What is a shutter?
Your camera’s shutter is a mechanism which opens and closes. When it is open light can hit your camera’s sensor. when it it closed, light cannot hit your sensor.
What does shutter speed mean?
Shutter speed refers to the the amount of time your shutter is open for. It is expressed in seconds or fractions of a second. e.g. 1 for one second, or 1/200 second.
How does shutter speed effect exposure?
Shutter speed affects exposure because it controls the amount of light that hits your sensor. A faster shutter speed will allow less light to hit your sensor than a slow shutter speed because the shutter is open for less time. e.g. 1/100s will allow less light hit your sensor than a shutter speed of 1s, and your photo will be darker. Conversely a a shutter speed of 1/2s will let 10x more light hit your sensor than a shutter speed of 5s, and your photo will be brighter.
How do I control shutter speed?
You can control shutter speed by setting your camera onto Shutter Priority (S) mode (Nikon) or Time Value (Tv) mode (Canon). This mode allows you to select the shutter speed you want and the camera sets aperture to achieve a correct exposure. You can also set your shutter speed when using manual mode.
Why should I want to control the shutter speed?
As well as controlling the amount of light that hits the sensor, shutter speed also affects the amount of motion blur that you see in your photo. A fast shutter speed freezes motion, whereas a slow shutter speed introduces motion blur into the photo.
Motion blur with slow shutter speed :
Movement frozen with fast shutter speed:
What are the pitfalls of taking control of shutter speed?
Using a shutter speed which is too slow can cause blurry photos because your camera moves in your hands whilst you are taking the photo. If you are using a slower shutter speed you should use a tripod to hold your camera steady. A rough guide is to multiply your focal length by 1.5 to calculate the minimum required shutter speed for a sharp hand held photo. e.g. if your focal length is 24mm, you can should be able to hand hold your camera and achieve a sharp photo using a shutter speed of 1/50s and faster. A 200mm lens would require a shutter speed of 1/300s or faster. This is because a longer zoom lens amplifies the movement in your hands.
We teach all about shutter speed on our Beginner Photography Course.
by Andrew Mason
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