photo of candles inside cages
Photo by Craig Adderley on Pexels.com

Too often in today’s world, it seems that people are thinking that cell phone photography is getting close to everything a regular SLR or DSLR, or even a mirrorless camera can do.

This article will dispel that myth so you can see that cell phone photography is still far away from doing what a good camera can do.


ISO refers to your camera’s sensitivity to light. The higher the ISO, the more sensitive your camera sensor becomes, and the brighter your photos appear.

ISO is measured in numbers. Here are a few standard ISO values: 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200.

That said, pretty much every camera offers intermediate ISO values (for instance, ISO 125 and ISO 160 between ISO 100 and ISO 200). And most cameras these days include additional ISOs on the high end of the range, such as ISO 6400, ISO 12800, ISO 25600, and beyond.


ISO is the acronym used by the “International Standards Organization”. This is where the ISO came up with it’s standard across the world.

For the purposes of photography, the name isn’t important. Just think of ISO as your camera’s sensitivity to light, and you’ll do just fine!


By increasing the ISO in your camera, you are making the light meter more sensitive to light. It would allow you to shoot in different types of light, even when light is not good.

person standing beside waterfalls
Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Pexels.com

The first number that you would use in your ISO setting is usually 100, and is the basis for shooting in good light, such as sun, and bright light. You would then be setting your shutter speed and aperture according to what your desired effect is.


Now if we go from 100 ISO to say 800 ISO, you will now have some control over what is normally not scene in the darker shadows of your photo. Like this:

an underexposed image of a room
A Picture shot at 100 ISO.
a well-exposed image of a room
Maybe shooting the same photo at 800ISO will give you a great exposure inside where it once was dark.

Both the above pictures have something to be aware of. If shooting at 100 ISO, the photo is usually perfect if shooting outside. Look at the exposure of the outside through the window, with the first picture.

Now, looking at the second exposure, for sure it seems like it’s a better picture. But, now the outside is so washed out, the picture really seems kind of useless, because it is now over exposed. Although it looks perfect inside, where the lighting isn’t so good. So, which one do you like? Either one will work, it just depends on what you want in your photo.


To get the perfect exposure, it is all a combination of ISO, the proper shutter speed, and the best aperture setting. All 3 of these are important. Let’s look at why you would change your ISO setting when you have the perfect light.


I know this is a lesson on ISO settings, but, let’s look at the other settings it has to work with: The first being the shutter speed.

If you set your camera at ISO 100, the perfect exposure outside will probably be: 1/125 second, and the aperture or F Stop will be F16. Perfect exposure. If you will recall, the faster the shutter speed, you can now stop action:

timelapse photography of green and white racing vehicle on lane
Photo by Chris Peeters on Pexels.com

If you want to stop action, then your shutter speed will need to be close to 1/1000 second. To get the proper picture then, the easiest thing to do is to raise your ISO from 100 to 800 ISO to get the proper exposure. (That is as long as the aperture stays the same).

You see that changing your shutter speed, you will need to change your ISO to keep things in proper exposure.


pink rose
Photo by Jonas Kakaroto on Pexels.com

Now let’s see what can happen if you want to change your aperture setting to get a shallow depth of field, like the above photo.

If you change your setting on your aperture to F2.8, there may be the need to change your ISO, but it can’t go lower than 100, right? (Most newer cameras will only go as low as ISO 100). So, the only thing you can do here again, is to change your shutter speed, to match the ISO of 100. Changing it to F2.8 would mean you would need to change your shutter speed to 1/2000 second. That will allow you to get the exposure you need.


  • You’re shooting at an indoor sports event, especially if your subject is moving fast
  • You’re shooting a landscape without a tripod and you need a deep depth of field
  • You’re shooting a landscape at night (or doing astrophotography) and you need a reasonable shutter speed to freeze the stars
  • You’re photographing portraits in a dark room or in the evening/night
  • You’re shooting an event indoors with limited window light (such as a party)
  • You’re photographing a dark concert
  • You’re photographing an art gallery, a church, or a building interior (you might also consider using a tripod, but this is against the rules in a lot of spaces)
  • You’re photographing wildlife in the early morning or evening (especially if you need a fast shutter speed)
  • You’re photographing fast-moving subjects and you need an ultra-fast shutter speed
  • You’re shooting motionless landscapes and your camera is mounted on a tripod
  • You’re photographing portraits in good light
  • You’re photographing an event, and you have plenty of window light or you’re using flash
  • You’re photographing products with a powerful artificial lighting setup
portrait of a handsome man with muscular body
Photo by emre keshavarz on Pexels.com


ISO and shutter speeds and aperture settings all work together. It just depends on what you want to achieve in your photo, that will be what you need to set for ISO, Shutter speed, and F Stops. We will go into why you would change your shutter speeds and the effects you can get with changing it. And then we will get into why you would change your aperture setting as well. Keep with me…….


person under delicate arch at night
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

We are seeing on social media many great photos of the night sky, including the Milky Way. And I think we will see many more of these type of photos due to the recent improvement in cameras and the ISO settings getting so high, and their ability to take photos at night. Pentax K3 Mark III recently released a camera that is capable of shooting at an ISO off 1,600,000 makes night photography exciting. But, there are certainly steps you need to make to get night photography to happen correctly.

51 different subjects in photography, and we are doing them all. This subject is on “night Photography”, just one of the many subjects. Look back on past blogs to see what subjects have been done.
snow covered mountain
Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Pexels.com

Let’s take a look at what we need to make night photography work for you:

1- The shutter on your camera will be open for a period of time, that should require a camera tripod. If you do not use a camera tripod, your photos will be blurry. Period. Doesn’t matter if you are using a cell phone for your camera, if it has to see the dark night, your camera will open the shutter for a period of time, and you just won’t be able to hold the camera still enough. If you are a cell phone photographer, they do make a tripod for cell phones that is not a lot of money. I have a tripod for cell phone, and use it a lot. In fact, here is one of my night photos taken with my cell phone:

Photo by Lanny Cottrell Photography. Notice how the street lights are able to light up the surrounding area, giving it all a unique feeling to the picture.

2- But for night sky shooting, let’s give you a point to start with. Nikon USA recommends the following:

  • A good starting exposure for most star shots is to use the widest aperture on your lens, expose for 20 seconds, increasing the ISO as needed for a good exposure.
tall palm trees under purple sky
Photo by Brady Knoll on Pexels.com

Most of the time, when you shoot with your cell phone camera, your moon will hardly be noticed, similar to the photo above. In order to get a moon shot that looks like this:

woman holding a moon
Photo by Ruvim on Pexels.com

Or, even to get detail on the moon:

waxing moon shining in cloudy sky
Photo by David Selbert on Pexels.com

Here is what you need to do:

To get a great Moon shot and little else, set your camera to ISO 100 or ISO 200 and the aperture to between f/5.6 and f/11, and adjust your shutter speed to between 1/125sec and 1/250sec.

Next, if you want to see the moon, like the bottom picture, it will require a telephoto lens. Most cameras have a wide angle lens in them, which actually pushes the image of the moon back further than what you see. They even make telephoto lenses for cell phone so there is no reason anymore to not get a good photo of the moon.

Here is another way to look at this photo idea: If you will realize that the moon is lit by the sun. It is nothing more than a big rock, that’s round, sitting in the sunlight. So, what would be your exposure during the daytime of the earth when it is in sunshine? Usually ISO 100 at F8 or F11, and the shutter speed at 1/125 second. Bingo, you will have a perfect exposure of the moon.

The reason it is hard to get a good exposure with an automatic camera, or a cell phone camera is that the light meter that is built in, sees so much dark area around the moon, and tries to expose for both, thus giving a bad exposure. That is why doing it with a manual camera in manual mode, you can easily get a good exposure of the moon.

Just a reminder: When you click on any of the words in RED, you will be automatically linked to see that product, so you can get an idea of what they cost, and a description of how they work. If you want to purchase them, you can certainly do that, by completing the “purchase” information.

Photo by Robson Hatsukami Morgan on Unsplash

One more point that needs to be made about taking photos of the night sky:

  • You cannot get these type of photos while still in the city. The lights from the city will block the ability to get the sky dark enough to see all the stars. All good night photographers, will go far away out of the city to get their best night photos. Absolutely you want to get away from any interference from light that will destroy your night photos.

I hope you enjoy taking photos at night time. Please remember that to get the same results as you are seeing in the post today, you will need to follow these directions closely. Your automatic camera just may not cut it for you. A manual camera will get you what you want.


two person on boat in body of water during golden hour
Photo by Johannes Plenio on Pexels.com
Special note: recently I was looking for a subject to write on for this blog, and came across another website that was showing how many different subjects there are on photography. And they came up with:

51 different subjects !

I have decided to take on that challenge and see if I can share my knowledge of all 51 different subjects.


white clouds
Photo by Ruvim on Pexels.com

In scenery photos, I believe the best photos will include clouds. Generally, as long as you have a foreground or a true landscape photo with the clouds in the picture, you can just follow the light meter. But, be aware of certain clouds that could throw the exposure setting off on your landscape photo.

Photo by Nicole Geri on Unsplash

If you have a lot of “white” clouds in your photo, the light meter of your camera may turn the rest of the landscape dark to compensate for all the white. The photo above has 2 issues to watch out for: 1- if you just use your light meter in automatic mode, the white clouds will probably not be white. They will be a darker shade, almost grey in color. That’s because the light meter thinks everything is grey. So, these clouds are not as white as they were in real life. 2- Also, because of that the landscape is now darker as well.

Here is a better view of what the image really was: The clouds are white, and now we have a better exposure of the landscape as well. Oh, there’s color in the landscape that was missed with the first photo. But, perhaps you like the first one better? You decide, but the first one is way underexposed.

What to do: make sure if you are shooting with automatic mode, try using your “over / under” exposure compensation dial, and over expose (+) your photo.

What if you want to make your clouds the important part of the subject, like a sunrise or sunset:

Photo by Igor Kasalovic on Unsplash

In this case, for a sunset, the clouds in the photo just adds to the colors. The capture the reflections they get from the actual sunset and make their own color. Often you can get this type of photo, just by using your camera in automatic mode. But, I would certainly experiment with this by taking the photo at what the camera light meter does, and then take one picture over expose (+) and then one underexposed (-) to see the color differences. It will mean the difference between a good photo and a bad photo.

I have on my Facebook page, a photographer that shoots the sunset every night, and the colors are incredible. I have someone else who lives in a different part of the valley shoot the same sunset, and I am bored. And then I saw it myself, and I will go with the first photographer. So, experiment with the exposure control even if you like what you got, and see if you can get a better one.

Photo taken by Lanny Cottrell

Now take a look at this above photo, with a variety of clouds and the mountains in brilliant color. This was taken with a circular polarizing filter, and this totally enhanced all the colors, plus, kept the exposure perfect. This is because there is more “scenery” in the photo than the clouds. But, look at that photo again, and picture it without the clouds. Not quite so pretty is it? So, clouds are truly important when taking photos.

Photo by Fabian Wiktor on Pexels.com

I love what another photographer put as the steps necessary to get good cloud photos:

1- Use all your lenses, telephoto zooms, wide angle lenses, general walk arounds. Zoom in, zoom out, photograph panoramas, shoot them both horizontally and vertically. But mostly shoot them wide and get as much into one scene as possible. You can always crop and resize as you wish later on.

2-Use a polarizing filter to help bring out as much detail as possible.

3- Photograph all types of clouds. Dark angry clouds, happy fluffy clouds, Cirrus and Cumulus are my personal favorites. Photograph them at sunset, sunrise, midday or midnight for that matter! Overcast days, sunny days, just keep shooting whenever you see a dramatic sky formation.

4- Keep your camera ISO setting low. Personally I don’t go over 200 ISO for clouds. You want to keep them clean and noise free.

5- Keep photographing clouds and the sky from every direction in reference to the sun and lighting as well. When you clone in a new sky the lighting on the main subject needs to match the lighting on the sky. After all, you want it to appear believable.

6- I set the lowest aperture f-number possible. A sky or cloud formation is so far away your camera aperture setting becomes virtually unimportant. Just make sure the camera is focusing on the actual sky and not a nearby object.

Another thing to watch for is the different timing on your sunset photos with the clouds. The photo above is a photo taken at “twilight”, which occurs after the sun goes down, and colors that you pick up are the purples and blues creating even a more beautiful sunset. Don’t just take your sunset photo and leave, wait to see if you can get some of the “twilight” colors too. You will be glad you did.

If you have any questions in regards to this subject, contact me at: question.123photogo@gmail.com

Ideas of how to take the best “flower photos”

Photo by kazuend on Unsplash

Taking pictures of flowers is always a rewarding experience. Sometimes when you are on Facebook or some other website and you see other people’s photos of flowers, do you wish you could take pictures that good? I want to take a moment and explain how you too, can take beautiful photos of flowers, even to the point of people wanting a copy (maybe I could sell my flower photos).

The beauty of a flower to me comes when I can see the flower in close-up mode, similar to the photo at the top of this page. The human eye does not usually look at a flower this close. We see them in the garden, in clumps or groups of flowers, and that all looks good, but, if we had the chance to see a flower up close, you would realize that the Creator has really blessed us with amazing beauty that looks better up close.

Here is just a few ideas of how your photos of flowers can look better:

Get down to the same level of the flower:

Photo by Gabriela Popa on Unsplash

Look at the photo above, and the photo at the top of the page. The fact that the photographer got down to the same level as the flower, brings out much more of the beauty of the flower. Oh yeah, you may end up laying down on the ground to get this photo. But, it will be worth it.

Use a tripod to hold your camera steady.

Photo by Arw Zero on Unsplash

Note the photo above shows a tripod for a cell phone. Yes, they make a tripod for cell phone. I have a tripod for my regular camera and tripod for cell phone. A good photographer that uses their cell phone a lot will want to get this. And they are not that expensive. I have a tripod for cell phone that is full size, and I think I still paid less than $30.00 Click on the link: tripod for cell phone to see what you can get. But, I have found out that it is extremely hard to hold your camera still when trying to do a close-up of a flower. I think it is a must. I also think that photographers should use their tripods more than they do.

If you can, get a macro lens or close-up filters

For those of you who have a good dslr camera, close-up filters should be a must have item, in case you don’t have a true macro lens. These come in a set of 4 usually and you can have different magnifications depending on which close-up filters you use.

Photo by Immo Wegmann on Unsplash

See what you miss when you don’t have close-up filters. The detail of flowers is amazing to see. So, please, to do it right, at least try close-up filters.

A macro lens I have seen built-in to some cell phone cameras, so try that on your phone if you are so equipped. Otherwise, try a macro lens for your dslr camera. This makes it extremely easy and even better quality than the close-up filters. With macro lenses, you can focus as close as a 1:1 ratio all the way out to infinity on your lens. Just get macro lenses for your brand of camera, and check out what is available and really enjoy it.

Be aware of flower movement. Try a higher ISO setting.

Photo by Dominik Rešek on Unsplash: Took this photo on my recent trip to Triglav lakes. Beautiful destination, lots of nice things to shoot.

I have found that there always seems to be a breeze that causes flower movement. Any way you can stop the flower from moving would involve one thing: You will need a high speed shutter, to stop camera movement. And sometimes the easiest way to get a higher speed shutter is to use a higher ISO setting.

If you are going to use your cell phone that doesn’t usually have much chance of setting a shutter speed, then make sure you have a lot of light on the flower, in hopes that the automatic settings of the camera, will be in your favor.

Carefully control your depth of field if you can.

Photo by Echo Grid on Unsplash

The purpose of having depth of field control is to be able to blur out the background of the photo, and still keep the main focus of the flowers in sharp focus. That, of course is accomplished by changing your aperture to a lower number (f2 to f4), to make that happen.


The best photos that you will find and create, almost always needs to have control over the settings on a camera. The shutter speed to be fast enough to stop any movement of the flower, and the aperture to control the depth of your focus. And if you can’t get it exactly set up with the settings you want, then you can change your ISO setting. If you have further questions on how to take good flower photos, submit your questions to: http://question.123photogo.com

“If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly our whole life would change.” –



people walking near road beside buildings during night time
Photo by Aleksandar Pasaric on Pexels.com

In the Photo Equipment war, there is always someone that will outdo the other brands out there right now. One company in particular, with their new flagship camera has just introduced a camera with an ISO of 1,600,000 !!! That’s right! That is a high number, and along with their new chip design, the photos coming out of this new camera are amazing. That is the new Pentax K3-III .

This camera brings up just a few questions for sure:

1- What do I do with an ISO setting that high? Is there practical photography for a setting this high?

Well, let’s look into this a bit:

Ten years ago, these fears were justified. Raising your ISO to 1600 or 3200 was a no-go for the majority of cameras.

But no longer. Things are changing. These days, it often makes sense to boost your ISO to get better images. In fact, the improvements in camera technology have been such that you can now comfortably photograph at ISO 1600, 3200, and even 6400 with most DSLRs, Micro Four Thirds cameras, and mirrorless cameras, and of course now with the introduction from Pentax with an ISO of 1,600,000, the question would now be: What can’t I shoot with a high ISO?

Newly developed for the PENTAX K-3 Mark III, the Fine Sharpness II mode faithfully reproduces delicate outlines just like the Extra Sharpness mode, but it also minimizes the generation and emphasis of unwanted noise, while reproducing fine textures and subtle gradations in the subject with greater accuracy. In fact, at PENTAX we see this mode as depicting subject texture at a level close to perfection. Created by integrating the Fine Sharpness and Extra Sharpness modes, this new mode is incorporated into the PENTAX K-3 Mark III — and will be in future PENTAX SLR models — as the default setting.

With the introduction of a camera that can shoot ISO of 1,600,000, it brings up and interesting advantage. If you can make your photo look good, say even at 240,000ISO, what kind of sharpness would I get when I shoot at a lower ISO?

Thanks to all these advanced features, you will realize the great improvement in image resolution and reproduction of subject texture in the low-sensitivity range when you capture image with the PENTAX K-3 Mark III.

You begin using your imagination the moment you see a subject, then release the shutter and anticipate the resulting image. I believe that’s the best way to enjoy the entire process of photography. You can make image quality look better, at least on the surface, by boosting numerical specifications. To step more deeply into a world of image description that can’t just be summed up in numbers, PENTAX stresses the importance of sensibility evaluations, which factor in the feelings and opinions of our designers in our pursuit of more beautiful, more truthful images. When you look at the picture above and realize the small square in the inset photo, is what was enlarged, you can now create the sharpest photos ever yet, by having a camera with a high ISO, as long as they worked on the image sensor to create this amazing fete.

When you look at how much the image has improved in going from the previous model (the Mark II), to the Mark III, you can see that the new K3 Mark III is a camera not to be ignored.

Here are 3 options of using a high ISO:

1. When you’re photographing indoors or at night

If you take your camera indoors, or you shoot at night, you’ll quickly run into a problem:

Your images will be dark and lacking detail.

In such situations, you have three solutions:

First, you can widen your aperture. Often, this can help (and it’s the reason why many night photographers and event photographers work with an ultra-low f-stop). But it’s rarely enough.

Second, you can drop your shutter speed. But unless your subject is completely still and you’re shooting with a tripod, you’ll end up with lots of blur. Not ideal, right?

Which brings me to the third solution:

You can raise your ISO.

when to use a high ISO in photography concert

Will it introduce some noise? Yes. But the noise produced by modern cameras at high ISOs just isn’t that bad; as I mentioned above, you can comfortably boost your ISO to ISO 3200 and ISO 6400 without much loss of quality.

And by raising the ISO, you’ll end up with much brighter images, even indoors and even at night.

2. When you’re photographing fast-moving subjects

The faster your subject, the faster the shutter speed required to render it with zero blur.

For instance, if you’re photographing a runner, you might need a shutter speed of 1/500s. If you’re photographing a moving car, 1/1000s might be more appropriate. And if you’re photographing a diving falcon, 1/3200s is a safe bet.

Unfortunately, even in relatively good light, boosting your shutter speed to 1/3200s will result in a too-dark exposure – unless you raise the ISO, that is.

After all, better to end up with a slightly noisy image than a completely blurry one, right?

So don’t be afraid to increase your ISO when faced with a fast-moving subject.

when to use a high ISO in photography people walking at night

3. When you’re using a long lens

The longer your lens, the easier it is to end up with blur – because subject movement and camera movement are magnified. So with a long lens, you need a fast shutter speed, just the same as if you were shooting a moving subject.

That’s why boosting your ISO is so essential when working with telephoto lenses; it allows you to boost the shutter speed, too, and capture a sharp image.

Sure, when the light is bright, you can keep the ISO at 100 or 200 and end up with sharp, well-exposed images.

But as the light begins to drop, you’ll need to raise your ISO with confidence. That way, you can capture bright and clear photos at 300mm, 400mm, and beyond.

when to use a high ISO shadowy man with briefcase
Canon 5D Mark II | 135mm | f/6.3 | ISO 1600
The high ISO allowed for a 1/320s shutter speed; this accounted for both the motion in the scene and for the longer focal length used.

But doesn’t a lower ISO give better image quality?

Well, yes – and no.

Yes, if you are setting up a studio shot and controlling the lighting. Yes, if you are using a tripod, if you are a landscape photographer, or if there is very strong natural light. Yes, if you don’t have to compromise your shutter speed or aperture settings to expose the shot correctly. A photo taken at ISO 100 will always be significantly sharper and cleaner than a photo taken at ISO 1600, assuming the aperture and shutter speed are the same, and you have complete control over the subject and the lighting.

In every other case, however, the answer is no; a lower ISO will not give better image quality.

Raising your ISO will help you capture a higher quality photograph in many situations. Why? Because it lets you use a faster shutter speed and a smaller aperture to get a sharper result. When creating a technically great photograph – one with minimal blur and proper exposure – getting the aperture and shutter speed settings correct is much more important than using a low ISO.

If you want to know how great event photographers consistently create such bright and beautiful images, it’s not only because they use fast lenses and flashes. It’s because they are not afraid to raise the ISO.

Plus, the look of grain at high ISOs in digital cameras has become more pleasing. The newer camera models have not only reduced the strength of grain (noise) at high ISOs, but they have also created noise that looks more artistic.

ISO has now become a luxury instead of an obstacle. We can photograph in dark areas while handholding the camera when we need to.

crop of the man with a briefcase
Cropped version of the above (ISO 1600) shot. Note the minimal, pleasing grain.
when to use a high ISO in photography street at night

The best thing to try now, if you don’t have the new Pentax K3 Mark III, is to see how good your camera will do at a high ISO setting. Try it at it’s max, and then see if you like it. Does it make you want to buy a new camera? This is what has happened to camera makers lately, is that the image quality has gotten significantly better than before, especially doing the higher ISO settings.

Ready to go shooting in the dark? It’s a whole new era of photography now, so, let’s do it!

This article was written by: Lanny Cottrell (123PhotoGo), and help from: James Maher (Digital Photography School), and also: Shigeru Wakashiro, in charge of planning and development for PENTAX digital SLR cameras