31 July 2013

Confessions of an ISO snob

As I have been learning more and more about photography, I find myself with habits or ideas about photography that aren't quite right and need to be corrected. I had no idea until recently that I was (as I now refer to it) an ISO snob. 

Bryan Peterson in Understanding Exposure* relates ISO to the number of worker bees that collect light for your camera. The more worker bees, the more light entering the camera (needed in dark or indoor situations). So by setting my ISO, it is just another control I have to determine how much light enters my camera. 

When I was initially learning about photography, somewhere along the road I picked up the idea that low ISO (like 100) was good, and high ISO (my highest is 1600...yep my camera is old) was bad. I learned that a high ISO introduced digital noise into my photographs and so I decided that I would just never shoot at ISO 1600.

Stop! Do you see my flawed logic? In an effort to oversimplify I missed the fact that although digital noise is icky looking, it can be removed in post processing! Because I denied myself from using my highest ISO available, sometimes I would not take a photograph because in order to do so I would have so use ISO 1600. 

I don't even want to think about how many photographs I missed taking just because I was an ISO snob. Thankfully I have seen the error of my ways.
In an effort to visit our favorite places before we move, last weekend we took our little guy (a true lover of all things that go!) to Hill Aerospace Museum. Long story short, I brought the wrong lens to shoot in the dark museum and so I was stuck shooting at ISO 1600, with my widest aperture, and a slow shutter speed.

The resulting photographs? Well you won't see much of J because he moves much too fast and became a blur with my long shutter : ) Instead I had the chance to take detail shots of subjects that didn't have legs to run away (and shout, "PLANE!" and frantically point in every direction).

After a fun day and saying goodbye to the planes (for a good solid ten minutes in the car), our little pilot spilled his treats and then promptly fell asleep. I love moments like this when I remember that he still is my baby.

* I just finished Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson and it was fantastic! He explained the most important parts of photography in a very clear and unique way. I'm still thinking about my little worker bees whenever I adjust my ISO.

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