13 June 2011

Shutter Speed Basics

Susan Brannon
13 June 2011

The shutter is what controls how long the sensor is exposed, the longer the shutter is open the more light can be absorbed onto the sensor. The shutter speeds are controlled in seconds and fractions of seconds. There are numbers that represent the speed of the shutter, 1/1000 of a second is fast and 3 seconds is slow. Remember, the lower the number the less light will be let in.

You can see on your manual camera, or digital various settings of numbers that represent the shutter speed.

These are called full stops:

1/1000 s 1/500 s 1/250 s 1/125 s 1/60 s 1/30 s 1/15 s 1/8 s 1/4 s 1/2 s 1 s
A fast shutter speed (faster than 1/500th of a second) will allow you to freeze or stop motion while shooting movements.

The term “long exposure” normally refers to the amount of time the shutter stays open, for 1 second and over.  It is difficult to shot long exposures without a tripod because your camera will pick up the slightest movements.  It is difficult to shot a photo at anything from 1/60 and lower.  Sometimes a good trick is to lean against something like a wall, and hold you breath while making the shot.  You can also find something nearby to set your camera on for the shot.

I made some samples of a fixed f-stop with different shutter speeds in the daylight.
f/16 at 1/10 shutter speed
f/16 at 1/13 shutter speed

f/16 at 1/15 shutter speed
f/16 at 1/20 shutter speed

f/16 at 1/25 shutter speed
f/16 at 1/25 shutter speed
f/16 at 1/30 shutter speed

f/16 at 1/40 shutter speed
f/16 at 1/50 shutter speed
f/16 at 1/60 shutter speed
 With the samples, you can see the difference with how much light the shutter speed is absorbed to the sensor or film.  When there is too much light, the colors are all washed out as in shutter speeds 10/13/20 and 25. The images are too dark when there is not enough light as in shutter speeds 50/60.  The foliage in the background has lost its details and dimensions.

Action:  It is good to set your shutter speed at the fastest speed you can depending on your lighting.

Landscape:  You will want the slowest shutter speed possible with a higher f-stop to generate a good depth of field.

Night shots:  You will want the slowest shutter speed possible (good to use a tripod!) turn off the flash, and use the fastest film speed.

Related lessons:

Related lessons:
Aperture and f/16 Rule
Shutter Speed Basics

Depth of Field
Focused Bracketing or Photo Stacking 

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