Welcome Wordsmiths! This week, we will be exploring shutter speed in more detail.
Shutter speed is the measurement used to indicate the amount of time that the camera’s sensor is exposed to the light from your scene that will become the image. It is measured in seconds but it will usually be a fraction of a second. Shutter speed is most commonly used to affect two things: exposure and motion blur.
As we discussed a few weeks ago, shutter speed is one of three factors affecting the exposure of a particular image. You can change the shutter speed on your camera to allow more or less light to reach the sensor depending on your needs. When you change your shutter speed for this reason, it’s to compensate for too much/too little light reaching your sensor due to the amount of available light when you take your picture.
Night photography is a great example for both instances, depending on what you want to photograph. In order to photograph stars, you will need to manually increase the shutter speed and expose the camera’s sensor to the starlight for a longer period, since there is so little of it. If you want to photograph a full moon, however, there is much more light available. So, to keep from getting just a big white blur, you will need to decrease the shutter speed you use.
When your camera’s sensor is exposed (the shutter is open), it collects all the available light. So if something in your frame moves, the sensor gets the light from all the object’s positions, causing blur. Sometimes this looks cool and sometimes it is less desirable. There are a few places I like a little motion blur: waterfalls, hummingbirds, and sometimes to show action.
Shutter speeds are 1/800th of a second and 1/2 second, respectively.
Here are some photos I took of Black Fork Falls at Twin Falls State Park in WV. For the first one, I left the camera on auto. It chose a shutter speed of 1/800th of a second. The fast shutter speed froze the water as it fell. For the second one, I decreased the shutter speed to 1/2 of a second. You can see that the water is blurred as it falls because the sensor records the light from the water through a half-second of movement.
Most cameras have a setting for shutter speed priority. On my DSLR, it’s designated by Tv, and this is what I used to take the second photo above. This means that you can manually set the shutter speed and your camera will automatically select the aperture and ISO to allow the ideal amount of light to reach the sensor. This is nice when you want to choose the shutter speed but you don’t want to go through a lot of trial and error trying to find the right settings for the other factors of exposure.
Try This At Home
First thing you need to do: find your camera’s manual and learn how to adjust the shutter speed. If your camera has a shutter speed priority setting, figure out how to choose that. Then find something that’s moving to take a picture of. It could be a pet or a family member or cars driving down the road. You can even turn on your shower and photograph the water.
Take a photo using your auto setting and note the shutter speed the camera chose. Go to the shutter speed priority setting and take a picture at a slower speed, and then a faster one. If your camera doesn’t have a shutter speed priority setting, you might have to change the aperture or ISO to compensate for the changes in exposure. Look at the differences in the three images. Which one is more appealing to you? Why? In my waterfall examples above, I like the image taken with the slower shutter speed because it looks more natural. In real life, you can’t pause the water to see individual drops. It all just blurs together as it pours over the edge of the fall. Post your images on your website, blog, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or whatever. Then, come back here and leave a link in the comments so we can see your photography prowess.
Does this clear things up a bit (in your mind and your photos)? Do you still have questions? Be sure to ask, I’ll be responding to all comments. Or email us here. Got a photo tip? Let us know! We ♥LOVE♥ feedback here at Wordsmith Studio!!
Go back and check out our earlier posts: Overview to Exposure and Aperture. And be sure to come back in two weeks for a more in-depth post on ISO and how it affects your photography.