Photography Tip: Understanding SHUTTER SPEED (Part 2 of Manual Mode De-Mystified)

January 27, 2013  •  2 Comments

 

This series will be in parts. The overall goal will be to show you how to use your camera in manual mode to get the most control out of your camera. This is Part 2.
Part 1 "Understanding ISO" can be found here. Part 3 "Understanding APERTURE" can be found here.
 
Understanding Shutter Speed in Digital SLR Photography:
"My photo is blurry, why". Well, it can be from a number of things. The way you hold your camera, shaking when taking the photo. It can even be that you forgot to focus. But, let's say you prepared yourself and covered those things. So now what could it be? More than likely it's your shutter speed.
 
What Is Shutter Speed? 
Think of the shutter as a curtain. The curtain affects how much light reaches the sensor (the sensor is like the film on a digital camera).
  • *NOTE: This is known as EXPOSURE. Exposure is the amount of light that reaches the camera's sensor (or film). If we don't get enough light we end up with a photo which is dark (underexposed). Too much light and our photo comes out bright (overexposed).
  • We learned in Lesson 1 how ISO affects EXPOSURE also.
The longer the shutter (curtain) is open (i.e: the lower the shutter speed), the more movement and light (Exposure) you capture. The faster the shutter opens and closes (i.e. the higher the shutter speed), the less movement or motion is captured. So blur happens if your shutter speed is too slow (Curtain open too long).
 
Some examples:
  • When the shutter speed is set to 125, light comes in for 1/125th of a second.
  • When the shutter speed is set to 8, light comes in for 1/8th of a second.
 
I found this diagram on the web. It explains shutter speed. DON'T be to concerned right now with the "Darker Picture/Brighter Picture" part right now. That will be explained in the next Part of this series "Aperture". (Not my image and I couldn't find anyone to credit for it):
Shutter Speed Explainedshutter-speed-explanation
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
How Is Shutter Speed Measured?
Shutter speeds are typically measured in fractions of seconds. The range of shutter speeds can be expressed as: 1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250, with each one being a fraction of a second. Each speed in this series is roughly half that of the one on the left.
 
Fast shutter speed is typically whatever it takes to freeze action or capture a fast moving subject (sports, birds, vehicles). A fast shutter speed would be used mostly during daylight. The average shutter speed for daylight is 1/500 and 1/250, depending on your other exposure settings. This will freeze most everyday motion without causing blur.
 
Use a slow shutter speed if you want to show some motion blur in the photo to display speed in the subject or a stationary subject. A shutter speed of 1/60 or lower will give this effect. This speed or lower will also create a milky effect on moving water, streams or rivers. When using low speeds, the use of a tripod is recommended.
 
Use of a remote and the "Bulb Setting" or "Time Setting" on your camera will allow you to leave the shutter open for even longer periods of time. This will allow you to record star trails and light trails from moving vehicles. This photo: http://bit.ly/TRna6F (will open in new window or tab)  I took at our local county fair shows this motion effect was shot at 1/25, ISO 1600.
 
 
So What Speed Should I use And When Should I Use It? 
1/2 to 4 Seconds Fireworks
4 or More Seconds To Capture Motion On Waterfall (Milky Look)
8-10 Seconds Moving Cars at Night
1/30 Landscape Photography
1/60 - 1/125 Street Scene, Holiday Photos
1/125 - 1/250 Person Walking
1/250 - 1/1000 Sports, Children
1/500 - 1/1000 Person Running
1/1000 Freeze Action On Waterfall, Birds in Flight
 
So...In plain English what does all this mean? Well,  
 
In most cases, the lower the Shutter Speed, the more chance you have of a blurry photo: Lower number (ie: 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/15, 1/30, 1/60) = Slower Shutter Speed = greater chance for blur in photos
 
In most cases, the higher the Shutter Speed, the more chance you have of a sharper photo: Higher number (ie: 1/125 and up) = Faster Shutter Speed = greater chance of a sharper photo.
 
A fast moving object needs a faster shutter speed to capture it without blur.
 
Shutter Speed along with ISO and Aperture, also known as the "Exposure Triangle", are key steps in using your camera in manual mode (which is where this series of tips is headed).
 
I found this cheat sheet on the web. It explains all the facets I will try to explain in this series (Not my image and I couldn't find anyone to credit for it):
 
 
Photography Cheat Sheetcheat

Any questions so far? I encourage you to ask questions and comment here please. If you can add to the conversation, please do.

Feel free to comment and ask questions. I am giving this information which I hope you will find useful. This is not the end-all of photography information and I am not going into any real technical detail for advanced photographers. I'm trying to present this in a "plain-English" format for the beginner that wants to understand and improve their photographic skills. I am not a teacher. I am just trying to help. The steps here are how I learned and what opened the door to the world of photography for me. The more you know how your camera works, the better photographer you will become.

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Comments

Photography by GreatLook
I'm thinking more like during the "Golden Hour", so the sunlight would not be as bright. And I usually use f11 or f16 myself when doing landscapes.

Seeing that these tips are for novices: Wikipedia explains "Golden Hour" as: "In photography, the golden hour (sometimes known as magic hour) is the first and last hour of sunlight during the day, when a specific photographic effect is achieved due to the quality of the light.
LindaG.(non-registered)
Why use a shutter speed of 1/30, when photographing a landscape? In very bright sunlight you might have to use an ND filter because f22 might still result in blown-out highlights. Am I missing something here?
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