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Shutter Speed – Beginner’s Guide to DSLR Photography

Welcome to part II of my Beginner’s Guide to DSLR Photography.  This part will be over shutter speed.  If you missed the first part on aperture/f-stop, you can see it here.

In this tutorial, I will take you through the basics of shutter speed and how it affects the exposure of your images.  If you read the first part, you will know one side of the light triangle, f-stops, and after this part you should be comfortable with shutter speed as well.

Shutter Speed

An SLR Camera

An SLR Camera

Without getting too in depth in this discussion, lets recap what I mean when I mention the light triangle. There are three things you can set on your camera that will work together to create the image from the available light hitting the sensor. These are f-stop/aperture, shutter speed, and ISO.We learned in the last article that f-stop controls the light hitting the sensor of the camera. Larger numbers in f-stops equal less light and more depth of field. Smaller numbers in f-stop equal more light and less depth of field. Shutter speed works in two ways as well.

Depending on your camera, shutter speed will be shown in one of two ways. It will be shown as a fraction, like 1/125, or it may just be the number in the denominator of the fraction. So in the 1/125 fraction it will only show 125. You will have to look at your specific DSLR to determine which method your camera uses. But just remember that the number for shutter speed is indeed a fraction, a fraction of one second to be precise.

Shutter Speed Table

Shutter Speed Table

 

In the shutter speed table(click the table to enlarge), the shutter speeds are listed in terms of stops, measure in seconds or fraction of a second. To be brief, a stop of light is a certain amount of light that is getting to the sensor. Between any two continuous stops, there is twice as much light between the slower number and the faster number. For example, at a shutter speed of 1/60, the next faster full stop 1/125, will have half of the light hitting the sensor as the 1/60 shutter speed. Where the next slower full stop shutter speed, 1/30, will have twice as much light hitting the sensor as the 1/60 shutter speed. In the beginner’s world, lets just remember that faster speeds make our pictures darker and slower speeds make our pictures brighter.

If you remember the article about f-stops/aperture, the aperture made the pictures brighter if the aperture was larger, and darker is it was smaller. You should also remember there was another benefit to aperture size, controlling the depth-of-field, which is the areas near the focal point that are also in focus. Low aperture numbers or f-stops = more light and less depth of field. Higher aperture numbers or f-stops = less light and more depth of field. Shutter speed’s benefits are also two-fold. While the speed of the shutter controls the brightness, it also controls the movement in the frame.

Slower shutter speeds will increase motion and amplify the effects of camera shake.  In the two examples of slow shutter speed, I show how you can utilize the effects of it, or how a slow shutter speed can affect your photos.  Many beginner’s think they have bad focus when shooting their children or friends inside, often the truth is, they are using slow shutter speeds and the pictures are in focus but have a lot of camera shake or blur from movement due to slow shutter speeds.

Good Use of Slow Shutter Speed

Good Use of Slow Shutter Speed

Slow Shutter Speed as a Hindrance

Slow Shutter Speed as a Hindrance

Faster shutter speeds will stop motion and reduce the effects of camera shake. In the two examples of fast shutter speed, I show how shutter speed can be utilized this stop motion. Beginner’s who want to show motion in their pictures, think that it is very diffulcult but in reality, they just need to adjust the the shutter speed to let more motion occur. In a later article I will show how to manage the “triangle of light” to achieve photos with more motion while getting a good exposure.

Fast Shutter Speed to Stop Motion

Fast Shutter Speed to Stop Motion

Fast Shutter Speed to Stop Motion

Fast Shutter Speed to Stop Motion

To sum up the second part of the light triangle:

  • Slower shutter speeds  = more light and less control of movement in the frame.
  • Faster shutter speeds = less light and more control of movement in the frame.

We know that f-stop/aperture has two benefits, the amount of light hitting the sensor and the amount of depth of field. We also now know that shutter speed has two benefits, the amount of light hitting the sensor and the amount of movement in the frame. In the next article, we will discuss the final side of the “triangle of light,” ISO.  If you still have questions, please leave a comment below.

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