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I'm the wedding photographer for the adventurous couple that wishes to exchange their vows in the most sacred of settings. The great outdoors!


I also created an e-book for fellow photographers who are interested in learning how to shoot in manual-mode! Check it out below. :) It's free!


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ISO 101: Shooting in Manual Mode (Part 2/3)



Wether you’re a food blogger and want to take better photos of your recipes, a fashion blogger who wants better selfies, an aspiring professional photographer or even just a parent and you want better photos of your kids, anyone can benefit from knowing how to properly use their camera! Shooting in manual mode allows you to be in full control of all the settings, and thus, in full control of how the final image turns out.

When I first got started, it took me some time to understand all the manual mode settings and how to choose the right ones to create the photo I pictured in my mind. Trust me, shooting in manual mode sounds a lot scarier than it actually is. Like anything, all it takes is a little patience and lots of practice!

If you’re already feeling a little nervous about having to learn all this new stuff at once, don’t fret my friend! I’ve split up this blog post up into three bite sized parts to make it easier for you to learn one setting at a time.


The Manual Mode Triangle

In this blog series I explain and describe the three main settings that complete the manual mode triangle. I also outline the relationship they have with each other and how they all affect the final image differently.

What IS the manual mode triangle? Well, when shooting in manual mode, you will first of all need to adjust the aperture, the ISO and the shutter speed. These three main settings complete the manual mode triangle, because they work together in order to create the perfect image.

Part 1 – Understanding aperture

Part 2 – Understanding ISO

Part 3 – Understanding shutter speed



Shooting In Manual Mode - ISO 101


Understanding ISO

ISO refers to the sensitivity your camera’s image sensor has to light. The lower your ISO number the less sensitive it is to light, while a higher ISO number means more sensitivity to light.

In the film days, you would purchase rolls of film with a set ISO level. If you wanted to change that ISO you’d have to change your film. Thankfully today, our digital cameras are able to easily change between different ISO levels on the fly.

Shooting In Manual Mode - ISO 101


How does the ISO affect my image?

A. sensitivity of image sensor light

B. noise and grain


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A. Sensitivity of image sensor to light

Every camera has a base ISO level. This base ISO level is the lowest setting (usually 100) and will produce the highest quality image.

Typically, ISO levels start at 100 and can go all the way up to 102 400 in the newer, higher-end cameras. No matter how high your camera’s ISO can go, what’s important to note is that each ISO increment is twice as more sensitive than the previous one. Usually, the ISO sequence will go as follows: 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400, etc. So ISO 200 is twice as more sensitive as ISO 100 and ISO 3200 is twice as sensitive as ISO 1600.


B. Noise and grain

Why does a lower ISO produce a higher quality image? Higher sensitivity (higher ISO) comes at an expense – it adds grain or noise to your images. At higher ISO levels (think 800 and above), your camera is compensating for the lack of light by artificially boosting the levels. This in turn adds grain to your photo, and also reduces the sharpness and detail in your image.

Unless you absolutely need to boost your ISO, I suggest always sticking to the lowest possible setting in order to capture proper exposure. However, boosting your ISO isn’t always something to avoid. Camera image sensors are so good these days that I can get away with ISO 800 and still have a high-quality image. Like I just mentioned, in most situations, I like to keep my ISO at 100, but I’ll go as high as necessary when I need to get a shot in very dark conditions. A noisy shot at ISO 6400 is better than no shot at all!

Shooting In Manual Mode - ISO 101

Left image:

ISO 100



Right image:

ISO 6400




Hopefully that demystifies ISO for you!

Hop to the next blog post to read about understanding the shutter speed!
If you have any questions regarding the ISO, feel free to leave them down below or shoot me an email! I’m always happy to help.


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    Emilie Smith is based in Edmonton, Alberta // Edmonton Wedding Photographers, Mountain Adventure Wedding Photographers and Edmonton Elopement Photographers

    Serving: Alberta // British-Columbia // Canadian Rockies // National Parks // Okanagan // West Coast // Northern Canada

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