Just like aperture and ISO, shutter speed is one of the three “Pillars of Photography”. All three of these pillars affect each other to create a correctly exposed image. It’s important to understand how they all work and how they affect each other in order to really understand photography and to create the images you want.
What is Shutter Speed?
The shutter is a curtain that remains shut in front of the sensor. When you fire a shot, that curtain opens for a certain amount of time and lets in light. You can determine how long the shutter will be open which affects the exposure and motion blur in your digital photo.
How Does it Work?
You can set the length of time you want the shutter curtain to be open. It’s measured in seconds (and fractions of seconds). The longer you leave the shutter open, the blurrier your photo might be. For example, if you’re shooting sports and want to freeze the player in the frame, you need a faster shutter speed. Typically shooting above 1/500th of a second is going to be a good speed to sharply stop that action. However, if you’re shooting the player at something closer to 1/60th of a second, you will notice what’s called motion blur. In essence, the player will look blurry.
Always keep your shutter speed in mind if you’re handholding the camera. You can create blur if you’re moving (even just a little bit!) while the camera is in your hand. As a general rule to help prevent camera shake, it’s a good idea to keep your shutter speed faster than or equivalent to the focal length you’re shooting at. What I mean by this is that if you’re shooting on a telephoto lens at 300mm, you probably don’t want your shutter speed to be less than 1/300th of a second. Alternatively, if you’re shooting at 50mm, you don’t want your shutter speed to be less than 1/50th of a second. There are some lenses that prove to be an exception to this rule. For Canon, if you see a lens with “IS” (for Image Stabilization) in the title, you can prevent camera shake more than with a typical “non-IS” lens. For Nikon, this feature is called “VR” (for Vibration Reduction) on the lens.
Adjusting your shutter speed will depend on the kind of image you want to create. Photos like star trails, or waterfalls in motion are created with a long shutter speed and a tripod. Landscape photography like that will often require a tripod to stabilize the camera to avoid shake.
How Do I Change it on My DSLR Camera?
Changing the shutter speed on your camera should be pretty easy to figure out since it’s such an important aspect to photography. The setting layouts vary for different cameras. If you’re having trouble figuring it out, a quick reference to your user guide, manual, or a Google search will be a huge help.
Changing the shutter speed on your camera can affect the feeling your photos convey. You want to be able to master shutter speed to be in full control of how you want your photos to turn out and to really figure out your style of photography. There’s nothing quite like going out there with your camera in hand and messing around with shutter speed. You can practice on shutter priority or manual mode [LINK TO TOP DIAL ARTlCLE HERE]. It’s going to be the fastest way to understand how shutter, aperture, and ISO all affect each other.
Once you understand those three facets of photography, you are going to have a lot more freedom to photograph how and what you want to photograph!