A common misconception among beginning landscape photographers is that when using a tripod, one should stay at ISO 100 for the best resulting photos. Photographer Mark Denney made this 10-minute video dispelling the myth and showing examples of when that’s not true.
“I was so conditioned to think that the only way to get a super clean-looking photograph was to use ISO 100,” Denney says, “and the moment that I increased that from 100 to, say, 200, the overall image quality is immediately degraded and it just starts to go down the higher I increase my ISO.”
As a test, Denney shot a series of photos of his Christmas tree with his Fujifilm X-T3, increasing his ISO with each shot. This allowed him to discover that he could push his ISO to 2500 and still achieve clean-looking images.
Of course, depending on the model of camera you’re using, this “acceptable ISO” threshold may be higher or lower.
Denney shares two common landscape photography situations that almost always require him to push his ISO higher than baseline.
First, any photo that contains moving water could force you to increase your ISO to nail the depth of field and shutter speed you want for the shot — otherwise, not enough of your scene may be in focus (a less-than-ideal aperture) or the water may be too sharp or too motion-blurred (a less-than-ideal shutter speed).
“I personally think that when you’re photographing moving water […] shutter speed is king,” Denney says. “Changing the shutter speed to increase the overall exposure is just absolutely not an option, so what do you do? This is where you lean on your best friend, which is ISO.”
The second situation Denney points out is any scene that has woodland wind.
Just like when photographing water, photographing trees in the wind presents a problem — dragging out your shutter speed to increase exposure results in motion-blurred leaves, and often this isn’t the look you’re going for.
Watch the video above for Denney’s full argument for why you need not be scared of rising above your base ISO. You can also follow along with his videos by subscribing to his popular YouTube channel.