Which iso/asa to use when? A short guide.


ISO, ASA, shutter speed, aperture, f/-stops, cloudy, daylight, nighttime, long exposure… The world of photography houses a whole new language and it’s not always easy to know which film to use when to get the best results. I’m going to list some quick tips to hopefully help you.

ISO (or ASA) is a scale which determines how sensitive your film is for light, and in effect how “fast” the film is. Fast for what you mean?

Say your favorite band is playing! Or any band. You’re going to a cool concert! Which film are you going to stick in your camera? If it’s an indoor event, a club for example, then it’s probably going to be very dark inside, except for the spotlights. You should bring a film with a higher ISO, 400 or maybe even 800 so that, even though there is not much light inside, the camera and the film will work with what is there to take crisp and clear shots.

Don’t do like me and bring a ISO 100 film. Look.

Credits: lighttomysoul

Same if you’re going out to take some night shots of your city. High ISO film. Otherwise you might end up with green and red lights from possible UFOs…

Credits: lighttomysoul

While this might be cool sometimes, it’s also cool to have pictures that come out right, especially if you’re on holiday and won’t have the opportunity to go back soon.

If you’re familiar with the 24 hour clock system, here is a good way to think:
If it’s 20.30 at night, it is dark, the hour is MUCH, you need a MUCH number high film. 400 or 800.
If it’s daytime and full daylight, only a LOW number of hours of the day have passed, you need a LOW iso film.

Credits: lighttomysoul

And maybe MOST IMPORTANT of all, if you have a wide selection of different ISO films, REMEMBER to immediately change the ISO setting on camera the second you’ve loaded the film to the correct number.
Otherwise you might do like me and have the camera set to ISO 100 but with a ISO 400 film inside, shooting it inside… Then you’ll end up with blurry pictures none the less!

Credits: lighttomysoul

Hope this helped!
But remember, even accidents can be happy! :)

written by lighttomysoul on 2011-05-07 #gear #tutorials #film #guide #tipster #asa #iso #quickie-tipster #lighttomysoul


  1. nural
    nural ·

    the thing is, even if I use 800 or 400 iso's indoors, the shots come out weird... like: www.lomography.com/homes/nural/albums/1683305-getting-ink-d… these are with 800iso lomo CN film

  2. veato
    veato ·

    @nural indoors depending on the camera's aperture and shutter speed ASA800 still might not be enough (without flash).

  3. lighttomysoul
    lighttomysoul ·

    @nural @veato yep I was just gonna say, might be something with the camera probably. if you loaded iso800 into a SLR, and had the aperture of f/22, you'd still have to hold the shutter open for ages before getting anything decent. even at just f/11 surely.

  4. the_detourist
    the_detourist ·

    remember kids, exposure is the SYNERGY of film speed, aperture, and shutter speed.... only one ingredient will not make the photos magically perfect :)

  5. wuxiong
    wuxiong ·

    heyehey you are funny detuourist. Quite clear tipster. But I'd say any guide is only a guide, new lomoers need some drills and fails, to become experieced. Get out and shoot..<:)

  6. lighttomysoul
    lighttomysoul ·

    what @wuxiong said. trial and error is the best way of learning. but this is for those who don't have that much patience for trial and error. :)

  7. the_detourist
    the_detourist ·

    wasnt trying to be funny, just reminding everyone (and the new people) that it takes ALL ingredients to make a good exposure, film is just one part of the puzzle!

  8. veato
    veato ·

    I does help to have some understanding of these principles but it's best not to get bogged down in it for the purposes of what we do here, no? After all isn't that what Lomography is all about. I mean some of the camera dont even have (or more accurately sdo have them but dont tell you/let you control them) the proper apertures and shutter speeds. In my Vivi everything is fixed. If it's sunny then I'll have a go with anything from 100-400. If it's overcast then I'd start at 400. If I wanted to balance ISO, shutter speed and aperture to obtain the perfect exposure I wouldn't be hanging around here posting shots made on plastic cameras! :D

  9. pomps
    pomps ·

    Liked the 24 hour clock system!

  10. niko_fuzzy
    niko_fuzzy ·

    challenging lighting, gamble shots.

  11. nick_a_tron
    nick_a_tron ·

    Learn the sunny 16 rule. Once you have it memorised you're set for life. It's a bit boggling at first but soon you'll just set your camera without thinking.

  12. nick_a_tron
    nick_a_tron ·

    Plus personally I find the whole "don't think just shoot" all good and well in principal, but there's nothing more depressing than going to pick up your film and being told that nothing came out because you set the iso completely wrong on your slide film. Think a bit, but don't let it dictate your photography completely. If you don't want to think use hipstamatic. The phrase is just a marketing tool to get you to buy more film...

  13. lighttomysoul
    lighttomysoul ·

    @nick_a_tron I take the whole "don't think just shoot" as more don't restrict yourself, just go for whatever you see and whatever interests you... and of course experiments and unexpected results are great, but I'm sure no one wants totally failed pics.

  14. nick_a_tron
    nick_a_tron ·

    @lighttomysoul You nailed it! :)

More Interesting Articles