Sheila White Guevin Photographer | Click, click, click goes the shutter

Click, click, click goes the shutter

February 07, 2015  •  Leave a Comment



Part two – Shutter Speed


What is shutter speed?

It is merely how fast the shutter opens and closes.

The faster the shutter, the smaller the amount of light that hits the sensor.

The slower the shutter, the larger the amount of light that hits the sensor.

Fast shutters stop action.

Slow shutters are great for night photos or to intentionally blur the motion.

Shutter speed is in fractions so 1/200 is much faster than 1/15. After the fractions go away, it moves to actual seconds. 1 is open for 1 second. 3 is open for 3 seconds.

There are some photos where the photographer is looking to artistically use the motion blur you get with a slow shutter, but when the effects are not desirable, we can stabilize the body of the camera by placing it on a tri-pod.

Lenses also can have built in stabilizers to assist in reducing blur for hand held shots. However, the stabilizers are only effective if the camera is reasonably steady, so they become ineffective at longer shutter speeds and a tripod or stabilizing the body of the camera becomes essential.

In the last blog we learned that the lower the ISO (100) the brighter the light needs to be or the more light we need.

The higher the ISO (52,600) the less light we need.

Apply this to a dimly lit situation such as lighting a few candles in a large room. If we set the ISO to 100 we will need to use a very slow shutter speed to allow sufficient light to register on the sensor. If we set the ISO to 52,600 we will can use a faster shutter speed to get the same results.

Beyond the technical, there are many artistic reasons to choose a fast or slow shutter speed.

To stop the motion of a speeding car, you need a very fast shutter. 

To stop the motion of just one moving object, you might decide on a method called “panning”. With panning, use a slightly slower shutter, say 1/30 of a second, then “pan” or follow the moving object at the speed in which it is moving while taking your photo. This gives the appearance of the object being still in frame while giving a sense of motion to rest of the photo or anything not moving at an equal speed.  You can try a panning shot on moving cars, runners, bicycles, etc. It takes some practice but gives you a very interesting photograph. Today’s blog photo features a taxi cab using the panning method.

You can select a longer shutter speed to get the creamy effect with waterfalls or a glass-like effect on moving water. Please note that doing this under most lighting conditions will require adding a “neutral density” filter to your lens. Opening a shutter for a second under most daylight conditions would over expose the photo leaving you a very white photograph with little to no detail.

I love night photography, so the slow shutter and a tri-pod are two of my favorite tools. I need the camera sensor to be exposed long enough to see the night lights, the way I see the night lights. My camera sensor is so amazingly sensitive, that it sees color at very low lights significantly better than I see it.

Add people, a flash and a long shutter speed in front of a night lit city and you get wonderfully lit subjects in the front of the photo with night lights coming through behind them. This is especially fun at Christmas.

As you master your camera, you will find the shutter speed plays a huge roll in your artistic choices. We will have many future assignments that call for controlling the shutter as we learn to master the camera, but for today’s assignments, we are going to try just two simple shutter speed techniques that won’t require you purchase any additional equipment.


Assignment for shutter speed:

To change just the shutter speed and let the camera choose the other settings, pick the “Tv” button on your camera. Tv stands for “time value”.


1.    Set a fast shutter speed and stop the motion of a moving object like a car or a running dog. You should start a 1/200th and then experiment with changing it to faster or slower till you stop the motion and maintained a sharp focus.


2.    To play with a slow shutter, you can try a version of light painting. After dark, set a slow shutter for 1 second. Have an assistant use a flash light to write words or patterns while facing the camera. Any flash light will do for this shutter speed experiment. This can be done inside any room in the house with no lights on. You will need to focus the camera first, then set it to manual before turning the lights off. As you gain confidence, slow down the shutter from 1 to 3 seconds or longer.




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