What Does ISO Stand For?


Today, I’m going to demolish a myth or two about ISO and what it actually stands for.

What you’re going to learn;

  1. What ISO means
  2. Whether or not it’s an acronym
  3. How to pronounce “ISO”
  4. Why it matters

Ready? Awesome, let’s do it…

Cover photo by Aleksandar.

Table of Contents

The ISO Myth

Ask anyone that has been in photography for a while, and you’ll find that most will tell you that ISO is an acronym for; International Standards Organization.

And that you should pronounce it “eye – ess – oh.”

Ummm, nope.

There is no such thing as an International Standards Organization!

Don’t believe me? Google it.

Nothing. Notta. Zilch. It doesn’t exist.

Here’s the search result…

As you can see in the image above, the listing for that search lists a company called: “International Organization for Standardization.”

Which is not the same as “International Standards Organization.”

Am I splitting hairs? Maybe.

But, before you get mad at me, please take 3 minutes to read the rest of the article for additional facts that the two are not one and the same.


Bigfoot is a myth. Or is it?

Photo by Gratisography.

Photo by Victoria. ////  ISO or I.S.O.?”

So, What Does ISO Mean & What Does It Stand for?

So why all the confusion?

Well, there is such a thing as the “International Organization of Standardization” (or IOS)

The International Organization of Standardization is a non-profit organization based in Geneva, Switzerland.

Their mission is to bring together experts to share knowledge. Intending to develop voluntary, consensus-based, market-relevant International Standards that support innovation and provide solutions to global challenges… yes, that was a mouthful!

One of them being film. However, the acronym for their business should be IOS and not ISO.

To make things more confusing, they adopted “ISO” vs. IOS. Here is a quote from the International Organization for Standardization website…

"Because 'International Organization for Standardization' would have different acronyms in different languages (IOS in English, OIN in French for Organisation Internationale de normalization), our founders decided to give it the short form ISO. ISO is derived from the Greek isos, meaning equal. Whatever the country, whatever the language, we are always ISO."

The Truth About ISO

In short, ISO is not an acronym for “International Standardization Organization”.  It’s a word that was derived from another (Greek) word isos.

This means you don’t spell out “I.S.O.” when referring to it. Instead (since it’s a word), it’s pronounced: “eye-so.”

Think of it like this; it’s like a logo for the International Organization for Standardization. Just like you wouldn’t spell out the word A.P.P.L.E. you would just say the word.

Now, here is the real question…

Does It Really Matter?

In the grander scheme of things… no. It’s not going to make you a better photographer.

So, what’s going to make you a better photographer?  Well, knowing how to use ISO for your creative vision.  That’s a story for another day, though.  

Check out the link in the “What’s Next” section (below) to find out how to use ISO to take better photos.

Guilty As Charged

Truth be told, I’ve been saying “I.S.O.” for 25 years! I had no idea until another photographer corrected me.

But, my photography skills didn’t change one way or the other.

ISO quiz

Answers to the Pop-Quiz, from our ISO Guide.

ISO Challenge 1 = ISO 6400

ISO Challenge 2 = ISO 1600

ISO Challenge 3 = ISO 400

For further information on the answers and why please post in the comments.  I’ll provide more details to clear up any questions.

Photo by Johannes Plenio. Am I wrong?

Now What?

In the digital world, there are more misconceptions when it comes to ISO.  Plus, what is ISO?

Oh, and if you’re still not convinced of the truth… please correct me in the comments below, and add some facts to your argument.

If you can sway me, I’ll update this article. And, give you all the credit!

A 30-year photography pro with a desire to help you achieve your creative vision! Facebook | Youtube

2 Responses

  1. Sorry Parker but you lost all credibility with me with the comment “There is no such thing as an International Standards Organization! Don’t believe me? Google it.”

    Maybe you should click on your own Links. ISO at https://iso.org has been around since 1946.

    The page is blatantly wrong and should either be corrected or removed.

    1. Hi Greg, Please re-read the article and take a closer look at the companies name. The link points to an organization called Internationalization Organization for Standardization. Therefore, their acronym would be I.O.S. and not I.S.O.

      Also, you asked me to take a look at my own links. I suggest you do the same. The link you provided does not link to a company called “International Standards Organization.”

      This is a common misconception and leads to confusion since the name is so close to “ISO”. Please read the rest of the article that explains where the confusion comes from.


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