All posts by Scott Musson

Which ISO should you use?

ISO is a standard measurement of the light sensitivity of the camera’s sensor. If you are on a fully automatic mode your camera will adjust the ISO for a properly exposed picture. However like everything on your camera, automatic isn’t always the best mode. For the best quality picture with the least amount of noise and the greatest amount of sharpness, you will want to manually control your ISO.

You should try to use the lowest ISO possible, which will allow you to expose the picture in the given lighting condition accurately. Therefore, you would use a low ISO like 100 or 200 in bright conditions. You can use a higher ISO like 400 or 800, for indoors if you need too and for mixed lighting like on a cloudy day you can use something like 160 or 200. Most of the time, you should shoot at ISO 100 to 400.

For the best quality, try using a tripod in low light conditions which will allow you to lower your ISO for better quality. This works well unless your subject is moving and then you should try to increase the ISO so you can use a shutter speed that will allow you to freeze the motion.

Each camera may have different ISO setting capabilities, use the numbers from this article that are as close to your cameras as you can. Also note that newer cameras have better noise handling and the amount of noise that is perceptible at a given ISO may differ from camera/senor model to camera/sensor model.

ISO (sensor light sensitivity) is one of three factors that impact your image exposure.  The other two being shutter speed (how long the shutter is open letting light onto the senor) and aperture (how wide the area is opened to let light into the sensor).   Your camera’s meter adjusts to the different ISO settings. As your ISO goes up, you can drop your shutter speed or decrease the size of your aperture (increase the f-stop), but remember the increased ISO degrades your image quality so keep it as low as you can.  This decrease in image quality is especially seen when printing enlarged images.

Have a topic you would like to learn more about? Leave a comment via the link below and I’ll consider your topic for a future article.

Reduce Unwanted Blur

One of the best ways to improve the sharpness of your photos is to use a sturdy tripod.  It will particularly help with low light situations or situations where you need to use shutter speeds slower than the reciprocal of your lens length.  For example with a 60mm lens, the slowest shutter speed you can handhold is 1/60. Image Stabilization & Vibration Reduction can allow you to shoot slightly slower.

Also consider using a cable release and mirror lock-up mode on your camera.  If used correctly, these techniques will allow you to take very long exposures without blur. Another great advantage to using a tripod is that it forces you to slow down. Instead of taking lots of pictures very quickly, it will encourage less captures that are better thought out.

Don’t forget to change the height of your tripod and to alter your perspective, otherwise your images will lack variety.

Some research on buying tripods and the head that will connect your tripod to your camera is in order.  Be certain that the combination can hold your camera and lens safely and can hold up to the particular types of photography you enjoy.


Warm Up Your Images!

Do your images have flat or dull colors? Try changing your white balance setting in your camera to ‘CLOUDY’. This is similar to adding a warming filter to your camera and will work particularly well with outdoor portraits and landscapes. Adjusting your white balance is easier than carrying extra filters. Of course if you are shooting in RAW you can adjust your white balance in your photo editing software and compare your results.

Are You Posting Photos From Your Smart Phone? Then You Should Read This!

The US Army is advising against posting images from your smart phone to social networking sites. I think this is advise that us civilians should also consider. At least we all should understand the potential risk to our privacy posting photos with location metadata. The following presentation (pdf) provides details on why it is risky to post such metadata to social networking sites:

If you want to post photos, I recommend sanitizing your photo metadata first by removing the location metadata particularly if this information can identify personal information such as where you live, work or play. If you don’t have a tool like LightRoom or Photoshop where you can edit the metadata, there are some free tools that can help. Google “remove photo metadata” and you’ll find a number of articles and tools to help you with cleaning up the location metadata.

Welcome to my new website!

My name is Scott Musson and I’m an Software Engineer, but my passion is photography.  I live in Fairfax, Virginia and have had a love of photography since I was a teenager. My wife Emi & I love to travel and like many people, enjoy taking photographs of the places we visit. I also enjoy taking architecture, landscape, nature and underwater photographs. My wife Emi is also an excellent photographer, and it’s wonderful to have someone to share this interest with.

I also do website development for local businesses and most recently for a wonderful professional photographer named Eliot Cohen and for the Northern Virginia Photographic Society (NVPS).

I lecturer and frequently critique, speak and judge competitions at photography organizations and clubs in the Northern Virginia and Washington DC metropolitan area. I’ve earned the Photographer of the Year for the Northern Virginia Photographic Society (NVPS) in multiple years and categories, I’ve published a photo calendar with Emi for the past ten years, had exhibits at a number of area locations and have a number of images that have appeared in major motion pictures.

This website will be the home for my photographic blog, articles on photography and of course most importantly my images.  I hope you enjoy my work and I encourage your participation and feedback.

Hope you’ll come back soon as I’m just starting to get images up in the gallery and of course I’m always taking more!

March 10th, 2011 – Loudon Photography Club – “The Digital Workflow”

I’ll be at the Loudoun Photography Club on March 10th at 7:30 PM presenting a lecture on digital workflow. I’ll be discussing preparing your images for websites, digital photo competitions and other digital applications. Photoshop, Photoshop Elements and Lightroom will be the tools discussed as well as general concepts.

For information on the Loudon Photography Club and the presentation, please go to:

January 11th, 2011 – Image Critique at Northern Virginia Photographic Society

In preparation for the NVPS January Themed Competition “Through Doors, Out Windows,” they will be having an image critique on January 11th. I’ll be one of 3 critics along with Andy Kline and Bill Prosser, both excellent critics who will provide useful comments on members images. Critiques are an ideal opportunity for club members to gain more detailed explanations of what is most effective about their work, where it could stand to be improved in the eyes of the judges.

For more information go to: