Basic Understanding of ISO, Ev, and White Balance for new DSLR users

ISO, Ev, and White Balance Oh My!!

Making an overall good exposure (Part One)

By: Adrian Correa

My good friend and HardCore Kayak Angler Club Pres. LimeCider received an email about explaining the 3 major functions (ISO, Ev, and WB) and how or when to apply them when taking photos. I will explain these functions in laymen terms as I learned it through my experiences. You can read much information on various sites about ISO, Ev, and WB, but the explanations seem to lose many, especially myself. I don’t need to learn why the earth revolves around the sun, unless I need to. My motto is “keep it basic.”

ISO, what is this? Little did I know, I had to do quite a bit of research when I switched from a point and shoot to DSLR. Sure point and shoot cameras have ISO settings, but for 99% of users the camera does all the work. That is why it is called point and shoot. For DSLR’s, the ISO function aides in photo exposure, that’s it. No need to go nuts on definition. It will make your photo look crisp or it will make your photo look “grainy” or have a lot of “Noise”, especially when you crop your photo and I’ll explain why.  There is a range that cameras have for ISO settings. It is numerical generally ranging from 100 to 6400 on low to mid-ranged priced cameras. On high-end cameras the ISO setting can go above 24,000 WOW! I’ll tell you why this is impressive. On bright sunny days you can take a photo of a flower, for example, at ISO100 and have an overall good shot. Now set your ISO to your highest setting and take the same photo. You will notice some “noise” in the photo. If you crop both photos in Photoshop at the same percent and compare the two, you will see a remarkable difference.


ISO 200 crop 95%                                                         ISO 6400 crop 95%


Using High ISO levels come into play when you are shooting in indoor lighting situations, especially when the ceiling is high. You’ll end up with under exposed photos if you shoot at a low ISO. Now days, Nikon, Sony, Canon, etc. have given there cameras high ISO settings for low light situations. I have seen photos come out clear at ISO settings of 24,000.

Another setting I need to add is shutter speed. You will find that when you increase your ISO that your shutter speeds will increase. If you find that you are not “freezing” your frame fast enough during an action shot, you can increase your ISO which is going to aide in getting that action shot of that jumping tarpon or flying heron. Hope this is not confusing. Play with the ISO and notice your shutter speed how it will increase. If you have a DSLR and put it on auto, it will do the thinking for you, but this is not why you switched from point and shoot. If you are outdoors and are just shooting non fast moving subjects, keep your ISO level around 200 or so, even on a cloudy day you will be fine. Now if you tend to shoot indoors and can not use fill flash, then you will find that increasing your ISO will aide in getting a good exposed shots, but this can be tricky. Just another function to play with.

One thing I will say for those that use point and shoot cameras is that in doing some research, I found that the Pentax Optio w60 which many of you use has an impressive ISO sensitivity range up to 6400.

ISO, Ev, and White Balance Oh My!!

Making an overall good exposure (Part two)

By: Adrian Correa
In part one of my three part write up, I wrote about ISO and its functionality in photography. It is a major aide in how much “noise” your photo will produce.

Now let’s talk exposure compensation or Ev. You will notice this as a (+/-) function. This function as I learned it will help you to adjust the exposure measured by its light meter.  Usually, the range of adjustment goes from +2 to -2 EV in 1/3 steps, but for some DSLR’s it can be higher as with my Nikon I can go as high as +5 or as low as -5.  It is really not that complicated. I find that when the sun is at its highest and brightest, I tend to lower my exposure (Ev) to the negative side. If I take a photo of someone holding a redfish or a snook, I tend to drop my Ev to -0.3 or -0.7. This will drop the amount of light that will tend to “blow-out” the harsh whiteness from the glare of the sun off the fish, water, angler, boat, etc. Here is an example:

Here you see HCKAC member Thahn (DurkaDurka) holding a redfish. This 1st shot was taking when the sun was at its highest and brightest. No cloud cover. You see how the whites of the fish are “blown-out.” You can also see how the sun glares off the water and off of the anglers face (arrows).

Now here is the same photo taken with my Ev compensation set to -0.7. Why did I choose this? You may ask. It is only through trial and error. I chose what looked best. In this exposure you can see how the whites of the redfish look more natural and you see more detail of the scales. Not “blown-out.” You see the glare off the water is much less and off of the anglers’ face.


Ok now let us go the opposite way with the Ev, but I’m going to include the ISO setting now too. Here is the situation that I was presented with.

On a recent outing with HCKAC member JoseC, we were fishing on an overcast day. I knew then I had to increase my ISO level to about 560 to get the proper exposure and a fast enough shutter speed for the action. This comes with practice. When you take enough photos, your decisions become more natural as to how you want to set your camera for a shot. Now that I have my ISO set, I took a photo and due to the overcast skies I increased my Ev (exposure comp) to +1.0. This increased the amount of light I needed for the action shots and Jose holding the fish. Take a look:

josered josered

If I had not increased my ISO or the Ev comp, the photos would have been underexposed on a non sunny, overcast day and I would not have had a fast enough shutter speed to help me “freeze” the frame.

Like I say, the settings on your camera are there for you to use, not just decorations; use them. Practice using the settings on different days. Just because the weather looks bad doesn’t mean you can take a good photo. It just means you have to compensate to make the photo look great. Any questions please email me at

ISO, Ev, and White Balance Oh My!!

Making an overall good exposure (Part three)

By: Adrian Correa

In part one and two, I wrote about the significance of using ISO and exposure compensation. No let us add White balance or WB as many may see this setting on the camera.

White Balance (WB) emits different colors of light, it’s important for the digital camera to adjust its color scheme to match what we physically see, which can interpret all white objects as white, no matter what color of light they’re reflecting. Think of white balance as the base line for creating colors using a digital camera.

Digital cameras can automatically determine the proper white balance settings by finding a white object in the scene and measuring all other colors from it. Manual white balance allows the photographer to choose a white object in the scene, and the camera then adjusts other colors from that object. With preset white balance, the user can tell the camera the type of lighting conditions that the photograph will experience, such as fluorescent or sunlight, and the camera bases its white balance settings on the expected lighting conditions.

Personally, since I do not do much of indoor photography I let my camera do the thinking and just leave the WB on auto mode. If you do take many photos indoors you may want to manually set your WB. The most common settings to use for indoor would be the “Fluorescent,” “Tungsten,” and the “House” modes. Each of these you can use to compensate for coolness or warmth of photo.

“Coolness” is a term many photographers use to describe the image being too blue. The opposite would be when your image is too orange or red it would be called “Warm.” Your WB will help correct these images to look more natural, especially anyone or any subject wearing white or is white in color.

Not really that difficult of a setting once you play with it. If you want to practice with WB, try taking a photo of the inside of your refrigerator. This is a great subject to test since it is white on the inside and you have multiple products that are of different colors. First take a photo on Auto WB, than start to change your WB setting and you WILL notice a difference..