Understanding Shutter Speed

Understanding Shutter Speed Feature Image

What is Shutter Speed-

Shutter speed is the amount of time that your shutter is open.  When looking at your camera your shutter speed is written as 1/(a number).  This means that your shutter is open for 1/(whatever the #) of a second.  

When shooting people and especially children try not to go any slower than 1/125.  This will help to prevent a blurry picture. Sometimes 1/125 is not fast enough and you still get some movement in your photo, like in a picture of someone swinging, but it is a good rule of thumb. 

The lower the bottom number the more light will come in because your shutter is open longer.  The higher the bottom number means less light will be coming in because it is open for less time.  If you are in a low lighting situation and you are taking a picture of something stationary, you can lower your shutter speed to something crazy like 1/20. But a tripod is recommended when shooting at long shutter speeds in order to avoid the blur caused by camera shake. But, if your subject moves, even slightly, a tripod can’t help with that.

Understanding Shutter Speed Motion Blur
ISO 400 f/2.2 1/40 sec

You might have noticed that your images are soft when shooting in low light. That’s because your camera has to slow down the shutter speed in order to let enough light onto the sensor. Any movement of the subject or the camera while the shutter is open will cause blur.

Unlike lens aperture, shutter speed is specific to your camera. So, the shutter speeds you will have access to won’t change, regardless of the lens you are using.

When shooting, the longer the shutter speed, the more light hits your sensor. So, long shutter speeds are helpful in low light. But, the other side of the story is that the longer the shutter is open, the more motion blur you are recording. Motion blur happens when the subject or the camera moves while the shutter is open. 

Shooting Practice –

I want you to identify your longest and shortest possible shutter speeds, and then shoot as close to them as you can. Shoot 2 photos, one no faster than 1/1000th of a second and one no slower than 1/2 second.

understanding shutter speed image 1
1/1000 sec
understanding shutter speed image 2
1/20 sec

Shutter Speed is just one part of the exposure triangle. Check out Understanding Aperture to keep learning and master your camera.


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Understanding Shutter Speed