Everything Above ISO 1600 Looks the Same, Stop Complaining About It

Photographers tend to look for the stupidest reasons to complain about anything, like photos above ISO 1600.

In the past year, we started doing something most other photographers don’t with images at ISO 1600 and above: we started printing. Printing is arguably the best thing we can do when it comes to making images. Printing helps make our images manifest and gives them a different look that can’t be experienced behind a screen. Just the other day, a friend and former colleague came into my office and looked at prints that we’ve made at ISO 6400 and above. And she said something absolutely amazing to me.

Know what she said?

“No one is going to be getting up close and personal to these prints anyway!”

And she was completely, 100% right. The images we printed from files at ISO 6400 at 17×22 inches were nice. Printing them allows us to to look at the photos in a different way. But she’s right, I’m not going to get super up close and personal to a 17×22 inch print. If anything, that makes me look at the details more than the entire scene. Perhaps those details are imperative to the scene and in that case I’d understand, but if you’re shooting a portrait, the details on a person’s eyelashes aren’t all that important.

I don’t care what you say, they aren’t. They just aren’t.

Let’s reinforce this idea with a number of safe assumptions:

  • Most photographers are probably doing noise reduction to the images
  • Most photographers aren’t exporting their images at the full size to the web because they’re afraid of their images getting stolen
  • Most photographers are looking at images on a screen (a medium with pixels that can only render so much detail)
  • Most photographers aren’t printing (a completely different medium than what digital really is)
  • Most photographers are probably complaining about the noise of another camera just to make themselves feel better about their own purchase
  • Most photographers who complain about noise perhaps know nothing about moment, emotion, etc in a photo
  • Most photographers complaining about these things are focusing on technical factors, not artistic factors
  • Most of those photographers may never sell an image
  • Most of those photographers are probably doing it just for the fun of having low hanging fruit to complain about

Images at ISO 1600 and above from nearly all manufacturers these days are good. It’s very difficult for cameras to create “bad images.” The technology today is just too good.

This post is dedicated to Brent Eysler; the fantastic friend with whom I had a bit of this conversation.