical ISO

I have always been a big picture-taker (I took a camera with me all the time even in middle school and then I would let my friends have their pick from the doubles when I got them developed), but for some reason I never took a photography class. I think I was going to when we lived in Dallas (during high school), but then we moved to Chicago and I don't think my school offered it. Who knows. What I do know is that when Janna came to visit last year I had no idea what aperture or ISO was and my understanding of shutter speed was very limited. She explained it to me over and over, I took notes and would have them with me when I took pictures of the kids to practice. Mike continues to explain aperture to me, although I think I may finally be grasping it. I knew if I wanted my pictures to get better I needed to control all these functions in manual mode on camera, but it was completely overwhelming and scary for me to try it. So, I started slowly and was very frustrated but kept trying.
When we got our knew camera we were able to set the functions so that although I controlled the shutter speed and aperture, the ISO was automatic and I LOVED it. ISO was the thing that made the least sense to me for some reason so I just didn't want to deal with it! I have slowly been mastering the other 2 functions though and when Cheryl came out on this last visit she once again explained ISO to me. I tried to take it in but wasn't ready to get out of auto mode on it yet, although I was trying to figure out what made the difference in a good photo and great photo.
It seemed to me the pictures Janna and Cheryl took looked amazingly clear and perfectly lit right in their cameras consistently and I had not yet figured out how to do it. When I took my friend's pictures last weekend I still had the ISO on automatic and when I got home I was showing Mike the pictures and there was a series of pictures I took of their little girl in the exact same location, right in a row, and I left my camera in the same settings. But one picture would look a little dark and dreary and the next was perfection. I showed Mike and asked what in the world would make that difference and Mike, being the genius he is, told me his bet was that my camera was adjusting the ISO as I shot. For some reason that was the "Aha" moment I needed and it all clicked...that dang ISO is the secret! The magical secret to a perfect picture! Of course, it has to all come together with the rest of the settings, but now at least I knew. So, from that moment I have not shot with automatic ISO. I still have no idea what I'm really doing :-), and have to take about 5 pictures to play around with everything until I think I have everything just right, but I'm making progress. I'm way behind on my pictures from last week, so I decided to just post this now and share these pictures along with my ISO discovery :-).
These are straight out of my camera on Thursday afternoon when we were waiting for Ella's bus to come home. Look at Addie's eyes! I haven't done anything to the picture and it looks's the ISO! Now if only I could get better at setting everything up right away I could take WAY better pictures ALL the time :-)!
Time to practice, practice, practice.


Adams Family said...

wow marci!! those picture are fabulous...SOOC too? AMAZING! You are getting really good...maybe you can shoot some of my fam on one of your trips down to SA sometime before we leave in June??! :)

Jamie said...

Marci, here is a link to some of the best analagies for understanding exposure

ISO is a variable but in my experience not a huge one -- When you are in good light it should probably always be at 200 or lower. As the quality of your light decreases (indoors for example) you should bump up your ISO -- I always try it in increments (200 then 400 then 600 etc. . .) it is important to remember that as your ISO rises, you will get noise in your photos -- a graininess that really reduces image quality so you only want to increase your ISO if you have to (meaning you have already tried increasing shutter speed, lowering the f-stop, and increasing the exposure) Hope this helps!

Marci said...

Krista, I'm beyond flattered because I think you are amazing! I'll email you :-)!
And Jamie, thanks for the info!

The Chrissy Herself said...


Cheryl Joy said...

Yay!!! While I agree with Jamie that ISO isn't nearly the most important component, if it is the only automated one, learning how to control everything together is that last step to get it ALL just right! Yay!! :) The more you play with it, the more you will understand it.

For example: you are in the shade, and your photos are a little dark, but you don't want to lower your shutter anymore (because the kids are moving and you want sharp photos) and you're already at your widest aperture... so what do you do? Raise the ISO! And there it is.. perfection. :)

Your pictures look great Marc! Too bad we don't live close and we could be a dynamic duo.

Sarah S said...

I think figuring out how the three work together is a long process. But you're smart to get it out of Auto ISO and keep messing with your settings. I try to keep my shutter speed no lower than 1/125 because otherwise I get blur with my busy kids. Shutter speed is a huge part of getting the nice clear shots. And so is aperture :) But it's like the various components really matter in different degrees depending on the setting, light, etc.