February 3, 2021 Steve Gerrard

Hey photographers, how do you pronounce ISO?

how do you say or pronounce ISO in photography

Turns out I’ve been saying the term ISO wrong since I started taking photography seriously almost twenty years ago! Most photographers will know that the term represents “the numerical exposure index of a photographic film under the system adopted by the International Organization for Standardization, used to indicate the light sensitivity of the film’s emulsion” or its digital equivalent. Is it Eye-ess-oh or eye-soh? I literally just learned the correct way this year.

Watch the video below:

According to the International Organization for Standardization, the abbreviation for their name is ISO. On their website, they go on to explain that you should pronounce the abbreviation as a word: eye-soh and that the abbreviation and its pronunciation are based on the Greek root word for equal: isos.

Eye-soh or Ee-Soh

When the International Organization for Standardization was founded in London in 1946, The founders decided to use three official languages: English, French, and Russian. In English, the Organization is known as International Organization for Standardization; in French, Organisation internationale de normalisation; and, in Russian, Международная организация по стандартизации (Mezhdunarodnaya organizatsiya po standartizatsii). The Organization, therefore, notes that if they were to use an acronym or an initialism as an abbreviation, they would end up with three different versions: IOS in English, OIN in French, and MOC in Russian. So they instead settled on ISO as an abbreviation.

Because ‘International Organization for Standardization’ would have different acronyms in different languages (IOS in English, OIN in French for Organisation internationale de normalisation), 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.

Hence, the claim that ISO is pronounced eye-soh as an acronym (as a word), not spelled out as an initialism.

But who really cares? Whichever way you say it, most people involved with photography will know what you mean. Just don’t correct someone when they pronounce it “eye-soh”!

For more ramblings check out my YouTube channel at youtube.com/c/SteveGerrardPhotography

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