Shooting in Manual Lesson 4: ISO

ISO is the final point, of the exposure triangle. It is the last thing I set after setting my aperture and shutter speed. We went over Aperture in Lesson 2 and Shutter speed in Lesson 3. We talked about how important these two are for different reasons. But what is the importance of ISO? Well, let’s imagine for a minute. You have your aperture set as wide as you feel is necessary for the shot. Then you set your shutter speed for as slow as you can manage without causing motion blur. You’ve now reached your limits on both of these but you STILL don’t have enough light. What do you do now? Well, this is where ISO comes in.


ISO is how sensitive your image sensor is to the light. So basically your camera is saying, “it’s pretty dark in here, so we need to be more sensitive to the light” The best way to explain this is when your eyes are trying to adjust in the dark so that you can see a little better, then all of a sudden someone flips on a light and you go blind. It’s not a perfect analogy but it’s close.


So when would we need to bump up our ISO? Well, the most common time your ISO would come into play is when you are in a low light situation. For example, you’re shooting in your home. You almost always have to bump it up to 400-800 ISO when shooting indoors. When you’re doing night photography, you definitely have to bump your ISO way up. Anytime you have a situation where there i just not enough light for your camera to expose the image properly.


However, the thing you have to remember with ISO, is the higher you raise it, the more noise you allow into your photo. Noise is that grainy look that you see in photos sometimes. That’s from the ISO being high. Sometimes this isn’t that noticeable and sometimes it’s very noticeable. Sometimes it makes a cool effect to your photo. It makes it look like an old film print.



Noisy image (1/125, f3.5, ISO 12800 WOW )

Noisy image (1/125, f3.5, ISO 12800 WOW )

zoomed in

zoomed in

ISO can go up pretty high. Extremely high. That doesn’t mean that you SHOULD bump your ISO up that high. Remember, the higher the ISO the more noise. You can fix this in lightroom but once it reaches a certain point it’s hard or impossible to save the photo. 

Adjusted noise in Lightroom

Adjusted noise in Lightroom

So you’ve made it through the exposure triangle. That wasn’t too bad right? So now you can go out and shoot some professional photos all in manual without blinking right?? Calm down, no pressure! Learning the exposure triangle puts you way ahead of most. But now you have to take what you’ve learned and put it into practice. Yes, Practice!! LOTS of practice. Here is what I recommend you do to help you learn to the settings quickly.


#1 Follow my steps.

Set your Aperture, Then Shutter speed, then bump up your ISO until your exposure is how you want it.


#2 Go learn and practice holding your camera, where your buttons are, and how to change your settings.

The best way to do this is go into a dark room and practice setting your aperture, shutter speed, and ISO without looking.

#3 And finally go shoot some night photography.

Night photography is the best way to learn how to shoot in manual. It gives you plenty of practice in using all of your settings because you have to have your aperture set a little more wide open than normal, your shutter speed has to be longer than normal and your iso has to be higher than normal.




Go out tonight and shoot some night photography. Photograph cars passing by, or a night landscape, or even a pretty cityscape. Come back and tell me how it went in the comments.


I hope this has been helpful to everyone.
Stay tuned for more lessons in the coming weeks!! Thank you for reading and please share the articles, and follow me on social media by clicking the links below. Happy shooting!!


Lesson 3 Lesson 5

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