Saturday, May 4, 2013

PHOTOGRAPHY: A Simple Guide To Shutter Speed Basics

I wanted to write this post to help you understand all that you need to know on shutter speed basics. So let's start with the most basic thing of all, what is shutter speed?

Shutter speed is simply the speed at which your camera takes a shot. Inside your camera, there is a shutter. Whenever you take a photo, the shutter opens and then closes. When it opens, light comes in the sensor, the sensor captures the picture, then the shutter closes. Faster shutter speeds are able to freeze the motion. Longer shutter speeds come in handy when we don't have enough light. If the shutter opens and closes quickly, not a lot of light will be able to come inside the camera. Your pictures could turn out under exposed depending on your light situation. You won't have such a problem on a sunny day for example if your shutter speed is 1/1000 of a second or 2/1000 of a second. This issue more commonly occurs indoors.
Imagine you are taking a photo of a sunset. If you select a very quick shutter speed, the photo will be dark. In this situation you would slow your shutter speed down. It may be a few seconds long. This depends on the lighting and also on the aperture value you have picked. By doing this, you will avoid the issue of your photos being under exposed and too dark, but another problem arises; you will need to use a tripod to keep the camera still. If you hand moves even a slight amount while you are taking the picture, or the subject moves, your picture will be blurry. Alternatively you can place the camera in a position where it will be totally still.

When you have an abundance of light, is it still possible to produce any nice effects by slowing the shutter speed down?

Yes this is possible! An example is when you take a photo of moving water, like a river or a waterfall. This technique will create a silky, dreamy effect on the shot of the water. You would have to adjust your aperture to compensate for the large amount of light coming in. Some effects will require you to change the aperture so much that the shutter speed can be as slow as two minutes! You'll probably be working with an aperture number of about F18 or F22. This means that the size of the aperture will be reduced so that there is less light coming in. Even when using this kind of aperture it could still be over exposed and you may need to use a filter to block out some of the sunlight.

This technique can also be used on a bridge in an urban environment to take pictures of roads with moving vehicles on, to make the vehicles disappear so that the only thing you can see is that beautiful streak of their front and back lights.

Understanding Shutter Speed Basics

To adjust the shutter speed on your camera, you will need to locate the shutter speed dial. When you increase the shutter speed, you will see the F number decreasing. This happens because as you increase the shutter speed, less light is coming in, so the camera picks up a smaller F number, and as a result the aperture opens up to get more light in. It is a good idea to experiment with taking some images at different shutter speeds. If you set the shutter speed as one or two seconds, you will easily be able to hear the shutter before closing one or two seconds later.

With slower shutter speeds, it works best if you put your camera on a timer, so that your pushing of the button to take the picture won't make the camera shake slightly, even when it is on a tripod. Another tip is to carefully roll your finger off the button when you take the picture with the timer, so the camera isn't subjected to any small unexpected movements.

If you want a clear picture of any moving object, such as water or children (who tend to move around suddenly), you would be wise to use a quick shutter speed. 1/500 of a second is a good example of a decent shutter speed, but you sometimes don't need to use such a high speed.

For night time long exposure, we will examine this in another post.

I hope you found this article on shutter speed basics to be valuable and that it helped you to understand the main concepts of the topic.

By Luke Walker


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