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How to Choose Your Virtual Film Speed

Got a digital camera? Learn how to select film speed for a variety of shots, from sports to parties.


  • Step 1: Analyze scene Analyze the scene, noting the amount of light present and the subject matter you will be shooting. You will be choosing an ISO based on these shooting conditions.
  • TIP: The term 'ISO' refers to how sensitive the image sensor is to the amount of light present.
  • Step 2: Medium-lit interiors For medium-lit interiors, select an ISO between 200 and 400.
  • Step 3: Brightly lit interiors For brightly lit interiors, use an ISO between 100 and 200.
  • Step 4: Outside on bright days When outside on bright days, choose an ISO between 50 and 100.
  • Step 5: Exterior shots on cloudy days For exterior shots on cloudy days, select an ISO between 100 and 200.
  • TIP: The lower the film speed, the better the image quality and the less noise, or digital grain, will be visible within your images. Choose the lowest possible ISO you can use without sacrificing clarity.
  • Step 6: Fast action Fast action warrants a fast film speed of between 400 and 800.
  • Step 7: Still-lifes & portraits For still-lifes and portraits, a low ISO of between 50 and 100 is recommended.
  • Step 8: Low lighting w/ tripod If the lighting is low and you have a tripod, try an ISO of between 400 and 600.
  • TIP: In all situations, a tripod helps reduce camera shake and improves the clarity of photos. Use a tripod whenever possible.
  • Step 9: Select film speed Turn your dials to select the appropriate film speed based on your shooting conditions.
  • Step 10: Click away Click away—then move on to the next great photo opportunity!
  • FACT: The first consumer digital camera was the Apple Quicktake 100, which debuted in Tokyo in 1994. The Quicktake had a resolution of only 640×480 pixels, which is almost half the resolution of most cell phone cameras today.

You Will Need

  • A digital SLR camera
  • A tripod

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