26 Weeks Camera Challenge #8: We Were Made In the Dark. / by Simeon Smith


The last part in this section on camera control is all about ISO. ISO stands for… you know, I’ve no idea what it stands for, but basically it’s how sensitive a film or digital camera sensor is. If your aperture and shutter speed aren’t letting much light in, you’ll need the camera to be more sensitive than if it’s letting a tonne of light in. To stop the photo looking totally washed out, or too dark, we change the ISO.

If you’re using a film camera, you only change ISO when you swap out your film. Most people use ISO 50-100 if they’re shooting out in the sun, ISO 200 as an outside all-rounder, ISO 400-1600 on gloomy days or inside and 3200+ in the dark. There’s a tonne of creative stuff you can do to get different films performing in different ways, but the important thing to remember is that generally, the higher the ISO, as well as being more sensitive to light, you’ll also end up with a grainier, and more contrasty image. Some people love this look. Ilford HP5 is a great film you can shoot at a tonne of different speeds (or ISOs), and gets progressively grainier and more contrasty the higher you go. 

On a digital camera, you can change the iso whenever, but it will still affect image quality. The darker the subject you’re shooting, the grainier your image will look. If your camera picks the ISO for you you’ll often find it’ll try to compensate for this graininess by just selecting a slower shutter speed. 

So here we have the Holy Trinity of camera control. 

Aperture / Shutter Speed / ISO

To master your camera you not only need to understand each one, but also each affects the other. Usually if I can affect the light outside the camera, for example when I’m shooting in the streets, I first select the depth of field I want in a shot by choosing the aperture, I choose the amount of movement I want in the shot by choosing the shutter speed, to get a properly exposed picture, this will force me to choose a particular ISO. 

Your task this week is to shoot some subjects at nighttime, and get them looking as good as possible.


-Do you like the look of graininess? Why do you think people may enjoy this aesthetic? 

-How can you learn to balance the “Holy Trinity” of camera control?

-Have you shot in “full manual” before, controlling all three elements? Is it there a reason why you might not want to shoot in this manner? 

26 WEEKS is a camera challenge I’m putting together to help someone through their Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award. You can follow along here on the the blog, but it’s best to start at the beginning. Here’s what we’ve already covered: 


Week 1: Do You. 

Week 2: Find Your Masters.

Week 3: Study Your Masters.

Week 4: Kill Your Masters. 

Week 5: The One Thing.

Week 6: Depth of Field. 

Week 7: Blur.