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Thread: Setting the Right ISO/Lots of Lessons Here

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    Publisher Arthur Morris's Avatar
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    Default Setting the Right ISO/Lots of Lessons Here

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    Below is an e-mail exchange that I had with BPNer Bryan Hix. There are lots of great lessons below so be sure to read to the bottom and let loose the questions if need be.

    I did forget to mention that if you are desparate for speed, just crank up the ISO to the max...

    The gator eating pelican image was created with the Canon 100-400mm IS L lens handheld at 190mm. ISO 6400. Evaluative metering -1/3 stop: 1/1000 sec. at f/5. The image made it to the finals of the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition two years running but no cigar....

    artie

    Hi Bryan,

    re:

    I have a question that I can't seem to find in both ABP or ABP II. First off, I am so glad I have taken the time to try to learn exposure theory better because I can honestly say I have been doing it wrong.

    That is good. ABP is the place to learn exposure theory, and--as you know--the CD book can help you learn to create spot-on exposures with digital cameras by evaluating and adjusting your histograms.

    My question is this: what is the best way to determine the ideal ISO setting?

    In general I choose the ISO that would give me (approximately) a minimum shutter speed in a given situation. This minimum shutter speed can vary tremendously. For years, I strove to work with shutter speeds of at least 1/60 second when working in low light. I could routinely create sharp images with the 500 and the 600 with the 2X TC at 1/60 sec.. At times I would drop down to 1/30 sec. when working with the prime lenses alone. Things have changed a bit with the 800 f/5.6L lens and its new 4-stop IS system. I am now willing to try working at speeds between 1/6 and 1/30 sec. with the prime lens alone.

    If the subject is moving, then I need to be in the 1/250 sec. range that you mentioned. The same goes if I am handholding an intermediate telephoto. If it is flying, I strive for at least 1/500 sec. And I strive for that on the rare occasions that I opt to handhold a long lens.

    Another part in my thinking has to go with how much noise I am willing to deal with. As you can see, there are many complex factors involved in choosing an ISO setting.

    If I am generally out taking photos in early or late light, I try to pick an ISO setting where I can have the shutter be at least 1/250 with my 500mm and 1.4x TC to stop any blur (not sure if that's even right).

    Are you on a tripod or handholding?

    At first light, I might be over ISO 1000, but I also might be using my Better Beamer as well. Do I need to have that high of an ISO with a flash or is there some ideal setting for that?

    Fill flash will always yield an increase in image sharpness so when using flash you can risk a somewhat lower shutter speed than the 1/60 or 1/30 sec. mentioned above.

    Also, once the sun is full strength, do you always try to go as high as you can regardless of flash or not?

    (Not sure that I understand your question….) My favorite MIII ISO is 400. In very bright sun I will sometimes drop down to ISO 320 or even 250.

    Finally, is there ever a need for auto ISO?

    Yes. In two cases (but only if your camera offers the feature) . The first is in very low light when you are trying to create intentionally blurred images. After setting ISO Safety Shift on my MIII body, I set the ISO to 200, set the amount of plus compensation that I need (being careful not to burn the RED channel if there is some color in the sky), and--while working in Tv mode--select a slow shutter speed, the darker it is, the slower speed I set but no slower than 1/4 second and that only for distant flocks. As the light levels increase, I can raise the shutter speeds to more :normal" blur speeds like 1/8, 1/15, and 1/30 second. The camera will set the ISO to the lowest needed to attain the shutter speed that you have set.

    When the blurred action is over, I raise my ISO back to 400 (or to 800 if need be), and switch to either Av or Manual mode.

    When working from a water craft in low changing light conditions I do somewhat of the opposite. I set up the camera as above but select the minimum shutter speed that I would like to use, usually 1/500 second. Again, the camera will switch to the lowest ISO needed to yield the selected shutter speed (with the compensation already set).

    After reading both books, I am using AV mode a lot more versus manual because I tend to take pictures with constantly changing backgrounds and I find that this has helped a lot.

    Ah. Once you get comfortable working in manual mode you can put what you've learned to better use by simply setting the correct exposure for the bird (against any background). Then you will not need to be changing from -2/3 to +2 stops when the background changes almost instantaneously.

    Let me know if you have any additional questions.
    BIRDS AS ART Blog: great info and lessons, lots of images with our legendary BAA educational Captions.: we will not sell you junk. 30+ years of long lens experience/e-mail with gear questions.
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  2. #2
    Bryan Hix
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    Thanks very much for that thorough explantion. To answer the question about tripod or not, almost all the time on a tripod unless I am in the car and then I use a molar bag with the engine turned off. I started out in AV most of the time and then went to manual for the majority of the time after I got more comfortable. After reading your books, I decided that if I am dealing with a pretty uniform background like water or sky, I will use manual. Otherwise, if birds are against a variety of backgrounds, I switch over to AV, use the compensation and check my histogram. I still seem to like manual more. Bottom line, the books helped a ton and I still need to keep practicing until it's stuck in my head. I actually wrote out a cheat sheet from the book to help remind me of what comp I should instictively pick so it becomes a habit when I see certain tonalities for the BG and subject. I'm getting there and thanks again for helping with the ISO question. I wasn't too far off, but I have not gone down as low in shutter speeds as you have, so I will have to try that with a little more confidence.

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    Publisher Arthur Morris's Avatar
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    Hi Again Bryan,

    re:

    Thanks very much for that thorough explantion.

    YAW.

    To answer the question about tripod or not, almost all the time on a tripod

    Ah, I just wanted to make sure that you were not handholding. Most folks need more shutter speed when handholding than they do when they are on a tripod.

    unless I am in the car and then I use a Molar bag with the engine turned off.

    All good except that you should be using the BLUBB. It is manufactured by by the same guy who makes the Molar but is far superior in every way to the Molar... Learn more here: https://store.birdsasart.com/shop/ca....aspx?catid=16

    I started out in AV most of the time and then went to manual for the majority of the time after I got more comfortable.

    Perfect.

    After reading your books, I decided that if I am dealing with a pretty uniform background like water or sky, I will use manual.

    I do the exact opposite. If I am at the beach on a cloudy day and the sand and the water show the same reflectance I work in Av with the right amount of + compensation and work in Av mode. Whatever works best for you is best for you.

    Otherwise, if birds are against a variety of backgrounds, I switch over to AV, use the compensation and check my histogram. I still seem to like manual more.

    The huge problem there is that if the bird drops from the sky and the BKGR changes to dark woods you are out of luck and will over-expose the latter images. If the light is relatively constant and the backgrounds are changing rapidly you need to be in Manual mode. (All are invited to go to the Bulletin Archives and do a search for "Working in Manual mode."

    Bottom line, the books helped a ton and I still need to keep practicing until it's stuck in my head.

    :) :) :)

    I actually wrote out a cheat sheet from the book to help remind me of what comp I should instictively pick so it becomes a habit when I see certain tonalities for the BG and subject. I'm getting there and thanks again for helping with the ISO question. I wasn't too far off, but I have not gone down as low in shutter speeds as you have, so I will have to try that with a little more confidence.

    Thanks for your kind words. It surely seems that you are on the right track.
    BIRDS AS ART Blog: great info and lessons, lots of images with our legendary BAA educational Captions.: we will not sell you junk. 30+ years of long lens experience/e-mail with gear questions.
    BIRDS AS ART Online Store: we will not sell you junk. 35 years of long lens experience. Please e-mail with gear questions.

    BIRDS AS ART Instructional Photo Tours (IPTs): Fort DeSoto, SEPT 2018. Bosque, DEC 2018. San Diego, JAN 2019

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    Publisher Arthur Morris's Avatar
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    Harshad-bhai,

    re:

    A)How you can get such a noiseless image at ISO 6400, :confused: :confused:

    I just push the button. I am pretty sure that I used the Canon NR in DPP but am not positive... Reducing the SAT of green and cyan and blue also helped to reduce the color noise. I still use that technique today with some images.

    when I try to reduce noise , image gets soft ( Most of the times I reduce noise in BG only).

    That is how I do it now.

    This question may sound stupid , but I really find it very difficult to crank ISO beyond 800 on my D300
    If I have to boost ISO beyond 800 how to reduce noise on main subject.

    My understanding with Nikon is that noise control at the higher ISOs is fabulous with the D3 and the D700 but poor with the D300. Mr. Shadle would be more knowledgeable about that.

    B) Right now I am shooting Bird's profiles ( No Action or BIF ), with tripod mount and cable release
    is 1/20 sufficiant or should I boost ISO , http://www.birdphotographers.net/for...ad.php?t=43893
    in this image shutter speed is 1/20

    I have never been able to create a sharp image with a long lens and a slow shutter speed with a cable release so I cannot comment here....

    C) Most of the time I am shooting in low or very low lights for tiny beauties , can you suggest some settings
    I will put ISO 800, -1/3 and spot metering.

    EXP compensation with Canon and Nikon are vastly different. All that I can suggest is that you push your histograms as far to the right as possible (while avoiding overexposure of the most saturated colors by using the RGB histogram). Lightening an underexposed RAW image creates noise. Period.

    Will check shutter speed before pressing shutter. Will be visiting Eaglenest in Arunachal Pradesh where people shoot at 1/10. Your help on this is much appreciated.

    Good luck! Hey, when you use a cable release are you holding the camera or the lens at all?
    BIRDS AS ART Blog: great info and lessons, lots of images with our legendary BAA educational Captions.: we will not sell you junk. 30+ years of long lens experience/e-mail with gear questions.
    BIRDS AS ART Online Store: we will not sell you junk. 35 years of long lens experience. Please e-mail with gear questions.

    BIRDS AS ART Instructional Photo Tours (IPTs): Fort DeSoto, SEPT 2018. Bosque, DEC 2018. San Diego, JAN 2019

    E-mail me at samandmayasgrandpa@att.net for BPN member IPT discount info.










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    ps: I will always raise the ISO to make sure that I get to at least 1/30 sec. with the 800 or 1/60 sec. with a 500 or a 600mm.
    BIRDS AS ART Blog: great info and lessons, lots of images with our legendary BAA educational Captions.: we will not sell you junk. 30+ years of long lens experience/e-mail with gear questions.
    BIRDS AS ART Online Store: we will not sell you junk. 35 years of long lens experience. Please e-mail with gear questions.

    BIRDS AS ART Instructional Photo Tours (IPTs): Fort DeSoto, SEPT 2018. Bosque, DEC 2018. San Diego, JAN 2019

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    Guruji
    That will help in getting shutter speed , but noise will be bit high.
    IMHO Noise reduction on main subjcet makes it soft. Sometimes we get much blurred BG
    I have one beautiful image which I can not show because it is noisy (BG & main subject)
    Image you have posted shows no NOISE factor on main subject.
    How you have achieved it ? :confused:

    Harshad

    PS IMHO again this question sounds stupid , but I really want to learn this & that to fast

  7. #7
    Bryan Hix
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    Thanks for taking the time to write this up Artie. I had a feeling a was doing the opposite with AV and Manual. Now I just need to beat this in my head until it's a habit. :)
    Last edited by Bryan Hix; 09-24-2009 at 08:59 AM.

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    BPN Member Ilija Dukovski's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harshad Barve View Post
    Guruji
    That will help in getting shutter speed , but noise will be bit high.
    IMHO Noise reduction on main subjcet makes it soft. Sometimes we get much blurred BG
    I have one beautiful image which I can not show because it is noisy (BG & main subject)
    Image you have posted shows no NOISE factor on main subject.
    How you have achieved it ? :confused:

    Harshad

    PS IMHO again this question sounds stupid , but I really want to learn this & that to fast
    Harshad, I believe what you are asking is due to the difference between full-frame FX and the DX format.
    FX is larger format so at same megapixels the sensors are larger compared to DX. That means the
    signal-to-noise ratio in FX is much better than DX.
    For example:
    D300 is DX and has way worse noise than D3 which is FX.
    That is why on D3 you can get good IQ with not much noise even at ISO1600
    Nikon has just anounced D3s FX at 12.1 megapixels with, and I quote:

    "ISO performance: ISO 12800 as standard, expandable to ISO equivalent of 102400 (Hi 3)"

    Can you imagine ISO 12800 as standard?:eek:

    Cheers,

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    This thread is a bit old but I'd like to add some comments. Thanks for creating the original thread.

    ISO is a bit tricky. With higher ISO you are trading off more than just noise - you also lose dynamic range, contrast, and color. I might be perfectly comfortable with the noise at ISO 3200 on a Nikon D800E, but the loss of dynamic range is around -4 EV compared to base ISO 100. That can have a big impact on some subjects. DxOMark provides an objective comparison of the impact of ISO changes as well as across cameras.

    There is a benefit of resizing if you have a large number of pixels - such as with the Nikon D800 and D600. When you are resizing, you might be combining 1 pixel of noise with 2 that don't have noise - and the result is near noiseless. The impact of resizing is about 1 1/2 stops on a 36 mp image compared to the same image from a 12 mp camera.

    If you are going to stretch to higher ISO levels, post processing workflow matters. You want to minimize any editing step that creates noise - especially if you need to crop and upsize the image. Shadows tend to show noise - especially at higher ISO levels. If you are recovering dark shadows, you may introduce noise. As a result, you might use a little noise reduction and upsize early in the workflow, then proceed with recovering shadows. Selective editing can be effective in applying noise reduction and sharpening only where it is needed.

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