Ep 141: Crank it up! Why every photographer should embrace high ISO

It’s time to crank up your ISO. In this episode, we dispel the myths about high ISO being noisy and grainy and show you what you need to do if you’re shooting this way.

Gina and Valerie discuss the various situations where high ISO should be used (and it’s not just when there is low light or at night!) and the extra techniques you need to employ if you choose this setting.

Gina and Valerie love bringing this podcast to you.

Hope you enjoy the podcast.

Sign up to the newsletter for great tips and free Lightroom presets.

Join the dynamic Gold Membership in our Community which delivers monthly tutorials, live mastermind and lots of behind the scenes videos into the creative process.  

#ginachallenge #crankitup

Click play to listen to the podcast or find it on iTunes here. If you don’t use iTunes you can get the feed here, or listen to us on Stitcher radio.

Show notes

Useful links

Couple Surprised After They Buy A Tiny Kitty, And It Grows To Be The World’s Longest Cat

What is ISO

  • ISO controls how sensitive the camera sensor is to light
  • Fear around shooting high ISO originated from the film days and early digital cameras
  • Film days ISO 800 was shite
  • Early days of digital 800 also looked shite particularly in the higher MB cameras
  • ISO controls how sensitive the camera sensor is to light
  • Lower the number the lower the sensitivity
  • Higher the number the greater the sensitivity
  • Cranking up the ISO works much like a dimmer switch on a light
Above: ISO controls how sensitive the camera sensor is to light

Grain vs Noise

  • Grain is the (visible) crystal grain structure on film.
  • The higher the speed (ISO/ASA) of film used, the more grain dots are visible
    (because of the larger crystals/dye clouds compared to a “slow” film) and result in a picture with with less resolution.
  • Underexposing also leads to more visible grain.
  • Noise is signals recorded by a digital sensor (or post-processing)
  • high ISO setting
  • long shutter speeds can result in a colourful section across the final image that give a fuzzy and dirty look.
  • Underexposing also creates colour noise.

Not all noise is created equal

Colour Noise Vs Luminance noise
  • Luminance noise looks like old school film grain and can be quite nice
  • Colour noise is the enemy and is the thing that makes images look shite
  • Blotchy skin tones
  • Walls etc

What are the advantages of shooting high ISO?

  • Faster shutter speeds (sport, wildlife, action)
  • Greater depth of field
  • Shoot off tripod


  • Noise
  • Loss of quality due to colour noise
  • Less realistic colours
  • Loss of sharpness

The optimum conditions for shooting high ISO

  • Bright light
  • Outside on a bright sunny day
  • The brighter the light the better the overall exposure
    • detail in shadows
    • faster shutter speed
    • easier to focus
    • better depth of field
    • freeze action
    • shoot off tripod = more freedom

Knowing this we can adjust ISO to increase camera’s sensitivity to light to replicate optimum shooting conditions

Best times to crank it up

  • Night photography
  • Sport
  • Concerts
  • Events
  • Wildlife

Not good to crank it here

  • Studio commercial due to loss of fine detail and colour noise
  • Advertising
  • Portraits
  • Macro

How to avoid noise

Important that images are correctly exposed when shooting high ISO
Particularly in the shadows

Above: Images photographed in good light have minimal noise

Above: Well lit high ISO images have minimal noise

Correcting exposure increases noise in the shadows


Converting images to black and white is the easiest way to reduce colour noise

Above: Under exposed image
Above: Image adjusted in LR to correct exposure. Notice increase of colour noise in the shadows?
Above: Colour noise disappears when image is converted to BW
Above: Image SOC is underexposed slightly in the top third of the frame

Above: Luminance slider at 31
Above: Luminance slider at 100. Notice loss of sharpness
Above: Timothy lit correctly with flash
Above: Under exposed image
Above: Under exposed image with exposure adjusted
Above: Noise caused by increasing exposure of underexposed image
Above: Image with noise reduction

The best combo is high ISO and tiny Dook of fill light

Best high ISO cameras


  • Reduce camera noise by correctly exposing images
  • High ISO + dook of light = lower noise
  • HIGH ISO noise can be corrected in post production
  • Luminance decrease size and sharpness of pixels
  • Colour decreases appearance of colour artefacts
  • Noise reduction reduces the sharpness of an image

#ginachallenge #crankitup

Leave a Reply


Get your copy of Gina’s guide “The Shot” FREE when you sign up to her newsletter. You’ll also receive FREE Lightroom presets every month.

How to direct and pose like a pro


Want Gina Milicia as your mentor?

About Gina

About Gina

Gina Milicia is one of the most widely known and respected photographers in Australia. She is the master of capturing that ‘magical moment’... READ MORE

instagram Instagram