Shooting in Manual Part Two | Shutter Speed

shutter speed

Two weeks ago we began our series on shooting in manual and talked all about exposure. Today we are on to our first component that makes up the exposure triangle: shutter speed. Shutter speed is just one of the three parts you must learn to manipulate in order to take full creative control of your gear! As we dive into this, please remember that only by reading and re-reading this material and putting in lots of practice will you master this skill. However, once these concepts "click" (pun intended!), you will have the power to shoot in any situation or setting! 

What Is Shutter Speed?

The "click" you hear when you take a photo is the sound of the shutter in your camera opening and closing. When explaining shutter speed to beginners, I like to compare the camera shutter to the blinds on a window in a home. When we open and close our blinds in our homes, we are controlling the amount of light that is entering. We also control how quickly we open and close the blinds, which controls how much light has a chance to enter our home. In the same way, the speed at which we set our shutter controls the amount of light the camera lets in when you press the button to take a photo.

The higher we set our shutter speed (or the faster we open and close those "blinds") allows less light to enter. If we set our shutter to a slower speed (or open our "blinds" at slower rate) we allow light more time to enter our camera. 

Below is an example in which I have simply changed my shutter speed setting. You can see that as my shutter speed moves from a slower/lower number to a higher/faster number the duration of time that the light has to enter is changing, effectively changing my overall exposure. When we move to 1/500th of a second shutter speed, our blinds are opening and closing so quickly, that there is a very small amount of time for light to enter, which renders the image very dark. On the other end of the spectrum at 1/15th of a second shutter speed, our blinds our opening very slowly, allowing lots of light to flood into the camera which yields a overly bright image. 

What Does Controlling Shutter Speed Do?

The reason it is important to understand how to control our shutter speed is because it's the way we capture motion in an image. A slow (low) shutter speed can capture the movement of things such as running water, the blur of a ball whizzing by at a sports game, or the vivid streaming lights of a cityscape at night. Conversely, a high (fast) shutter can capture and freeze movement of that same ball at a sporting event, the splash of wine being poured into a glass or a pop of confetti. 

At Home Application

The hardest part about shooting in manual is tying all three settings together. At Bloom we believe practicing and mastering each individual setting and truly understanding how your camera works will allow you to make decisions when you fully move to shooting in manual. It is important to know why we are making the choices we are making, and how it will affect our image before we even press the shutter.

HOMEWORK: set your dial to "TV" or "S" which effectively allows YOU to change the shutter speed, while deciding what the other two settings (aperture and ISO) should be. This lets you try your hand at capturing motion and movement in different ways, while still relying on the camera to make the best choice for a proper exposure. Here are a few assignments for you:

- Practice freezing the motion of a water droplet by increasing your shutter speed.
- Practice capturing a flowing waterfall with a lower shutter speed.
- Practice capturing a stream of light (like from a moving sparkler, or cars on a freeway) at a low shutter speed. Try starting at 1/15 and playing around with how that looks. Adjust as necessary.
- Practice freezing motion of soccer ball being kicked or a burst of confetti. For freezing motion, start around 1/500th and move up to a higher shutter speed if necessary. You probably don't want to go any lower than 1/125th.

TIPS: When you reduce your shutter speed to anything below 1/125th of a second, the camera will begin to capture the motion or shake of your camera.  It is wise (and necessary for me!) to set my camera on a tripod when shooting that low. This way, your shutter can open and close slowly without recording the tiny movements you are sure to make while holding your gear! 

Trying different things is the best and fastest way to learn and will put you one step closer to being an expert photographer. If you missed out on the first post in our Shooting in Manual Series, you can catch up here

What is one way you have used shutter speed to create a more artistic image? Please leave questions and comments below!