What you Need to Know about Shutter Speed & Photography
Two weeks ago I posted about depth of field and briefly about aperture. To recap, depth of field talked about how ‘deep’ or ‘shallow’ your picture will be, or more specifically, how much of the picture is in focus.
Another component that goes along with aperture when taking pictures is shutter speed. Shutter speed can also control how much of your picture is in focus; but in a different way.
Here are three things to know about shutter speed.
1. What exactly is shutter speed?
Shutter speed is the speed at which your shutter moves when you take a picture and how long your shutter stays open. This determines how much light is let in. I actually just pulled that from the top of my head, but it is legit. For those who like sources to back things up (from someone who is writing a master’s thesis, good for you!), here is a link to an actual source. How quick or slow your shutter moves determines the amount of light that is let in and therefore the movement that is captured in a picture. Ever see those pictures of a city with the traffic lights all in a blur? Yeah, shutter speed controls that.
2. Shutter speed is measured in fractions or whole numbers
Do you ever see people post details (meta-info) for a specific photo? For example, for this picture of an osprey, the photo details are as follows:
Camera: Nikon D3000
F/Stop (aperture/depth of field): f/5.6
Shutter Speed: 1/4000 sec
Sometimes people include more information, but for the sake of this example that’s what I’m publishing. And it’s my blog. So there. But seriously, message me if you want more info on the picture.
As you can see, sometimes the shutter speed is measured in fractions. If you are like me, and fractions weren’t your thing in school, let me break it down. The smaller the fraction, such as the one above at 1/4000 of a second, the quicker your shutter will open and close. It helps me to remember that 1/4000 a second is really fast, and therefore my shutter will open and close very fast.
Compare that with the picture of this ferris wheel taken at the Minnesota State Fair (an amazing place) last year. The photo details for this picture are as follows:
Camera: Canon PowerShot S90 (my husband’s camera)
F/Stop (aperture/depth of field): f/8
Shutter Speed: 0.8 sec
The shutter speed for this picture is .8 of a second, meaning the shutter stayed open almost a whole second which allowed for more movement to be captured in the picture. It also allowed more light to enter the camera which was important since the picture was taken at night with little light.
Shutter speeds can range from 1 second or more all the way down to 1/1000 sec as shown on the diagram below.
Short shutter = less light let in = less movement, or freeze movement
Long shutter speed = more light let in = more movement
The chart above are some of the more common shutter speeds that I have seen. That being said, I've heard of shutter speeds as long as 24 hours. This is most commonly seen in star trail pictures.
3. You can use shutter speed to control movement in a picture and the amount of light that enters your picture
Controlling your shutter speed is a great way to create movement in a picture, or also to be able to take pictures without a lot of light. Many of today’s digital cameras have a setting that let’s you set the shutter speed you want and the camera will automatically pick the aperture to go along with your selected shutter speed.
This setting is often designated by an ‘S’, such as in the picture above.
When shooting subjects with a longer shutter speed, especially in low light situations, it is helpful to use a tripod to avoid unwanted blur.
So, do you want to take a picture of a flowy waterfall? Here’s an example of that showing different shutter speeds:
The picture above was taken with a shutter speed of 1/25 sec.
This picture was taken with a shutter speed of 1/500 sec.
See the difference in the two waterfalls? In the first example, the picture was taken with a longer shutter speed than in the second example, which is much more crisp-looking and has a shorter shutter speed.
This week’s takeaway:
-Shutter speed measures how long your camera shutter is open and also how much light is let into the camera when taking a picture
-Short shutter = less light let in = less movement, or freeze movement & Long shutter speed = more light let in = more movement
-It can be helpful to use a tripod, especially when taking pictures with a long shutter speed and/or low light
-Manually controlling your shutter speed is helpful when trying to control movement in a picture or to allow more light into a photograph
Is shutter speed a new concept for you? What subjects are you looking forward to photographing now that you are familiar with it?
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