The abbreviation, ISO, is used for many things. However, for digital cameras, it stands for the light sensitivity of a camera sensor. For film cameras, ISO is the speed of the film. The higher the ISO, the more sensitive the camera sensor or film is to the light. So, which is the best setting for ISO on your camera?  This depends on your camera. When you raise your ISO, it adds noise (graininess) to your image. Thus, high ISO images have a tendency to be quite grainy (see example top left). The larger your image sensor, the higher you will be able to take the ISO without it appearing grainy. You will probably want to take test pictures at different ISO settings to see at which ISO setting the noise starts really appearing.

Photograph by Daniel Hancock

For the best quality, you will want the lowest ISO possible. Doing this will produce a cleaner and sharper image. Though, to avoid blurring, you may need a high ISO even if the result will be grainy. Another situation in which you might want a higher ISO  is an event in which you have lots of subject movement. For example, to take pictures of a NASCAR race on a overcast day,  you would want a higher ISO to enable you to speed up your shutter speed.

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