Yearbook Photography: A Guide to Your Camera’s ISO Setting

As you start to explore all of the settings that change the look and feel of your photos, you’ll discover a particular option called ISO. This setting helps you to balance the light in the background of your images for an even exposure in your final shot. That is to say, it helps your pictures look prettier! While it sounds like a setting that carries a high learning curve, it really isn’t all that complicated. To help you start practicing the basics of ISO, today I’m giving you a yearbook photography guide that describes how this setting works, and what numbers you should use based on the situation you’re shooting.

What is ISO?

The ISO setting on your camera measures the light in the photograph. The brighter your lighting, the lower your ISO number should be. These numbers range from 100 to about 3200, although you won’t likely go beyond a 1600 setting when taking pictures for the yearbook. In fact, most of the time you’ll want to keep this setting at 800 or below. Once you change your setting to above 800, your photos can take on a much grainier texture, which can look unprofessional on the pages of your book. To put this into context: if you’re photographing outside on a sunny day, your ISO setting could be as low as 100. If you’re inside taking shots of the school play in an extremely dark theatre, you may want to set your ISO as high as 1600. But most of the time, you’ll be somewhere in between.

Changing these numbers changes the shutter speed of your camera. The higher your ISO setting, the slower your shutter speed. Adjusting this allows your camera to take in less light in a brighter situation, and more light in a darker one. This modifies the exposure–how light or dark your image will appear once it’s been captured–and helps you to snap a balanced final shot.

Choosing the Right ISO Setting

In truth, there’s not one right setting for every situation. Yearbook photography is very subjective, so you’ll want to play around with your ISO setting to find that ideal balance for your pictures. As you’re learning how different ISO settings affect the photos you take, use the below numbers as a guide to understand the range that will give you the best results, depending on the situation.

  • 100 Setting: Use this setting in a full sun, no shade environment
  • 200 Setting: Excellent for a day that has lots of sun, a photo taken in partial shade, or a slightly overcast day when you’re outside in an open (not tree covered) environment. This setting would also be ideal for taking photos inside on a bright and sunny day, when you’re using a lot of natural light and are near a large window.
  • 300-400 Setting: Use these settings when you’re in a shady area on a sunny day, or under a more covered area when it’s a bit overcast.
  • 500-700 Setting: This is an ideal setting when you’re putting your yearbook photography skills to the test on a partly cloudy or overcast day, using natural light and preferably, near a window.
  • 700-800 Setting: Use a number within this range when the sun is setting, and you’re getting less natural light for your photos. This setting can also be used when you’re inside and not near a large window, but still getting a good amount of natural light in your photos.
  • 850-1000 Setting: Perfect when you’re inside and away from natural light, you’ll want to play with the numbers in this range to prevent your pictures from appearing too “grainy.”
  • 1000-1300 Setting: Play with the numbers in this range when you’re inside with artificial light, or when it’s evening and you’re not getting enough natural light from your windows.
  • 1400-1600 Setting: You’ll need to be careful with this setting, as it can pick up a lot of noise, which translates to graininess in the background of your pictures. Only use it when you are in a very dark room with a small light source, such as for a theatre production.

A Guide to Yearbook Photography

To take great photos for your publication, you need to teach your committee some of the basics that go along with handling a fancy camera. ISO is one of the first settings they should learn about and practice with. Encourage them to get to know this setting by taking some practice shots in a variety of lighting conditions, and noting which settings yield the best results. With a little exploration–and the handy printable guide we’ve created for you below – you’ll wind up teaching yourself (and your committee!) some seriously awesome yearbook photography skills that can be used for years to come!

ISO Guide | TreeRing Yearbooks