In the last tutorial post we learned about aperture. We found that aperture is the opening through which light travels. It’s main use is to control the depth of field. Now we’re going to take a closer look at shutter speed. What is shutter speed, how it works and how to use it.
What is shutter speed?
Shutter speed is a fancy name for time. Shutter speed tells you how long (in fractions of a second) will the camera’s shutter be opened. It is one of the three important ingredients that make an exposure. Higher the shutter speed, shorter the time. It is that simple.
Here’s a list of standard shutter speeds. They work in the same way as aperture or ISO. Every next step is double (or half) the amount of time, which means double (or half) the amount of light.
Why is shutter speed important?
Shutter speed is the only thing that can go to “infinity”. You can always have a longer shutter speed, while aperture and ISO have their limits. When shooting at those limits, having a longer shutter speed is the only way to get a proper exposure.
Shutter speed is also important for capturing motion. Faster shutter speeds can freeze action, while longer shutter speeds produce motion blur. They are two different effects, that can be used in different situations. Here comes the tricky part. There’s no hard numbers to tell you when that action will be frozen, and what kind of blur will a certain shutter speed produce. It all depends on your focal length, the distance to the subject, and the speed of the subject. Here is a rough guide to help you starting. Again, your mileage may vary.
- freezing action in fast moving subjects (cars, athletes) - use 1/1000s and faster
- freezing action in everyday situations - use 1/500s to 1/125s
- panning shots – use 1/250s to 1/30s (depends on the subject)
- blurring slow moving subjects (waterfalls, oceans, snails) – use 1/30 or slower
What is camera shake?
Camera shake is a blurriness in a photo, that is caused by your shaky hands holding the camera. That’s right, the camera also captures the motion produced by your hands. Photos that appear fuzzy or blurry have camera shake (probably). A good rule of thumb is to shoot faster than your focal length. If you’re shooting with a 50mm lens, use a shutter speed faster than 1/50s. That’s probably the easiest way to remove camera shake. There are also lenses and cameras that offer image stabilization (IS). It works by offsetting the motion of your hands. It is not perfect, but it does help.
Next week – ISO.