Photography Tutorials and Articles

Understanding The Shutter Speed

Understanding The Shutter Speed in Photography for Beginners

The many roles of Shutter speed 

As I discussed before, in photography, Exposure is the main key for good pictures. If the exposure is not correct, then the photo is not useful and you need to try again. Exposure is controlled by a) Shutter Speed, b) Aperture, and c) ISO. In previous article I covered The ISO. Now it is the time for understanding the shutter speed and how it affects the exposure.

What is Shutter Speed

In this series of articles I am going to discuss understanding shutter speed, and how to use shutter speed creatively.

Let’s start with a basic definition from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

“In photography, shutter speed or exposure time is the length of time a camera’s shutter is open when taking a photograph. The amount of light that reaches the film or image sensor is proportional to the exposure time.”

Over and Under Exposed Images

Sample of Over and under exposed photos
Sample of Over and under exposed photos

Understanding the Shutter Speed

The following list provides an overview of common photographic guidelines and uses for standard shutter speeds.

1- Shutter speed is measured in fractions of seconds. The bigger the denominator the faster the speed (for instance 1/1000 is much faster than 1/30).

Slow Shutter Speed shows the motion blur.

2- In most cases you will probably use shutter speeds of 1/60th of a second or faster. This is because anything slower than 1/60th of a second can be difficult to use without getting camera shake. Camera shake is when your camera is moving while the shutter is open and results in blur in your photos. Even a slight movement can blur your shots!

The slower the shutter speed the more camera shake blur happens

3- If you’re using a slow shutter speed (anything slower than 1/60) you will need to use a tripod, monopod, or some type of image stabilization.

Using a Tripod stabilize the image while shooting in slow shutter speed or longer focal length.

Artistic use of Shutter Speed

4- Most cameras also give you the option for very slow shutter speeds that are not fractions of seconds but are measured in seconds (for example 1 second, 10 seconds, 30 seconds etc). These are used in very low light situations, when you want to create motion blur, or when you are going after special effects and/or when you’re trying to capture a lot of movement in a shot.

5 seconds shutter speed allowed me to draw the heart in our night time photography class

5- Some cameras also give you the option to shoot in “˜B” (or “˜Bulb”) mode. Bulb mode lets you keep the shutter open for as long as you hold it down.

Taking Firework photos using Bulb

6- When considering which shutter speed to use in an image, you should always ask yourself whether anything in your scene is moving and how you’d like to capture that movement. If there is movement in your scene you have the choice of either freezing the movement (so it looks still) or letting the moving object intentionally blur (giving it a sense of movement).

Using a tripod and slow shutter to capture motion blur

7- To freeze movement in an image (like in the shot below) you’ll want to choose a faster shutter speed and to let the movement blur you’ll want to choose a slower shutter speed. The actual speeds you choose will vary depending upon the speed of the subject in your shot and how much you want it to be blurred.

Fast Shutter Speed

Fast Shutter 1/1600s to freeze the movement.

Stay tuned for my next article about “Some Rules of Thumb” and as always feel free to contact us if you have more questions. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for new tutorials and tips.

Ted and the Omnilargess Team

Omnilargess Photography Classes

We have developed many photography classes to make Exposure techniques easy to understand.

Digital Photography Bootcamp

A six week program for beginners to learn about Exposure and Composition. This program includes 2 field trips, one for day time and one for night time photography skills.

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Full Day Photography Class – Exposure Edition

A two part workshop for learning the Exposure and then field trip to try the new skills. It is a workshop for beginners and all cameras are welcome!

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Photowalk for intermediate to advanced photographer

This is a especial workshop for intermediate to advanced users who want to master manual exposure techniques. It is a field photography class with lots of techniques to be discussed.

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Discover Discovery Trail Through Your Lens

This is a especial workshop for intermediate to advanced users who want to master manual exposure techniques and composition in Landscape Photography. It is a field photography class with lots of techniques to be discussed.

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