Today we’re moving on in our photography series and talking about shutter speed. For now, we are focusing on how to shoot in manual using your DSLR. If you don’t have a DSLR stay tuned later in the year and I will be talking about composition next.
But, first, did you have fun learning about aperture? If you still feel confused, don’t worry we will return to aperture and combine everything together in a few weeks. Aperture is probably the most difficult thing we will talk about, but you’ll catch on the more you play around with your camera.
If you’re just jumping in for my photography series, head over here to start from the beginning!
Now, let’s talk about shutter
You know the button you push when you go to take a photo? That’s the shutter. Now, you may be able to press the shutter half way down to focus and then when you press fully it releases the shutter. We will go into some tips on how to focus later, but make sure that your camera is focusing on what you want it to.
When you press the shutter button you’ll hear a clicking sound and then you’re photo will appear. That clicking sound is the curtains or blades in the camera opening and closing. Take a look at the front of your camera when you take a photo and you can see it yourself.
The speed of the shutter refers to how long the shutters are open and can be measured in seconds and most often fractions of seconds. You’ll often see shutter speed in your camera like this: 1/60, 1/125, 1/250, and so on. Any lower than 1/60 and your photo will probably be blurry unless you’re using a tripod.
Shutter & Light
The longer the shutter is open the more light is let in and the opposite is true in that the shorter the shutter is open less light is let in. Often you will be changing your shutter speed the most depending on the lighting situation, so it’s good to be familiar with. If your shutter is set to 1/60 and your photo is too bright, then making the shutter speed shorter, by moving it to 1/125 or 1/250 will let in less light and make your photo less bright.
Shutter & Movement
You can also use shutter speed to get creative and capture movement. When your shutter speed is longer, it not only lets in more light, but more information as well. That’s why if you have a slower shutter speed, like 1/30 or 1/15, your photo may be blurry. If you use a tripod, you can use this to your advantage to capture movement.
For fast action, typically you will use a faster shutter speed, like 1/500 to freeze the action and moment, making the subject appear sharp and crisp.
The faster the subject is moving the faster shutter speed you’ll need to capture and freeze the movement.
For example, if you are photographing a sporting event or a rambunctious toddler, you will need a higher shutter speed. Possibly 1/250 or 1/500, or even faster for something moving quickly.
For no action, you can use a slower shutter speed. Or, if you’d like to blur action (make a waterfall blurry to show the movement over time) you can also use a slow shutter speed.
When you find the entire image is blurry, that is called camera shake. Your shutter is most likely to slow and you need to bump it up or use a tripod. When purposely using a slow shutter speed make sure to hold the camera very slow or use a tripod.
Shutter Motion Study
Left: shutter speed 1/4 sec Right: shutter speed 1/800 sec (all other settings in auto)
Fast vs. Slow
Fast shutter speeds freeze movement and slower shutter speeds capture movement over time. The objective of this assignment is to better understand how to use fast and slow shutter speeds. So, we will need to photograph motion. For this project, we’re going to use water. Use a tripod or steady your camera on the edge of your sink and capture water falling (use the sink faucet or a cup) Be VERY careful to not get your camera wet! You can also try this with someone running or twirling, objects falling, or anything in motion.
- Set your camera to Shutter Priority Mode (Tv or S) Make sure all other setting are in AUTO.
- Start with a slow shutter speed, less than 1/15 and make sure your camera us steady to avoid camera shake
- Focus on and take a photo of falling water (like in the photos above)
- Without changing focus, take the same photo with a shutter speed faster than 1/500 seconds
- Document the Shutter you used in each photo and take notes
- Once you have two photos (one with a slow shutter speed and the next with a fast shutter speed) compare them.
- Share your results in the comments below!
To make the assignment more interesting:
Take more photos with various shutter speeds, start from the slowest and move up to notice a more gradual change.
Upload your photos to a place where you can view your settings used in the photos. Notice how the ISO and aperture change as you adjust the Shutter. When you begin shooting in manual, you will be adjusting all of those settings.
Keep your camera in shutter priority mode and continue learning how to capture motion and adjusting your shutter speed. Try taking a portrait of someone moving, capture it two different ways.
Let me know if you have any questions & look out for the next photo series in a couple weeks!