Steve Cushing Impresionist Fine Art Photography

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Shutter Speeds


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Shutter Speeds

The shutter is the device that quickly opens and closes to let light pass onto your camera’s image sensor, thereby creating an image. The shutter is a series of interlocking metal slats, like an iris.

Shutter and aperture work together to control the light entering the camera. Shutter speed controls how quickly this shutter opens and closes so changing the amount of light that can enter, while
aperture controls how wide the shutter opens controlling how much light can enter.

How long the shutter remains open together with the size of the aperture determines your image exposure, which is the amount of light that hits your digital camera’s sensor.

What Is the Difference Between Fast and Slow Shutter Speeds?

Shutter speed is expressed in units of time: fractions of a second or several seconds. A higher (or faster) shutter speed allows less light to hit the camera sensor or film strip ). Conversely, a lower (or slower) shutter speed allows more light to pass into your camera.

The f
ocal length of your camera’s lens can help you determine a base shutter speed. For example, if you have a 50mm lens, start shooting with a shutter speed above 1/60 to avoid camera shake leading to a blurred image.

Why change Shutter Speed

A fast shutter speed allows less light into the camera. Use a fast shutter speed in bright lighting conditions, like on a sunny day, to minimise the chance of overexposure (the presence of too much light, which results in a blown out image with little detail). You can also use a high shutter speed to create sharp images and freeze movement, like a car driving past or a person running.

Slow shutter speeds allow more light into the camera, which makes a slow shutter speed great for nighttime or low light conditions. At these slow speeds, you will need a tripod to avoid camera shake or a blurred image. You can also use a slow shutter speed to create images with blurred movement, like ocean waves that appear creamy or to create ICM, see
creative techniques.

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 (or four milliseconds).

A fast shutter speed is typically whatever it takes to freeze action. If you are photographing animals such as birds, that may be 1/1000th second or faster. However, for general photography of slower-moving subjects, you might be able to take pictures at 1/100th second, 1/60th second, or even longer without introducing motion blur. Flash settings are usually 1/60th second.

Shutter Speed and How to Use them Creatively.

When you use a long shutter speed, you end up exposing your sensor for a significant period of time. The first big effect of it is motion blur. If your shutter speed is long, moving subjects in your photo will appear blurred along the direction of motion. This effect is used quite often in advertisements of cars and motorbikes, where a sense of speed and motion is communicated to the viewer by intentionally blurring the moving wheels. Landscape photographers may intentionally use long shutter speeds to create a sense of motion on rivers and waterfalls, while keeping everything else completely sharp


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It has also become fashionable to slow down the shutter and then move the camera to give intentional blur by moving the camera whilst the shutter is open. Closing down the apature can assist in this but this is often achieved in sunny conditions by the use of a Neutral Density Filter.

On the other hand, shutter speed can also be used to do just the opposite – freeze motion. If you use an especially fast shutter speed, you can eliminate motion even from fast-moving objects, like birds in flight, or cars driving past. If you use a fast shutter speed while taking pictures of a water, each droplet will hang in the air completely sharp, which might not even be visible to our own eyes.


A video on shutter speeds.

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