Take Back Control of your ISO!

As I was leaving work today, Spouse called and suggested that I stop by the climbing wall – a 5 minute walk – before heading to my car. He was working on a climbing challenge and wasn’t ready to leave just yet. Recognizing this as an opportunity to capture photos of something completely different, I went straightaway (well, OK, I *did* stop for a moment to get shots of some crocuses that have been bearing up under this latest blast of winter).

He was climbing in an area of the wall called “the cave”. I think you can guess by the name that there’s not much natural light there… so I would need to rely on my S90’s built-in flash (which I’ve hardly ever used.)

As his friend Erica was climbing, I started shooting, working the aperture, shutter speed, and exposure compensation. First shot: too bright. Make some adjustments. Second shot: too bright. Make more adjustments. Third shot: too bright. You get the picture (no pun intended). It seemed like no matter what I did, the results were all too bright! And then Spouse started climbing. Around then, I changed the flash output setting to Minimum (from Medium). Result: too dark.

Too Bright

Too bright

Too Dark

Too Dark

As a final act of desperation, I changed the ISO from Auto to 200, and moved the flash output back to Medium. Wow! What a difference!

So the lesson I’ve learned is: don’t trust the camera to choose an ISO for you. I suspect that that’s particularly true when using flash.

Climbing Wall

Just Right

* a note on the “Too Bright” sample: although there’s a lot more detail visible, the output is significantly brighter than the real thing was.

** also note: these pictures were taken during different attempts. He didn’t really stay in that same position while I changed the camera settings.


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