Why Shooting at ISO 100 May Not Be the Best

I see a lot of people asking what were the camera settings for this shot? While it differs in each situation, one common setting that seems to matter to many is shooting at ISO 100. Is that really the best setting to be shooting at?

In this video from boudoir photographer Michael Sasser, he shares his reasoning for not shooting at ISO 100 with natural light. In several of his previous videos, he shares he camera settings with the photos he has taken which you can see the ISO setting typically bouncing around in the range of 250-400. 

I find myself agreeing with Sasser's logic for shooting at a higher ISO setting, which I am usually doing the same thing in most naturally lit events I attend. Sometimes the subjects are in shadow while others may be right in the light. For me, it's much easier to adjust shutter speed versus messing with ISO and other settings or risk shooting at a shutter speed that's lower than what I am comfortable shooting at without getting blurry photos. For high-end commercial jobs, if more light is needed, a strobe or light would more than likely come into play. For other shoots, bumping the ISO up will work just fine. If you do happen to get more noise than you are comfortable with, Sasser shares how he fixes that in post with a few simple tweaks. 

What are your thoughts? Do you embrace higher ISO settings or stick to shooting at 100 no matter what? Let us know in the comments.

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Previous comments
Black Z Eddie .'s picture

Tony, is that you?

--"get the same lighting effect in post with less noise and better DR"

No. Are you pulling our leg, lol? Not sure if you were serious, but, just for the heck of it, I tried it. I shot my dirty dishes on a A7III at ISO 1000, 1/125th, f1.8 (settings proper exposure for lighting at the time) and then at ISO 100, 1/125th, f1.8. In post (Capture One Pro) I adjusted the exposure and white balance of the ISO 100 image to match the ISO 1000. Looks like shit. Ok, maybe not like total shit, but, definitely, the 100 was noisier and had loss of DR.

Here's a question, for you, did you even try it?

Anthony Cayetano's picture

Yup. On my D850, the variance is almost non-perceptible. Well, between 100 and 800. However, having said that, lighting and scenes are very important factors too as a well-balanced, albeit still-dim scenes work better at lower-than-usual ISOs for me. Of course on really dimmer scenes I do raise ISOs, I don’t go over 800 (I only go higher if I really have to). I get better recoveries. I do wonder if any D850 users have similar results?

Benoit Pigeon's picture

I don't use a D850, but I keep it low as well even on my 1dxM2 for the same reason. I often shoot race cars at night in terrible lighting condition. So I bring strobes and shoot hypersync to shoot over camera sync speed and I combine with the little ambiant available. With limited higher iso value, I can combine ambient and strobes to obtain what I look for which is having most of the car sharp on an angle shot, good color starting point from the strobes and limited noise. I come from prepress and drum scanning and actual color of the cars is important to me just like in my day photography wich is a lot of furniture and color accuracy. Noise is terrible for color accuracy as correction tend to push toward a plastic look on vibrant colors and naturally sharp designed object. Skin may be an other deal and color accuracy not relevant as much, I don't know I don't do boudoir or fashion, but for anything else that goes on print it certainly can show.

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

So I dug up Lee's old video. He was using a D850 in a controlled lighting scenario. For that camera for that test, it actually did pretty well. But, at the end of the day, he suggests, as well as the consensus, just shoot it correctly for the scenario or for what you're trying to accomplish.


Of course ISO 100 isn't best! I usually shoot at ISO 50 or sometimes ISO 25. In the future, I might even go as far as ISO 12

Matt Barr's picture

If you, clients, etc don't mind noise, thats cool. But it's not like you have no other option. Buy lighting.

Michael Sasser doesn't even know that his Sony a9 has dual "native ISO" gain stages.
At ISO 640 it goes back to as little noise as ISO 100.