Introduction to Shutter Speed

Shutter Speed

Shutter Speed

When a photographer needs to capture a scene in extremely low light, or when they need to essentially freeze subjects in motion and make them appear as crisply as possible, there is one metric that rises above all the rest in importance: Shutter speed. Shutter speed is defined as the amount of time that a camera’s optical sensor is exposed to light. Essentially, it is the amount of time that the shutter is “open” or the quickness with which the shutter “closes” when taking a picture. With older, non-digital cameras, and even some DSLR models, the shutter speed determines how quickly the “clicking” noise will be heard after the camera’s snapshot button is engaged.

Not a Lone Wolf: Shutter Speed is Important, But Not the Only Factor in Picture-Taking

It’s important to remember that shutter speed, while important, is one of only three factors that determine a photo’s exposure and its ability to capture light or freeze motion in mid-frame. Along with shutter speed, camera owners will need to control the ISO and aperture of their digital, DSLR, or non-digital cameras while taking a picture. Controlling those aspects typically requires navigating to separate settings menus or manual controls, so this guide will cover only what’s needed to achieve the perfect shutter speed for every unique situation.

Why Shutter Speed is Important and How it Adjusts to Motion or Light

There are a number of reasons that people play with the shutter speed of their cameras, several of which were mentioned above. Typically, the top three reasons for adjusting the camera’s shutter speed are as follows.

  1. Low Light Situations: Very low light can be compensated for by the camera if the shutter is allowed to stay open longer. This lets more light in, reducing darkness and making even dark, distant objects easily visible in the produced photograph.
  2. Fast-Moving Subjects: By making the shutter speed very quick, perhaps just 1/8000 of a second, photographers can capture fast-moving athletes, speeding cars, and even high-speed trains, and make them seem as if they’re standing still. This eliminates blur and creates a sharper photo.
  3. Use of Longer Lenses: Longer focal length lenses essentially increase the amount of “distance” between the camera and the subject, and this will require at least some compensation on behalf of the shutter speed to reduce blur and create a great photograph that appears professional when printed.

Metrics and Measurements: How Shutter Speed is Conveyed in Digital Photography

For digital camera users who are looking to alter their shutter speed to take advantage of fast-moving or low-light situations, it’s important to understand how measurements work. With shutter speed, all measurements are done in full seconds or fractions of a second. Each of these measurements indicate show long the shutter will stay open once the button is pressed to take a picture.

A shutter speed of 2, 5, 10, or even 30 seconds will compensate a great deal for the low light of twilight, dusk, or even late night lighting situations. The use of a tripod will be required, however, or else the picture will be extremely blurry. Conversely, a shutter speed measuring just a fraction of a second all the way down to 1/8000 of a second, is perfect for fast-moving sporting events and other situations.

Shutter speed all tends to vary in terms of customizability based on the type of camera that a person is using. In today’s digital photography world, shutter speeds typically vary between cameras as follows:

Digital SLR

Digital SLR cameras offer the most flexibility when controlling the camera’s shutter speed, since they’re essentially high-end devices offered to professional photographers and hobbyists. Photographers generally will find on-screen shutter speed controls, paired with adjustable knobs on the camera’s surface that allow for a “sliding scale” approach to shutter speed control. DSLRs are also the only cameras that allow “Blub Mode.” In this mode, the shutter can stay open indefinitely, closing only when the photographer specifically instructs the camera to close it and take the picture.

Compact Digital Cameras

Compact models, sometimes referred to as point-and-shoot cameras, typically offer a preset listing of available shutter speeds to users that can meet their needs at least partially. Also, many of these models will automatically adjust the shutter speed to the best level for the user based on available light or the perceived motion of the subject in the foreground. So-called “Blub Mode” is not available with these cameras, and specific articulation of shutter speeds is generally not included.

The Uses and Impact of Shutter Speed: True Creativity for Photographers

For those individuals who have ever seen a “blurry motion” photo, or a picture of a car in motion that appears to indicate no movement at all, shutter speed has already been proudly on display. The shutter speed setting is one of the keys to creating great photographs that are immune to the forces of physics, the limitation of low light, and even the limitations imposed by the human eye. With a strong command of shutter speeds and measurements, from fractions of a second to fractions of a minute, photographers essentially remove all limitations concerning what, where, when, and who they can photograph.

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