Give Yourself Options: Don’t Be Afraid To Boost ISO

This is a tip that actually took me some time to get accustomed to- boosting ISO. I probably had the fear from the old films days that ISO of 800 and above resulted in grainy images causing me to hesitate before venturing above that threshold. Thankfully, I have learned that under certain conditions boosting my ISO is a very useful technique and allows me to get great images that I perhaps wouldn’t have been able to get otherwise.

For the most part, digital cameras seem to be able to handle ISOs of 1000-1600 quite well. Remember, this blog’s title is, Cindy’s Everyday Photography, so I am emphasizing consumer level equipment. Pro cameras and lenses can make use of even higher ISOs with very little noise. I have also found that when noise is produced at higher ISOs, programs such as Lightroom and/or Topaz Denoise, to name a couple, do a great job of eliminating or at least greatly reducing it. The take home message is feel free to push the ISO when you need.

The two situations where I most find myself using a high ISO is when I am shooting sports in the late afternoon/evening and when I am hand holding a macro lens. For sports shooting, I use a Nikon d7000 with a Nikon 70-300mm that has a 4.5-5.6 maximum aperture. The d7000 has been around for a while now and the zoom is just one of Nikon’s kit lens, but even with this combination, I can confidently shoot at ISO 1600. This is important as the sun sets earlier and earlier in the fall and you can lose light rather quickly, particularly on cloudy days. Let’s look at a couple of examples:

This shot was taken at ISO 1000.HighISO1000


This shot was taken at ISO 1600.



Shooting hand held with a macro lens is a difficult task for me (if you shoot macro, you probably know what I am talking about). With practice I am getting better, but I still need all the help I can get and that’s where a higher ISO comes into play. If I keep my aperture the same, but boost up the ISO, what happens to my shutter speed? My shutter speed increases, thereby assisting me to get sharp images. If I can use a tripod with my macro lens, I will, but there are times and places when I simply can’t and I have to hand hold. Boosting my ISO gives me a fighting chance at getting the critical sharpness that a macro image must have. Here are a couple of examples:

This image was taken outside so I just needed to boost the ISO to 500 to give me a shutter speed of 2000.


This image was taken inside a Botanical Garden (no tripods allowed) so I boosted the ISO to 800 which gave me a manageable shutter speed of 250.





I am pleased with the level of sharpness and lack of noise in all of these images and they were all possible because I was willing to boost up the ISO. If you are not accustomed to doing so, give your camera a test drive with high ISOs and see what results you get. What situations will a higher ISO help you to get a particular image? As each new model comes out, the ability to push ISO just keeps increasing. Remember to push the limits as sometimes it could be a matter of capturing an image or missing out.

Happy shooting.


2 thoughts on “Give Yourself Options: Don’t Be Afraid To Boost ISO

  1. Great Post Cindy – I too find myself avoiding higher ISO’s because of “fear of grain” – kinda silly when there is such a huge spectrum to use on new cameras. Thanks for your user friendly posts


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