Photography Tips: Using ISO in Dark Areas

If you are looking to improve your nighttime photographs, consider these basic photography tips on using the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) setting, slowing the shutter speed or using a night-scene mode on your camera. Most night photography is done using the flash, but this can actually hinder you from getting the best photograph possible. Instead, features of your camera other than the flash can help you take better pictures at night or in dark or dim light.

Step 1 - Understand the ISO Ratings

An vital component of using the ISO is understanding the purpose of the ISO. This little device in a digital camera measures the light sensitivity, and improves or reduces the light sensitivity. This allows it to act as though it were a fast film (1000 ISO or more) and take better images in the dark.

In cameras with film, this ISO setting is a feature of the film, and relates to how quickly the film travels past the lens. If you are looking for a night shot, take plenty using fast-moving film (with a rating of 1000 or more). The higher the ISO rating, the more likely you are to get better pictures at night.

Step 2 - Avoid the Noise

When you use a higher ISO rating on your camera, you will probably be aware that you get a larger ratio of noise to good picture quality in your photographs. Remember that with a digital camera, the machine automatically slows down the shutter speed (to allow more light to hit the lens), and so any movement will be caught as a blur. You can try and avoid this by firstly, increasing the aperture that allows light to hit the lens, which should improve shutter times, and you can also try a small flash before the photograph (although this can also cause faces to appear pale). You can also buy better digital cameras that are designed to lessen the impact of noise in night photography.

Step 3 - Avoid Using High ISO

Although ISO is a great way to take photographs at night, using a high ISO can have drawbacks, such as the noise described above. One way of avoiding this noise is to use a tripod and a low ISO. Using low ISO gives you better quality, but you will need to have the shutter open for longer: this is where the tripod comes in. A tripod means that you won't suffer the blurring and fuzziness associated with slow shutter speeds. It is a good way of photographing night scenes, although you may have to use a different method if you intend to photograph people at night. In most situations, however, the tripod and slow shutter speed compensates for the use of low ISO.

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