What Is Shutter Speed?

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The Three Fundamental Camera Settings You Should Know

The three most important settings are called shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. All three of them control the brightness of your photo, although they do so in different ways.

Shutter speed: The amount of time your camera sensor is exposed to the world while taking a picture.

Aperture: Represents a “pupil” in your lens that can open and close to let in different amounts of light.

ISO: Technically a bit more complex, but similar to the sensitivity of film for taking pictures in different lighting conditions.

Introduction to Shutter Speed Photography;

Shutter speed is the length of time your camera shutter is open, exposing light onto the camera sensor. Essentially, it’s how long your camera spends taking a photo.

When you use a long shutter speed, you will achieve an effect of blurring or motion. While quick shutter speeds freeze action.

Shutter speeds are typically measured in fractions of a second, when they are under a second. For example 1/4 means a quarter of a second, while 1/250 means one two-hundred-and-fiftieth of a second.

The other important effect of shutter speed is on exposure, which relates to the brightness of an image. If you use a long shutter speed, your camera sensor gathers a lot of light, and the resulting photo will be quite bright. By using a quick shutter speed, your camera sensor is only exposed to a small fraction of light, resulting in a darker photo.

Shutter speed can be a vital tool to capture a photo of the proper brightness. On a sunny day, you may need to use a fast shutter speed so that your photo isn’t overexposed. Or, if it is dark out, a long shutter speed may be necessary to avoid a photo that is too dark (which, in turn, could require a tripod, due to motion blur from handholding the camera). For many people, this is the main reason to adjust shutter speed: to make sure your photos are the proper brightness.

Long shutter speeds are typically above 1 second – at which point, you will need to use a tripod to get sharp images. You would use long shutter speeds for certain types of low-light/night photography such as city scapes or even Christmas tree lights.

Challenge of the week; Take your camera to a park or nearby street. Change your camera to Shutter Priority. Adjust your Shutter setting to 1/30th and take a picture of cars/trucks, bicycles, or runners. Now adjust your Shutter setting to 1/250th and take pictures of the same. You will notice your first images may be blurred and show motion while the latter images may show a freeze in action.

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Sandy Harrison
I am a classically trained portrait artist with over thirty years of experience. I reside in Mint Hill with my husband, Doug. Together, we own Photographic Elegance, the only brick and mortar professional portrait studio located in Mint Hill. I love travel, hockey, my two grown sons and spending time with my two grandsons. Happy Click’n!

Professional Photographers of America,
Mint Hill Arts, Vice President
Matthews Art Guild,
SE Art Council,
Mint Hill Chamber Board of Directors