October 23, 2013

Photography Exposure Tips: Understanding Shutter Speed

Hello, again, to the wonderful Cropped Stories readers.  This is Jen from West Street Story, and I am back today with additional photography tips for you.  If you remember my previous post, Photography Exposure Tips, I discussed ISO, one of the three settings you should consider for achieving proper exposure in your photographs, otherwise known as the photographic triangle. 

Today, however, I will be providing you information on shutter speed.

Understanding Shutter Speeds and The Photographic Triangle for Understanding Exposure 

What is shutter speed?  It is the amount of time the shutter is open.  The shutter controls how much light enters the lens and for how long.

Shutter speeds can range from 30 seconds in length to 1/4000th of a second and beyond.  A fast shutter speed, such as 1/500, will freeze motion.  At a setting this high, the shutter is open for only a brief moment.  Things or people you may want to photograph using a fast shutter speed, assuming you want to capture details, would be an athlete at a sporting event, a waterfall, or a toddler riding a bike.  Alternatively, a slower shutter speed will capture movement in the form of a blur as the shutter stays open longer.

Referencing back to my Maui trip, and the photo expedition I went on, my instructor taught me some cool tricks using slow shutter speeds.  First, we chose our ISO speed, which remained, for the most part, at 100.  Secondly, we chose our desired aperture (f-stop).  Lastly, we set the shutter speed as slow as possible to maintain proper exposure.  To take a picture using a slow shutter speed, we utilized tools such as a tripod and filters.  The slower the shutter speed, the more challenging it is to take an in-focus photo.  Because the shutter stays open for such a long time there is a significantly higher chance of the photographer moving the camera unintentionally while taking their shot.   There is only so long a person can be still before they have to move.  That is why slow shutter speeds require a VERY steady hand.  Even the slightest camera shake will result in an out of focus (blurry) photo.  The tripod is the perfect solution to prevent blur.  Personally, I have found that when I use a shutter speed any slower than 1/60, I need to use a tripod.  My hands are not steady enough to capture a sharp image when the shutter needs to remain open longer!  Additionally, filters, like the neutral density filter, will tone down light allowing you more flexibility when choosing your camera settings.  It is especially useful in the middle of the day when the light tends to be harsh.  It is also extremely helpful when you are using a slow shutter speed where too much light coming into your camera can be an issue.  You will see from my images, the results were amazing!

blogMaui2013#12 RS

By looking at this picture, you might think we captured some misty fog.  In actuality, what you are seeing is the result of a really slow shutter speed capturing the movement of the water as it rolled over the rocks.  For this picture, we used the longest exposure time my camera was capable of, a shutter speed of 30 seconds.  Slow shutter speeds are excellent at achieving cool effects such as the appearance of one long, continuous light from the headlights of moving cars as they pass by on the highway like in this example at Wikipedia.  Other things you may want to photograph using a slow shutter speed include fireworks like these examples in the post, Fireworks Photography Tips and carnival rides like this one taken by Alisa over at Alisa’s Happy World.

Here is another example where we used a slow shutter speed.  Take note in how the light from the tiki torches look and how smooth the water appears!

blogMaui2013#15 RS

Where things begin to get tricky is when you need a fast shutter speed in a low light situation (e.g. a small gymnasium your little one plays youth basketball in).  Why is this a problem?  Well, as you increase your shutter speed, the shutter opens fleetingly, and the light has a smaller window of opportunity to enter the lens.  To compensate needing a fast shutter speed, to, for example, freeze the motion of your little one dribbling the ball across the court, you would need to adjust one or both of your ISO and/or aperture settings to increase the amount of light.  My preference is to set my f-stop based on what I am trying to get in focus, and then choose the appropriate shutter speed while trying to keep my ISO at 100.  Of course, keeping your ISO at 100 isn’t always feasible, and when adjusting your aperture isn’t providing you with enough light, then you might not have a choice.  No need to worry.  Some DSLRs (even entry level ones) are able to handle higher ISOs without the visibility or introduction of noise in their images.  Alternatively, you can use photo editing software such as Photoshop or Lightroom to adjust exposure or reduce noise during your post-processing.

In my next post, I will discuss aperture and what your f-stop should be set to depending on the depth of field you are trying to achieve. 

I hope you have enjoyed today’s post and I look forward to going over aperture in my next post!

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If you missed our previous post, The PINcentive Blog Hop: Week 7, feel free to stop by and party with us!  Winners get their post featured and pinned a minimum of 31 times!  Additionally, winners will have the opportunity to co-host our next hop and choose our winner!  Did I mention they are also entitled to priority seating?  What are you waiting for; head on over!

On a serious note, if you are struggling with depression, Tips for coping with depression while exploring treatment is a must read!  I’d love to hear from you, and if you need someone to talk to, I’m a fabulous listener!

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  1. This is good info for me, I just got a camera and am trying to learn to use it! Thanks, stopping by from Ladies Only Blog Hop! and Scrumptilicious 4 You!

  2. This is a really great post on photography! I still have a lot more to learn about photography so I love seeing posts like this. I'm pinning this now. I'm glad I stopped by from Ladies Only Blog Share (my posts were number 11 Orange and Chocolate Halloween Cookies and 12 How to Have Beautiful Flowers All Year Long)

  3. Thank you for this! I need help with my camera. I always have it set on auto which means my pictures can be pretty boring.

  4. Hi Elena,
    Thank you for the hop, am having a ball.
    Thank you for this, I learnt a lot.
    I come her from pincetive blog hop and are following all ways, I can except linkedin, could not get in right now.
    I am following from http://www.wabyerley.blogspot. com. You would be most welcome to visit.
    I hope that you have a wonderful day.
    Love and best wishes.

  5. Thanks for this post! I love photography and have been terrified to take my camera off auto. It is a goal for me and I am excited to have found your blog. And just participated in your Pincentive Blog Hop...LOVE it!

  6. Thanks for this post. I love photography and am trying to learn how to use my camera on manual!! Its a lot to wrap my head around. Just joined your Pincentive Blog Hop. I love the idea!!


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