Let’s Talk Photography, Part 3: Shutter Speed

photography part 3

NOTE: This post was originally published on the blog, “Simply Horse Crazy”, by Mary Coleman, on August 31st, 2013. She also took many of the photos included, except where credited otherwise. Huge thanks to Mary for letting us post her series here.

photography part 3

Shutter Speed

Originally I was going to talk about ISO next, but then I thought about it and it seemed to me that shutter speed might make a little more sense to come next (at least in my head, ISO builds better off shutter speed than vise versa).

So anyway, let’s continue you, shall we?

What is Shutter Speed?

Good question. It’s a simply concept, really. Shutter Speed has everything to do with TIME . Shutter Speed is the amount of time that the camera’s shutter remains open and exposes the camera’s sensor (remember, the sensor in a dSLR equates to what the film was in SLRs…it records the image). Keeping this in mind, it makes sense that “shutter speed” is also referred to as “exposure time.” The terms are interchangeable.

Shutter Speed and Light

A big factor in choosing the right shutter speed is where you are, that is, how much light surrounds you. Lots of light (think outdoors, bright sun) requires a higher shutter speed (bigger numbers) to get the right exposure. Less light (indoors) requires lower shutter speeds (smaller numbers) and equates to more exposure time.

Shutter speed is measured using fractions—fractions of seconds that is. If the shutter speed reads “1/10,” that is one-tenth of a second that the shutter remains open. A shutter speed of “1/320” is one-three-hundred-twentieth of a second (again, that the shutter remains open).

Think about it logically, you need more time to expose the picture when their is less light available and, you need less time to expose the picture when their is more light available. Make sense?

mary coleman - shutter speed

Shutter Speed and Motion

There is, however, another use for shutter speed in the realm of action photography. Shutter speed determines how “blurry” or “frozen” the image is. Lower shutter speeds are going to blur motion, while higher shutter speeds will freeze motion.

Take a good look at the chart I made below, I think this will help clear up an confusion anyone might have:

shutter speed chart

Note: In order to “play” with shutter speed, you will have to, again, set your camera to one of the manual modes. This time I suggest “TV” (time value) for Canon and “S” (shutter priority) for Nikon cameras. This dial setting will allow you to try out different shutter speeds, but the camera will still have control over aperture (we’ll get there!).

Changing Your Shutter Speed

I really should probably try to learn more about Nikon cameras, but unfortunately my knowledge is limited to Canon (and Sony) dSLRs. If you have a Nikon or another brand of dSLR, I would suggest playing around a little or googling how to adjust your settings. I wish I could be more help than that. ūüôĀ

If you have a Canon, I can be a little more help. To adjust your shutter speed, first look at the main screen on your camera.¬†The first number, the fraction, is your shutter speed (NOT the number with the “f” in front of it). On my camera, to change the shutter speed, I adjust a dial on top of my camera, either moving it left or right.

Again, to review, if I turn the dial to the left, the fractions are going to get smaller. This, in turn, increases the amount of time the shutter remains open and means longer exposure time (more exposure equates to more light affecting the picture and more blur). In turning the dial right, the fractions are going to get larger, which decreases the amount of time the shutter remains open and means a shorter exposure time (less exposure equates to less light affecting the shot and less blur; a “frozen” shot).

Stay tuned – the next two posts will fill in some blanks and definitely make things more clearer overall, so if you start messing around with your camera and are confused why your shots aren’t turning out the way you’d hoped, things will get clearer, I promise!

error: Content is protected
%d bloggers like this: