Flash and high ISO sensitivity

There is an excellent guideline for managing the ISO sensitivity value. It sounds something like this' Try always shoot at minimum ISO'. But sometimes this rule has exceptions.

Flash and ISO Values

Flash and ISO Values

High ISO sensitivity values ​​are usually needed when you need to take something without grease in poor lighting conditions. If it concerns the shooting of people, then usually shooting below 1/60 of a second is simply impossible, this is due to the fact that the person in the frame usually moves, the camera moves in his hands, and for a long time excerpts the picture is blurry.

Under low light conditions I understand approximately such that with the maximum aperture of your lens and with the maximum acceptable acceptable ISO value excerpt longer than 1/60 of a second. This is my subjective definition. For example, for a weak camera, normal evening home conditions with the lights on are already bad.

Sometimes it’s just not possible to get the right shot with a short shutter speed and low ISO. In this case, you can:

  1. Open aperture as much as possible. But almost always opening the diaphragm does not save much. For example, when I shoot with fast zoom lenses, I can have the number F not less than F2.8, this is due to zoom restriction. As for the fixes, they can be used to arrange the numbers F1.2 and F1.4, but with such apertures, the depth of field becomes very small and the focus errors increase very much, and the efficiency when shooting using a fixed lens is also greatly lost.
  2. Increase ISO. With an increase in ISO, after a certain value, the noise level becomes critical, and the photos are unusable.
  3. Take advantage of the flash. But flash often "kills" the atmosphere of the photo, makes unnecessary shadows, highlights and red-eye.

When using a flash, many photographers set the minimum ISO, thereby achieving an absolutely silent picture. On the one hand, this principle has its own logic, because why high ISO values, if there is a flash? But in most cases, photographs in low-light conditions are obtained with an unfinished long-range plan. This is due to the fact that the flash only highlights near subjects well when shooting. Roughly speaking, the flash only highlights what is in the focus area. When calculating flash power, many cameras are guided by the focusing distance to the subject, which is calculated using the lens processor. For everything else, the elements in the flash frame do not care.

I will explain what is not worked out (drowned, killed) distant plan on an example below:

The background (background) is all dark.

Flash photo. The background (background) is all dark, not exposed. And the front, on the contrary, is highlighted. This creates a kind of hard image.

Below is an example of the same shot without a flash:

Photo without flash

Photos without flash at high ISO. The picture is more lively, with a well-developed background and foreground.

It’s good when you can do with the usual raising of ISO and turn off the flash. But in many cases you still have to use a flash. To keep the background you can simply increase the ISO values ​​when the flash is on. This will allow you to get a well-exposed flash object in the focus area and a more or less balanced, not recessed background.

Flash photo.

Flash photo. The person in focus is well illuminated by the flash, and due to the fact that ISO 640 was used, the distant plan was also recognizable.

This effect occurs due to the fact that when using the flash in poor lighting conditions, they are usually used excerpts from 1/60 second to 1/200 second. With such exposures, blur is not permitted when shooting with handheld. Example: if you take pictures at ISO 100 and 1 / 60c with a flash, then the light from the background will not be able to display (appear) well in the photo. At the same time, if you raise the ISO to 800 units, with the same 1/60 second and the included flash of light from the background, it will get 8 times more, which will allow it to manifest more strongly.

Also, flash shooting at high ISO allows you to:

  1. Save energy on flash batteries as flash pulses become less powerful
  2. The flash overheats less, works longer
  3. Flash range increases when ISO is raised
  4. When working on reflections from walls and ceilings, the effect of filling with flash is more pronounced

I shoot with the flash in automatic modes (TTL, Auto without TTL) in aperture priority mode (A, AV) and manual mode (M) at ISO 500 - ISO 1000 to get a pleasant picture and avoid loud noise.

Sample photo

Sample flash photo at high ISO. If I shot at low ISO, the clown would have turned out on a black background.

When the background itself is black, little will help. If my will, then I would shoot everything without a flash, it is more interesting, it requires more skills and skill when photographing, more fast lenses, better camera performance when working at high ISO. External flash, mounted on a camera, kills all the listed advantages. But the lighting systems on off-camera flashes are to my liking. But almost always when ordering a shoot in low light conditions, the first question people ask is: 'Do you have a flash?' Sometimes it is difficult to explain to a person that pictures without using a flash can convey the atmosphere much better, be more emotional, soft, artistic. And in some cases it is simply stupid to use a flash.

Well-designed background

A well-designed background, but the flash kills the atmosphere, gives glare from the glass of icons.

Personal experience

When shooting with an external flash for myself, I do a little trick. When external flash on the camera is off, I try to turn the flash head to the right, or to the side of my face, this always reminds me that the flash is off, and people do not look so intently at the fact that the flash does not blink when the shutter clicks. In general, working with a flash requires a certain subtlety, and when working with a flash there are many limitations, inconveniences, etc. I never even thought that many shooting with a flash set the minimum ISO value, so I decided to write some thoughts on this. I recommend doing your own experiments when shooting in low light conditions with flash and different ISO settings.


Flash shooting at high ISOs is very common. For each camera, you need to calculate your ISO threshold, which allows you to get a little noisy picture with a flash.

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Material prepared Arkady Shapoval. Please, if this material was useful to you, help my project. And don't forget that everyone can write your review for one or another photographic equipment.

Add a comment: R'RёS,R ° F "RёR№



Comments: 87, on the topic: Flash and high ISO sensitivity values

  • Eugene

    Thank you!!! Straight opened their eyes to many moments!

  • Azat

    Everything ingenious is simple! As soon as I tried to highlight the background, I did not get such a result. I'll take valuable advice into my arsenal. Many thanks to the author! The site is just super !!! Be healthy!

  • Oleg

    A useful article, I’m a photographer shooting weddings and noticed that people with a lot of experience shooting photos without increasing the noise, etc. simply give the flash priority, which I don’t agree with, I believe that if the camera allows you to maximize the acceptable number of photos and get a true picture and if you really need to fill the shadows puffily.

  • Marie

    Arkady, hello!
    I came across your article, which I was so delighted with. Since a little information can be found, or if it is, it can be very difficult for beginners.
    Everything is intelligible for you !!! Thanks!
    I have a question.
    Do not get to work with an external flash on the street in the evening.
    The problem is probably the same as you described .. the face is overexposed, the background is black completely and everything is black in a circle. Very black and contrasting.
    I looked at the description of the photo: 1/60 f 4 ISO 400
    As I understand it, the result would be better if you put it higher and the shutter speed is shorter? .. And probably f isn’t too open to focus on all faces (if a group of people)
    And the question is ... is it possible to direct the flash to the ceiling if the ceiling is not white but shiny .. that is, from a material similar to foil, and the walls are red .. there is nothing white. A flash in this case only in the forehead?

    • Do_Oraemon

      The result on the street in the evening will be acceptable if you set the slow sync mode on the rear curtain. This mode allows you to sufficiently expose the background without killing it, and a weak flash will perfectly illuminate and freeze the foreground. Thus, you and the background will work well and people will not overexposure, but at the same time get rid of the problem of lubrication at a slow shutter speed. Just do not forget to set a negative correction for the flash pulse, otherwise you will get white masks instead of faces in the pictures.

  • Val

    And if I work with 2 puffs. One to the ceiling in the background?

  • Orlando

    The situation is as follows, shooting in a tavern, banquets, I would like the background to be better worked out, to be lighter. I’m shooting in M ​​mode, puffing canon 580EX2, puffing on the ceiling, for better study I increase ISO, shutter speed 1 \ 100 or 1 \ 200 (according to the situation when dancing, etc.) sometimes it gets better, but it doesn’t always help when dark or high the ceilings.

    Advise what other tricks can be turned? They say you can use the second-curtain and underestimate the shutter speed of 1 \ 60, but I'm afraid that some kind of action at the banquet may turn out with a stir. Generally what thoughts?

  • Alexey

    The article is very helpful. I myself have been shooting with the flash sb 900 with ISO 400 for a long time (it stood as the maximum value). Today I decided to experiment again in low light conditions.
    I set the maximum values ​​of iSO 800 - at d7000 and iSO 1600 at d800.
    So, both devices “consider” the iSO 400 as optimal.
    Those, only when the flash can no longer increase power, the devices raise the iSO above 400.
    But when there is enough light and it would be possible to shoot with the iSO 100, they “hold” ISO 400 “to the last”, reducing the flash output.

  • R'RёS,R ° F "RёR№

    Arkady tell me what affects the flash exposure in minus?
    And the value of the exposure compensation on the camera and on the flash compensate one or one, or does the flash more affect the foreground, and the exposure compensation of the camera to the back or the general?
    Thank you!

  • Zarina

    But I never used a flash and always went against all the canons of pseudo-photographers - I shot at high ISO. Another thing is that this requires a very good camera ... I worked with different carcasses, from FED-3 to D500 ... and here's what I will say: These cameras are made on the assumption that the user has at least some straight arms and has at least a drop of imagination. The flash, in my opinion, kills all the buzz. And besides, the most powerful "puff" hits a maximum of 10 meters.
    Try to "set fire" a landscape with a depth of ten kilometers! “Set fire to” the sea bay, or try to shoot the overflow of moonlight on algae at a depth of 15 meters ...
    When I worked with 6D, I did not get out of the water for almost a day! It's just a fairy tale - what this DSLR points to the middle nut in the Red Sea!
    BUT! I have no photos with ISO below 51200 in that collection.
    Then there was the D500 ... well, that's quite cool! ISO 400kilo is not just cool ... it's ARCHICRUTO !!! Remember in Avatar when Jake and Neytiri walk through the glowing jungle? Here's something similar I filmed at a depth of 45 meters near Dubai!
    The diving instructors swore for a long time and were rude when they found out that I would dive for fifty dollars without balloons ... I listened to them for a long time, and then took a pose and said that they should set their Taliban sheriat to someone else ... And now I will dive ... AND NO MORE WILL COME UP! That is, absolutely.
    And they will go under the article. With their show-off ... And that since I pay them money, so let them caulk their testosterone and speak only when asked.
    And do not gurgle.
    It worked.
    High ISOs open the door to another. the universe. But for a full-fledged study of night landscapes, expensive and sooo expensive cameras are needed ... And not soap dishes like Mark2 ...
    Eos 6D, D4s and D500 are cameras for the angels of the night. And you need to know how to work with them ... Instead of taking pictures of the rays on the street ...

    • Victor

      And what are you talking about? Oh yes, I’m running in a hurry to sell an apartment, a car, take a loan and buy the coolest latest camera from Nikon. She has such a working eso. Yes, and choosing the darkest night, I’ll go to our local swamp to photograph frogs underwater. How well the pictures should turn out, I even squint at the anticipation of a successful photo shoot. I urge all beginners, as well as professional photographers to follow my example.

    • anonym

      Thanks for the honest feedback. I suspected that a flash was invented by charlatans

    • Ashot

      > Diving instructors swore for a long time and were rude when they found out that I would dive for fifty dollars without balloons ... I listened to them for a long time, and then I took a pose and said that they should set their Taliban sheriat to someone else ... And now I will dive ... AND MORE WILL NOT COME UP! That is, absolutely.

      Why did she venerate, huh?

      • Pastor

        Wai Ashot, pleased early in the morning! :)

    • Oleg

      Zarina, can you see your epic creations from the depths?

      • Yarkiya

        It seems that Zarina still did not come up.

    • Passer

      It would be better not to come up;

    • a guest

      Less pathos, young lady! Something tells me that you're full zero in photography, there’s nothing to do with cheap show-offs

      • Alexey

        She’s already on maternity leave for a long time, the post of 2016. Won and Bright disappeared for a long time. Who are you writing to?

  • Alexander

    Recently I have been shooting D90 on D7000, alternating between one and the other. Sometimes I wear both with different lenses. I use an in-camera flash. As you say, on the forehead. On the second curtain, ISO 200-400 It goes without saying in TTL The main drawback is the shadow, but you can fight it. We do not place the Photographed close to the walls and from everything where the shadow will be visible. Backs of sofas, etc. There will be no shadows if you shoot in a backlight. Backs to the windows and just to the lighter background. Pictures are often beautiful ... The flash of the camera has been worked out, verified by specialists and not so that it would be bullied ... More practice friends, learn to photograph ...

    • anonym

      "More practice friends, learn to photograph."
      Poor pros, with their professional cameras ... They never learn to photograph. After all, these cameras DO NOT have a built-in flash)))

      • Peter Sh.

        We flashlight on a smartphone.

  • Alexey

    Regarding the clown: the shadow in the background completely kills the photo.

  • Ivan

    Thanks !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Edge

    Tell me, please, why does the Nikon D3300 in A mode and ISO auto seem to ignore the flash at all when calculating exposure? ISO bullies that with the flash on, that without it. Is it such a feature of the camera or am I doing something wrong?

    • Arkady Shapoval

      Good day. Most likely, the logic of the function is not quite easy to understand. Auto Iso can sometimes play a trick when working with flash.

      • Valentine

        It seems to me that the metering mode plays an important role here. It is probably no coincidence that flashes, such as the SB700, do not allow using the standard mode with matrix metering and force the flash to enter fill mode. I think the auto ISO with matrix metering will be plus or minus the same as for a scene without a flash, which is for a scene with a flash (a simple flash in this case should fill the whole scene, which is difficult without raising). And probably, with spot metering, the values ​​may differ. Although I did not check it. On the D90, auto ISO works in a completely different way.

    • Vitaly N

      And what is the maximum ISO parameter set in the settings? It is used by the camera, and due to the flash, the shutter speed is shortened to the value specified in the settings. And if there is still a car or a scene mode, then it also covers the aperture if necessary. One of the features of budget carcasses, because of which I want to change the ns half-profile. Image quality is fine, but adjusting and switching photosensitively only through the menu.

      • Valentine

        ISO adjustment may not be through the menu, the function is assigned to the FN button. But the auto ISO with flash, in my opinion, works with younger cameras differently than with older ones.

        • Vitaly N

          When AutoISO is on, the button can only control the lower range value. Even setting 800 from the button, and the menu will have a maximum value of 400 - it will take pictures at 400. Either constantly climb the menu, or abandon the automation and select manually. Turn off-turn on auto mode also only through the menu. Marketing.

          • Valentine

            On a huge number of models, the transition from manual ISO to auto-ISO through the menu. On older models, this is accelerated by hanging on the button the menu item responsible for this function. In general, I don’t see a problem in this, because switching from manual ISO to automatic does not have to be for every frame, but actually for certain shooting conditions, i.e. at least for a certain series of frames. Why this should be seen as the cunning of marketers, I also do not understand.

            • Vitaly N

              I'm talking about the fact that if in automatic mode it costs a maximum of 400, then it is impossible to do more with the button. I’ll install at least 3200, but the picture will be at 400. It was logical to do it on the one set with FN ISO if it goes beyond, but it’s not. Made through one place and there are enough such trifles on budget cameras. After all, nothing prevents making a hint when focusing with a range finder with lenses without chips, but they didn’t do it on purpose. It’s clear to separate the budget and advanced cameras. This is marketing.

              • Valentine

                From experience with the Nikon D3300, I remembered the following:
                1) Auto-ISO works within the limits that are determined by the menu options: ISO sensitivity - lower limit; Maximum sensitivity is the upper limit.
                2) The + ISO button can control the current ISO, which defines the lower limit.
                Example 1. You set ISO Sensitivity = 200, Maximum Sensitivity = 1600. This means ISO will be selected from the range of 200-1600.
                Example 2. With a digger + wheel you set a new ISO sensitivity = 100. Now ISO will be selected from the range of 100-1600.
                Example 3. By digging + wheel you set a new ISO sensitivity = 3200. Now the ISO will be set exactly to 3200 and nothing else. There will be no ISO 400.
                Example 4. By digging + wheel you set a new ISO sensitivity = 12800. But the ISO will be set so that you can not exceed the shutter speed of 1/4000 at a given aperture. That is, if 1/4000 is enough ISO 6400, then it will be ISO = 6400 and no other.
                The logic is very clear to me, and if I'm not mistaken, it is not a matter of marketing or camera level.

              • Vitaly N

                Example 3 and 4 are not correct. Remains 1600. Maybe at 3300 they fixed it, at 3200 only the lower threshold can be changed. The maximum sensitivity will be from the autoiso settings. This is what gets in the way. I usually set 400 or 800, so that there are no situations like a topikstarter, but if you need to increase it, you have to go into the menu - do not increase it from the wheel. Very uncomfortable.

              • Valentine

                On the D3300 it works.

              • Valentine

                Instruction D3300 from the Internet, p. 227: “Please note that if the ISO sensitivity selected by the user is higher than the one selected for Max. sensitivity, the value selected by the user will be used instead ”. And it seems like marketing has nothing to do with it.

              • Vitaly N

                Then what should I call it, if at 3200 it is exactly as I describe? And with what the latest firmware was released after the release of 3300. If in 3300 the way you describe, then why is it not in 3200?

              • Vitaly N

                I found the instruction for 3200. Everything is exactly as I described it - the value set by the maximum in the menu is taken. Nikon's logic is still not clear to me.

              • Valentine

                Vitaly, now you are speaking correctly: two cameras of the same line (D3200 and D3300) have different logic for controlling the maximum ISO value. Yes, judging by the instructions for the two cameras, it is different. And this was probably not done by marketers (at least I didn’t see it presented as a chip of a new camera). Honestly, I don’t see anything terrible in what has been done in the D3200, I don’t think that a certain change in the logic of the iso D3300 gives it any significant advantages. When I use auto-iso in the D90, I set the range that suits me, and I’m not going beyond it. Then the conditions change, I switch to manual iso and work with it.

              • Vitaly N

                Provides great benefits. On the D90, you don't have to navigate the menus to turn off AutoISO. At the 3300, you don't need to do this either - to increase the sensitivity, it is enough to set the sensitivity through Fn above the autoISO range. To increase ISO, I either need to change the range, or turn off autoISO. Everything is only through the menu. Changing the sensitivity through Fn does nothing.

  • Vladimir Solovyov

    Also today I thought, why can’t you shoot with a flash at high ISO?
    Found your article. It turns out that it is possible and necessary. And it's true - very few people voice this on the Internet, and this is a good way to expand the capabilities of existing technology.

    Thanks for the article, Arkady!

  • Stanislas

    When using the flash and high ISO, the noise is greater than if you shoot without the flash at the same ISO. And the noise in the lights. By the way, the same thing happened on film. Sensitive film with bulk gave even more grain than without flash.

    • BB

      um, can you see the backlit dust?

  • Michael

    Oh, I'm afraid they'll shower me with slippers, but I'll say that all this torment with a flash in low light with high iso only confirms that optical photography makes sense only in daytime conditions. In bad conditions, sadly, modern smartphones with their computing capabilities outperform optics, especially in the study of the background. The clumsy photos posted in this article confirm this once again.
    I personally drown with all my hands for the optics, but I think that the flash is useful only in a primitive situation when shooting against the bright sun. In other cases, you immediately need to think about 5-nanometer processors of modern huvei or epla.

    • B. R. P.

      The first sneaker has gone!

      • Michael

        They fall short either under good or bad conditions. It's just that most are not interested.

    • Novel

      The owners of photo studios close them en masse, sell out studio lights and go to nature, to the narrow-gauge railway and native cats. The Constitutional Court of Ukraine recognizes the shooting of an artificial film as unconstitutional, the pavilions of Dovzhenko's studio are being demolished. Godox and Yongnuo go broke.

    • Novel

      * under artificial light

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