If I was to go back and give myself a tip when I started to take photos it would be this. Never be afraid to increase you ISO setting on the camera. There is an auto feature in most cameras but my tip would be to keep it in manual, but never be afraid to use a bigger value. The reason is simple – it’s always better to get a photo then to know you had it but it came out blurred or too dark. Let’s dig down into this with a few examples.
Urban night photography
While on vacation or traveling with work one come across many great cities. All cities have one look in light and one in the dark and while we are exploring the dark part of it we find beautiful locations we want to freeze in time. When I was starting out I had the idea that one should always use an ISO value as low as possible to reduce noise. I had read that noise in images was bad and should be avoided. So I was out during night time trying to take photos of the city with a value of one or two hundred. Naturally, the photos I got was all but good. If someone had told me at that stage that noise is irrelevant to your travel photography, I would have had many good photos to look at today of those cities.
If you’re outdoor in the evening or night in a city, kick you ISO up to between 600 and 1200 and open up your aperture to a low value. Noise is your friend.
We’ve all been at a house party where it’s both dark at places and lots of light sources from candles, fluorescent, bulbs and more. In the middle of this we tried to take photos of friends and family with an ISO of below two hundred. The dark locations get’s to dark and our camera if left on auto will struggle with painfully long shutter times.
Raise your ISO to above 600 and open up you lenses to minimal apertures.
Noise is good, most of the time
Noise in photography can be annoying and ruin a photo, it’s a fact. It is however not a fact for a family of people being used in a magazine. Nor is it a fact for a photo of a location you travelled that you want to use on a blog, send to a magazine or just show for your family. There are photos where noise is bad but in the absolute majority or all the photos you have taken or are about to take, noise will not be your main concern. It’s always better to get the photo then to chase the perfect quality of it and miss the opportunity.