On a trip to the American Museum of Natural History, I played the role of tourist, snapping photos here and there. Wolves being one of my all-time favorite animals, I just had to get a picture of their display. Not wanting to spoil the moonlit snow scene, I increased the shutter time and cranked up the ISO.
You’re probably looking at this picture saying to yourself, “Why does it look so… grainy?” Ask no more! The technical term for what you are seeing is called “noise”. What it basically means is that your shutter is opening itself longer in order to compensate for how dimly lit it is. With your lens open, your camera is collecting light bouncing off of the objects you’re trying to take a picture of. By increasing your ISO or your shutter speed, your increasing the amount of light being taken in, good or bad. Think of “noise” as that fuzzy bit you hear in the back of an old record (8-track, cassette, VHS). It’s background noise. You don’t want it in your picture, and even though our eyes don’t always see it, it’s there.
Solution: flash or better f-stop. The f-stop I was using for this picture was f/5.0. A better f-stop would have been f/2.8. I do own a lens that can reach that number, but alas, I didn’t own it at the time. They’re pricey, but worth it.