FotoU: Understanding Shutter Speed

There are a lot of neat effects you can do in photoshop to change the appearance of your images, but did you know there are settings on your camera that can alter the way your subject looks without ever putting it into an editing program? What if you want to stop a runner in their tracks, or better yet, show how much faster they are moving then everyone else? All you have to understand is your shutter speed.

Shutter speed is how quickly the shutter opens and closes on your camera. To better understand what the numbers mean just remember, the higher the number the faster your shutter speed, the lower the number the slower your shutter speed.

This affects two very important aspects in your images, first is the amount of light that is being allowed into the camera. These images were all taken with the same camera settings, the only thing that changed was the shutter speed. We needed to get more light into the camera in order to make the exposure correct, so by lowering our shutter speed more light was let into the camera.

The second thing affected is how much movement is either stopped or shown in your image. For example, if you would like to capture a bird landing on the water you could use a higher shutter speed which would “freeze” the bird in place.

A good rule to remember if you are trying to stop action, whether that is at a soccer game or you just have a very busy kiddo that will not sit still. You need to have your shutter speed set at 1/500 or HIGHER, otherwise you will most likely see some blur in your images from where movement was occurring. If you have lots of daylight to work with 1/1000 is a good number to stay at (especially for sporting events.)

If you would like to make the image a little more dramatic, you could show the bird’s wings were actually moving as it landed. You would do this by lowering your shutter speed.

For those that don’t know, Eric is a pretty awesome photographer and has taken some pretty stellar pictures. While at a restaurant he noticed this waiter that was quickly moving about. Instead of just freezing the action, he wanted to show that this waiter was really moving from table to table. So he slowed his shutter speed which gave the appearance of movement and made the image much more interesting. In order to achieve this look Eric focused on the waiter and moved or “panned” his lens with the waiter. This gives the blurry background and keeps the man in focus.

One last thing to remember, there are limits to how slow you can actually handhold the camera without having unintentional movement show in your images from you breathing, or your hands shaking. Generally the rule of thumb is based on how long your lens is. If you have an 80mm lens a shutter speed lower then 1/80 has a good chance of showing your movement.

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4 thoughts on “FotoU: Understanding Shutter Speed”

  1. Pretty insightful post. Never thought that it was this simple after all. I had spent a good deal of my time looking for someone to explain this subject clearly and you’re the only one that ever did that. Kudos to you! Keep it up

  2. Pingback: top 10 xbox 360 games

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