Camera basics: shutter speed

15 02 2011

Understanding shutter speed is extremely important if you have any intentions of becoming a photographer. It’s one of the most important concepts next to understanding aperture and ISO .

First off, the shutter. The shutter lets light into the camera. In the old days of film the shutter would open; allowing light to enter the camera, thus exposing the film. The same concept applies to digital photography, except replace the film with a digital sensor which takes the light and turns it into digital information.

Shutter speed is how fast the shutter opens, thus controlling how much light is hits the sensor. Shutter speed is measured in fractions of seconds the higher the denominator the faster (1/1000 is faster than 1/60).

The faster the shutter speed, less light will get in, making a fast shutter speed ideal for a super bright day. Slower shutter speeds, 1/3, will let more light in making them ideal for darker lighting conditions but be warned a slower shutter speed will pave the way for camera shake. Avoid camera shake by investing in a good tripod, so those sweet night shots will look their best. Also, slower shutter speeds will allow for motion in photos.

Here is an example of slow shutter speed


Using a shutter speed of 3 seconds and a tripod I was able to get the light trails from the fireworks, making the picture much more appealing.

Here is an some example of fast shutter speed.


I shot this using a shutter speed of 1/640 freezing the seagull in mid-flap.

So when you’re out shooting, make sure that you’re using the appropriate shutter speed for your image. Do you want a flowing stream or do you want an action shot frozen in time? Mastering shutter speed will help you get the most out of your DSLR.



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