Photos Matter: Exposure Part 3 | Shutter Speed
For the past couple of months, we’ve been discussing the settings responsible for achieving a correct exposure. So far, we’ve covered ISO and aperture. (Have you been practicing?) The third setting, which we will talk about today, is shutter speed.
*Note: If you’re not comfortable using your camera in manual mode, you can set it to “shutter speed priority” which will allow you to select the shutter speed while the camera selects the other settings for you.
I might be stating the obvious with this one, but shutter speed refers to how fast the shutter is working. In other words, it determines how long the shutter stays open to let the light in to the camera sensor. Shutter speed is expressed in seconds and is usually a fraction of a second, such as 1/200 (meaning the shutter stays open for 1/200 of a second).
In most situations, you will want to keep your shutter speed high because it will result in sharper images. If your shutter speed is too slow, you can get blurriness either from your unsteady hands, or from the movement of your subject. I like to keep my shutter speed at least 1/125. If I am photographing something with a lot of movement (sports, pets, or kids, for instance), I will keep it even higher.
For example, the stem that this little guy was clinging to was blowing around like crazy in the wind. If my shutter speed wasn’t high enough, he would have been a big blur across the image.
The catch to keeping your shutter speed high is that you don’t leave much time for light to reach the sensor. Light is the key to correct exposure. If you don’t get enough of it, your image will be underexposed. Keep your shutter speed as high as you can without compromising your exposure.
So, how does shutter speed affect your image (aside from exposure, of course)? A fast shutter speed will freeze the action while a slow shutter speed will show movement.
In this picture, my shutter speed was 1/640 so that I could freeze the jumpers in mid-air.
As I mentioned above, most of the time you want a fast shutter speed to avoid blurriness. However, sometimes you want to show movement in your image, so a slow shutter speed would be what you want to use.
In these photos, the one on the left has a high shutter speed (1/250) and it has frozen the action of the flowing water. The one on the right has a very slow shutter speed (one second long) and shows the water flowing through the rocks.
*Tip: If you’re using a very slow shutter speed, you’ll need a tripod!
A slow shutter speed can also be fun when you’re photographing light. I played around with long exposures during the fireworks on the Fourth of July this past summer.
So, now you know all about ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. Next month, we’ll talk about how to use them all together to achieve a correct exposure!
Tags: Exposure Series