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The Beginner Photographer’s Crash Course

Lesson 4 of 24

Exposure Triangle: ISO

Khara Plicanic

The Beginner Photographer’s Crash Course

Khara Plicanic

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Lesson Info

4. Exposure Triangle: ISO

Lesson Info

Exposure Triangle: ISO

All right, then our last bit of this whole puzzle is called ISO. And ISO is, if you came from the world of shooting film, ISO is like film speed. So I remember when it would be one of my siblings' birthdays, my mom would send me to the grocery store to go get film for the party, and I would be like, uh. You know, I was like 10 or whatever. And I'm like, I don't know, 200, 400, whatever this is. Sometimes the box would have a picture of a birthday cake on it, so maybe I'd grab that one, but ISO represents, it's like your film speed. And what that really means is that it controls the camera's sensitivity to light. In the film days, that was controlled by actually the size of the emulsion, the crystals in the emulsion could control how sensitive the film was to light. So we don't have emulsion and all that the same way in the digital world, which is kinda nice. But the higher ISO numbers are gonna be more sensitive. So you can make photos with less light. Which can be handy. Of course, th...

ere is a flip-side to everything in life. The trade-off is that you do get some digital noise with that. But these days, you have to be shooting at the highest ISO ever to see noise anymore. It has come such a long way. I remember the early days of digital photography, and high ISOs of like 800 would be like sandpaper. (laughs) When you looked at the, I mean it was really bad. It was so bad. And now it's quite amazing. So you can get away with a lot these days. So let's talk a little bit more about this. So ISO settings are like the film settings, the film speed. So 100, 200, 400, and in between, there's also numbers in between. But we'll just make this nice little example here. With clean, easy whole numbers. 'Kay so the lower numbers are less sensitive, the higher numbers are more sensitive. What you're doing in the digital camera when you crank up the ISO, is you're amplifying the signal that is coming in on the sensor. So if you jack it up really high, it's really getting amplified. So it's more sensitive. That can result in more noise, but sometimes, who cares? And sometimes the more noise is not even discernible. So, that can be very handy in low light situations. So where do we find this setting on our camera? Well, on some cameras there's a button. Like here, there's a button that's labeled ISO. So, I press that and then I turn the dial on the back, and that's gonna control my ISO. And it shows me there, on my display, where it is. On other cameras, you may have to get into your functions, get into your menus somewhere. It might not be quite as convenient, to change your ISO. So you may have to dig a little bit. Again, check with your manual if you can't find it. But it's in there somewhere I promise. Okay. You'll also, you might find I guess, on some cameras there's also a setting for ISO called auto. So you may bump into that, so you may have like 800, 200, 100, something called low, and something called auto, so you might find that. Some cameras also have something that they just call high. And you're like, what is that? I don't know. It might just jump from 400, 1600, and then it might just say high. How high is high? I don't know, you'd have to read the technical specs to figure out what's really happening. And some cameras put governors on this, so it won't go past a certain point unless you unlock it in the settings somewhere in your menu. So you might bump into that. ISO can be kind of funny from camera to camera. But just so you know, that is how it works, that's a little bit about where you can find it, and what it does. Now it does not have a creative effect on your image. In other words, when we talk about this exposure triangle, and these three factors that make up our exposures, ISO doesn't do anything like give you blurs, it doesn't give you nice yummy blurred backgrounds or motion blurs. It doesn't do that. What it does do is it enables other things to happen. It enables you to maybe use the slower or faster shutter speed that you need to get. Or it might enable you to get away with maybe your maximum aperture is only like 3.5 or something, and you're in a somewhat dark environment without getting flash mixed in, you don't have a whole lot of options. But you could jack up your ISO, and then maybe whatever available light is there could work for you. If you could just boost your ISO, 'kay. So that is how that all comes together. Well, that is the basics of exposure, okay? So you just really want to keep in mind, that there is no right answer, that the combination of these three combination of things can come together in any kind of way. So we could all be in one scene, we could be shooting it together, and we could all take a picture, all of our photos could look great, and we could look at the exposure data, which by the way, is embedded into all the files. We'll talk about that. And they could all be completely different. So keep that in mind. There's not a wrong answer. Where do you find this data in your images? Well, you can always see it when you play back the image on your camera, when you hit the playback, you'll see it. And usually there's an info button somewhere around the back of your camera, and if you press it, it'll show your shutter speed, your aperture, your ISO, your file name, what your white balance was, it might show you a histogram, it'll show you all kinds of information. That information stays with your photo even after the fact when you download it onto your computer, you can see all of that data on your computer as well. Which is really great because when you're learning about photography, and you take a photo and then you get it on your computer later and you look at it, and you think this did not turn out how I wanted, or why is this blurry? Or why is this whatever. Then you can look in your metadata and you'll see oh, I shot that at one 30th of a second, really? And then it's like, no wonder it's blurred because I didn't have a tripod or something. Right so, you can really learn a lot and trouble-shoot your own mistakes by going back through your exposure data.

Class Description

A new camera is an adventure waiting to happen. It’s an invitation to explore and a tool that opens doors to awesome experiences. Learning your way around a DSLR for the first time doesn’t have to be daunting. With a little guidance, you’ll be confidently calling the shots in no time.

Pro photographer and educator Khara Plicanic will help you understand your camera like never before (whether a dSLR, compact point-and-shoot, or even a phone! ) and get you taking better photos fresh out of the box. Join Khara for this class, and you’ll learn:

  • How exposure works and how each setting creates a different effect
  • The basics of different shooting modes (Auto, Program, Shutter/Aperture Priority, Manual, etc.)
  • How to make use of your camera’s functions - flash, white balance, exposure compensation, timer, and focus points.
  • How image size and resolution work, and why it matters (or doesn't)
  • How to choose and use different lenses.
  • The best resources to download, backup, and share your images. 

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Bonus Video - Shooting In Natural Light HD

New Camera Setup

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

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Kate Ambers

Khara is awesome! She really breaks down how the camera works, photography terminology, and technique. She does it all with a fun and entertaining personality and really makes it easy to understand what you are learning! I love this course!!! So worth it!

Holly Cooper

Loved this course and have recommended it to a friend who is looking to purchase his first DSLR. This course is perfect for beginners or someone who is self taught and who has picked a few bits up along the way; Khara then puts all these little bits of information together. I feel like the pieces have come together for me and I have taken my best/favourite photographs after watching these videos. Thank you CL and Thank you Khara x


I’ve taken a number of excellent courses from Creative Live, and this very thoughtfully organized, well taught class took me from “I love photography but I’ll never get how to do it” to “wow I get it!” It created a huge shift (finally!) for me. There is an intelligent simplicity that really does make for lightbulb moments. I’m extremely grateful for this class. Now I can go back and watch the others courses again and they will make much more sense and I can apply what I learned here.