Moving Toward Manual Settings: Understanding Shutter Speed

1. What is Shutter Speed?
In the most basic terms possible, shutter speed controls the ability to demonstrate or stop motion in a photograph. It is the MOMENT that light is exposed (recorded) on your digital sensor (or film) and the length of the exposure. Simple, no? NO? Ok: it is the amount of time your shutter stays open when you click the button thingie.

Shutter speed is set by fractions of a second as follows:

So if you’re set at 1/1000 of a second, then your shutter will obviously be open for less time than if your shutter speed was set at 1 full second.

2. Why Does Shutter Speed Affect Motion in a Photograph?
The longer your shutter stays open the more motion it will have time to record. The shorter the time your shutter remains open, the more motion it will freeze.

3. How do Aperture and Shutter Speed Work Together?
Well shutter speed determines the amount of TIME your camera’s shutter remains open, but if there was no OPENING allowing for light to enter and hit the sensor, then you would have no image. . . just black. The aperture determines (based on how widely it’s open) the AMOUNT of light that is let in within the amount of time determined by the shutter speed. Read it again and give it a second to sink in. 

4. Do I Need a Tripod When I’m Experimenting with Shutter Speed?
A general rule of thumb if you’re not a tripod lover: most people can hand hold their camera without introducing camera shake at the shutter speed that corresponds with the focal length of the lens. So for example: if you have a 50mm lens, then you will most likely be able to handhold your camera at shutter speeds of 1/60 or faster. If it’s a 200mm lens then you’re going to need to remain at 1/250 or higher.

Your assignment is to pop your camera on over to Shutter Priority and take 2 images of the same (or at least the same type) of moving object. For one image your goal is going to be to stop motion and for another it will be to SHOW motion. If you’re not clear on how Shutter Priority works: you put in the desired shutter speed, and the camera will select the appropriate aperture for the lighting conditions you’re in.

Join The Mailing List To Recieve Free Updates!

Back Next