Why I Don’t Like Auto ISO

This blog has been a “my way or the highway” forum. There are lots of ways to use digital cameras and today’s post is just my opinion. There is no one way to accomplish anything, including exposure, in photography, so please look at my friend Mark Toal’s comments at the end of this post.

Like most of you, I’m not the same photographer I was when I got my first “good” camera—a Minolta SR-1. We all change and grow over time, at least I hope so, otherwise we’d end up shooting the same stuff year after year, while having what you might call 20 year’s experience but is really only one year’s experience twenty times.


I used to be a shoot-and-scoot kind of photographer, blasting through many shot as quickly as possible trying to cover everything in front of me but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more deliberate and often find myself bringing the camera to my eye, getting ready to shoot and then deciding, “nope, I’m not going to make that shot.” I am, as you might say, shooting less but enjoying it more.

Part of that is a shift away from shooting in Program mode and using the camera’s exposure compensation controls to home on the right exposure to picking a mode, more often than not Aperture Preferred, and maybe tweaking with exposure compensation.


I was never a fan of Auto ISO because based on my experience the program seems to favor higher ISOs and more noise to get shutter speed’s higher and more handholdable. I guess in my mature years I’ve become (even more of) a control freak but I hate noise, as much as I used to love film grain. Go figure. And don’t get me started about how camera’s like my Lumix GH4 is pretty noiseless at what would have been considered nosebleed ISO’s just a few short years ago.

When these preferences—and that’s what these are—are combined with a slower more deliberate shooting pace that lets me handhold slow shutter speeds, sometimes aided and abetted by in-body image stabilization, I prefer to make more and more exposure decisions myself. And yes, in case you wondered, I often use Manual exposure mode more than I did in the past too.

A Note from Mark Toal: While Joe and I agree on many things, even the subjects we like to photograph, how we do that is quite different and in a post on my blog Mirrorless Photo Tips, I’ll explain “Why I Like Shooting Auto ISO.”

Author: Joe Farace

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