A couple of weeks ago Layla and I stopped by a house in Montgomery to shoot some quick pics and chat with the owner about his wonderful home. We only had about one hour to tour his house, so I had to shoot as quickly as possible.

In a perfect world, I would set up a tripod and use a low number ISO. This allows me to make the image brighter by slowing down my shutter speed. But since I was hand holding my camera, I had to use a much higher ISO number to make the images brighter. The main point I wanted to drive home today is that using a higher ISO number is completely okay. For example, I knew the pics I shot that day would only be used online, and wouldn’t be shown any larger than 600 pixels wide. When the images are that small, you can’t really see the graininess that a high ISO causes.

Here’s a closer look…

Even at 600 pixels wide the image below still looks nice on the internet. You can start to see the graininess a little on the back walls, but it doesn’t ruin the shot by any means.

If we zoom in to 100% you can see how grainy the higher ISO has actually made the image…

…so if I were shooting this photo for print, I definitely would have had to shoot it using a tripod. Magazines require high resolution images that should be as clean as possible, but if the image is never going to be blown up or printed bigger than a 5×7 don’t panic if you need to use a higher ISO!

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  • Katie @ Wildwood Creek

    Lovely photos!  This tip is so helpful!  We are so ingrained with the message to use a low ISO.  I would have never thought to bump up the ISO so high.

    • shootflyshoot

      Hi Katie! I started with a lower ISO and worked my way up until the photo finally looked properly exposed. Sometimes it’s the only choice you have and that’s okay! Thanks for the comment! 🙂

  • Awesome tip! Since I have been watching your videos, I start with ISO at 100 and work my way up if necessary. You and Josh are amazing and give me courage:)

    • shootflyshoot

      Thanks Lisa! Your comment made my day! 🙂


  • Kelly

    I always feel like I HAVE to use the darn tripod since I am so shakey with the camera.  I had no idea it would turn out so good with an iso that high!  Man, I feel guilty when I bump it up to 800.  Thanks for the reassurance!

    • shootflyshoot

      I used to me afraid to use a higher ISO too, but sometimes it’s the only way to get the shot. Thanks so much for stopping by today! 🙂

  • Nice to see the effect of changing the ISO.  I understand the need to have the high resolution for the publication but I almost enjoy the slight fuzziness of the background in this photo.  It adds a softer “patina” that supports the subject matter.

    • shootflyshoot

      That is true Steve, it totally works for this image!

  • I’m so glad to have seen your examples. In the past I would have given up on low light shots with an ISO that high, assuming they would be too grainy. Having never bothered to look at the finished product on my computer, I had no idea they would look fine on my blog. You’ve taught me not only to try that higher ISO, but also, as a new-to digital photographer, to not make other assumptions about my camera’s capabilities without checking them out more thoroughly. Thanks so much!

    • shootflyshoot

      Thank you Laurel! 🙂

  • Cindy

    Thank you for the great tip.  I always wondered what situations were okay for using a higher ISO.  Also, your photos are INCREDIBLE!

    • shootflyshoot

      Thank you Cindy! Your comment made me smile BIG! 😀

  • Melissa-TheHappierHomemaker

    Thanks for the tip-good to know that I can use the higher iso on photos I take exclusively for my blog!

    • shootflyshoot

      Thanks Melissa! Yeah, low resolution images are so much smaller that it covers up a lot of the ISO imperfections. 🙂

  • The Vintique Object

    I just finished taking your course, and am now reading back through your blog. When I first got my camera, and BSFS (that’s “before ShootFlyShoot), I quickly figured out that I could manipulate the ISO for brighter photos on my blog. Then I took the class and thought, whoops! This post has made me feel better about some of the photos I posted. They’re still pretty overblown though! Now I know better thanks to you guys!

  • Natalie

    I just finished your course and loved it and it finally all clicks in my head! But I was getting frustrated the other day when my dad and daughter were sitting at the piano I wanted to quickly take a few snapshots of them together and didn’t want to lug out the tripod and was nervous to bump up the iso. Thanks!

  • Ms.Lizzy

    Talk about being a visual learner…..I finally get the pixel/quality thingy! YAY me….YAY you guys!