Learning about Shutter Speed

February 10, 2016

This year I am attempting to get to grips with my camera and take it off the auto settings. This involves reading the manual and learning about how it works. Recently I have been learning about exposure. I found out that the camera when set to auto will try and moderate the tone of the image to 18% grey.  While this may work for some shots there are times when it will make the image look over or underexposed. Exposure is all the do with the amount of light entering the camera, too much and the image is too pale, too little and the image is too dark. To control the exposure of the picture you need to learn what settings can change the exposure. A couple of weeks ago I had a play with aperture and learnt how to blur a background. The last couple of weeks I have been learning all about shutter speed.

What is shutter speed?

Every camera has a shutter which is like a door that opens and closes in front of the camera sensor. If you think about  really old style cameras like the ones they use in wild west films, they they had a hood over the back. The photographer went under the hood and removed a door from the front to let the light though. The people who were being photographed had to stay really still until he put the door back on the front of the camera and the film was no longer exposed to light. These days the shutter opens and closes automatically. If you are trying to take a photo of a  moving object and the shutter shuts too slowly the picture will appear as a blur. My dog managed to demonstrate this perfectly the other day as I tried to get a photo as he raced towards me.

Dog moving

Of course you can also get a blurred image from accidentally moving the camera when you take the shot, or not having the subject in focus which is something I often do. That blur can be prevented by not moving the camera. To capture a moving object without blur you need to change the shutter speed on the camera so that the shutter opens and shuts much faster.

How do you change the shutter speed?

For this you will need your camera manual to find out how to put it into Shutter Priority Mode. On all my cameras I did this by changing the dial to the setting that said S. You then need to work out how to change the shutter speed, I needed to rotate the dial on the camera. Shutter speed is measured in seconds or fractions of a second. Mine varies between 1/4000 of a second up to 30 seconds. The challenge was then to take two pictures of a moving object, one on a low shutter speed and one on a faster shutter speed. On a windy day I took a photo of a raspberry cane in my garden. On the low shutter speed (1/6) you can clearly see the blur as the leaves blow in the wind.

Shutter speed

On the faster shutter speed the leaves are much clearer (1/125), caught before they move. The picture has also become much darker as well. I am sure this can be compensated for by adjusting other things.

Shutter speed

The other effect of shutter speed would be to create a deliberate blur to add an artistic effect to pictures by using a low shutter speed. This would create interesting effects at a fair ground for example.

Do you know how to use shutter speed on your camera?

4 responses to “Learning about Shutter Speed”

  1. Galina V says:

    I have no idea where my camera manual is, but must try to play with the shutter speed.

  2. I signed up to a photography course recently, and it gets emailed to you once a week. This week I am learning about shutter speed too.

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