HDR · Night Photography

High ISO or Low Shutter Speed?

When taking photos at night, you might find yourself confused between cranking up the ISO of your camera and reducing the shutter speed to get more light into the sensor. Both these actions have their own pros and cons, and we’ll take a look at the basic differences between them to help you take better photos.

High ISO Means More Noise

Yes, increasing the camera’s ISO value will introduce more noise in your photos. However, if you have a camera released somewhere in the past five years, you can be sure that the high ISO performance of the sensor will be quite good. Modern camera sensors have come a long way in this regard, and most of the time you’ll be okay shooting at up to 3200 ISO provided you are shooting with an APS-C sized sensor. Full frame cameras can shoot comfortably at even higher ISO values.

Remember though, if you mean to take multiple photos and use an HDR photo editor to create an HDR image, the noise level in the final image usually tends to increase further.

Low Shutter Speed Means More Blur

Your first instinct when taking photos in the dark might be to reduce the camera’s shutter speed, but that will also mean that your photos come out blurry and seem out of focus. This is not an issue if you’re going for a long exposure photo, but if you want to take photos of people then reducing the shutter speed too much will cause your photos to be unusable.

At the end of the day, you have to make sure that whatever of the two options you go for is the best one for your particular subject. If you’re taking photos of still subjects, then you can just prop your camera on a tripod and reduce the shutter speed. But if you’re taking photos of people, or if you don’t have a tripod then it’s better to increase the ISO value.

At the end of the day, it’s better to get a noisy image than no image at all.