What is Shutter Speed ?
Shutter speed is one of the three basic exposure parameters along with aperture value and ISO sensitivity.
In order to know how to manage it, you need to understand how the shutter of your camera works.
photo reflex or hybrid.
Located between the lens and the sensor of your camera, the focal plane shutter is a mechanical system consisting of vertically scrolling metal slat curtains that control the shutter speed.
It is also connected to electronics to transmit information to your camera.
The first case of shutter operation is for speeds up to 1/250th of a second.
When you press your camera’s shutter release button, a first curtain opens to fully reveal the sensor to let the light pass towards it for a while.
Only when it has received the right amount of light, the second curtain can close the opening, thus masking the sensor from the light.
The photo’s on display.
Beyond 1/250th of a second, it’s a bit different because the speeds are faster.
When the first curtain is triggered, it starts to open so that the light can only pass through to the through a more or less wide part of the shutter.
But before it finishes its race to fully discover the sensor, the second curtain has already left to close the opening.
The image is exposed.
This is how high speeds can be achieved with a focal plane shutter.
This shutter speed is of course variable depending on the amount of light available.
This is known as exposure time or exposure duration.
How does the shutter speed work?
Expressed in seconds and fractions of a second, the shutter speed or exposure time is the amount of time the light is directed at the sensor.
30sec-15sec-8sec-4sec-2sec-1/2sec-1/4sec-1/8sec-1/15sec-1/30sec-1/50sec- 1/80 sec – 1/125 sec – 1/250 sec – 1/500 sec – 1/1000 sec – 1/2000 sec – 1/4000 sec – 1/8000 sec It allows you to freeze the action but also gives you the possibility to retranscribe the movement.
You must use it to show a feeling of speed in your photos.
The longer the exposure time, the more time the light has to pass and vice versa.
In this order and between two exposure time values, the amount of light is doubled and vice versa.
We will come back to this later in this article.
The shutter speed can be set in manual or shutter-priority mode (TV = Time Value) or (S = Speed).
In the latter case and depending on the shutter speed you choose, the camera will determine the aperture of the diaphragm automatically to properly expose your picture.
To understand how shutter speed affects exposure, switch to manual mode.
If the exposure time is too long, you will have to close the diaphragm to reduce the amount of light.
that passes through the lens in order to avoid overexposure.
Conversely, if the exposure time is too short, you will have to open the diaphragm to let in the light during this short exposure time to avoid underexposure.
Remember that the shutter speed is part of the exposure triangle, which means that it affects one of the fundamental parameters of exposure, namely the aperture value.
You’ll soon find out why.
The consequences of these changes in aperture values also have an impact on the depth of field.
It will be more or less reduced depending on the shutter speed indicated on the housing.
The shorter the shutter speed, the larger the calculated aperture, resulting in a shallow depth of field.
Conversely, the smaller the calculated aperture, the larger the sharpness area.
I discuss this notion of depth of field in the article “The opening of the diaphragm”.
Adopt the safe Shutter speed
A high shutter speed allows you to freeze fast subjects, but you need to know which shutter speed to choose depending on the speed of the subject.
Let’s take the example of a car race.
First of all, I know that cars drive fast.
I want to have them completely clear, well frozen.
In this case, I opt for a lens with a focal length of 300mm.
The minimum safety speed to be used in this case is 1/500th of a second.
Why choose this speed exactly and not one below? First of all, we must avoid blur, caused by the movement of the subject, but we must especially make sure not to cause a blur of movement on our part on the image.
It is considered that for a lens with such a focal length (300mm) on a 24*36 sensor SLR, the shutter speed should be at least 1/250 of a second to avoid blurred movement.
For cameras with APSC sensors, and because of the cropping factor, a multiplying factor of 1.5 for Nikon and 1.6 for Canon must be applied.
This gives for a 300mm lens at Nikon, a focal length of 450mm.
In this example, the shutter speed of 1/500th guarantees stable movement, but the shutter speed of 1/500th will not change.
will probably have to be increased by the speed of the race cars.
Stabilization increases shutter speed
On some targets and on some boxes, stabilization is integrated, which means that you gain up to four value steps.
This can have undeniable advantages, especially in low light conditions.
It only compensates for the movements caused by the photographer, known as blurring of moved.
The use of stabilization eliminates the need for a tripod and even improves image quality by not having to raise the sensitivity too much.
Here is the specific name of each brand Canon: IS (optical) Nikon: VR (optical), e-VR (digital).
VR=Vibration Reduction Pentax: SR (sensor) Panasonic: OIS Sony : steadyshot Olympus: SWD (optical) Samsung: OIS (optical), DIS (digital) Sigma: OS (optical) Tamron: VC (optical)
What is a Panning and how to make it successful?
The secret is the combination of shutter speed and subject tracking, whether freehanded or on a tripod.
Indeed, the autofocus of your camera must be on dynamic mode for that (see the camera manual), and remember to read the course on autofocus.
Depending on the lighting conditions, you select a shutter speed slower than 1/500th, say 1/125th, aim, follow your subject by holding the shutter release button halfway without making too much sudden movement and shoot.
Normally you should have a very nice result.
The car is clean, the rims and the background have a visible effect of movement.
I’m not hiding the fact that it will take many tries before a good picture stands out.
Slow Shutter speeds
From 30 seconds or more, to about 1/30s.
Two modes are available for long exposures depending on the camera.
The B (Bulb) exposure, which allows the shutter to remain open as long as necessary when holding down the shutter-release button.
Releasing the finger closes the shutter.
A tripod is essential, as the slightest movement can be fatal to the photo.
Remote controls are available to automate the process.
The T (Time) exposure, which allows the shutter to be left open by a first press of the shutter-release button and a second press to close it.
Due to the lack of light, we may have to work at low speed, for example to make a yarn of stars.
They generate a relatively powerful light to the naked eye but not enough to work at high speeds unless the sensitivity of the sensor is increased, but this will be at the expense of quality.
However, the essential accessory will be the tripod and also a remote control to avoid moving the camera during exposure.
Do you want to get the movement of waves, water from a waterfall or a fountain? No problem, put your tripod down, use a remote control to limit motion blur and choose a slow shutter speed depending on what you want the effect to be.
How to make a daytime long pose
If you absolutely want to make long exposures in broad daylight, it is quite possible, as long as the brightness of is not too strong.
First, you need to use small aperture stops to lower the shutter speed.
If the light is very intense, and you want to get several second exposures, then you will need to use a neutral density filter.
This accessory allows you to restrict the passage of light through the lens.
There are different densities for different lighting environments and for specific uses.
In broad daylight, the neutral density filter provides this haze effect as the waves pass by.
Fast Shutter speeds
From 1/60s to 1/8000th of a second for high-end SLRs.
Here are the speeds generally used on a camera in its normal configuration.
30s, 15s, 8s, 4s, 2s, 1s, 1/2s, 1/4s, 1/8s, 1/15s, 1/30s, 1/60s, 1/125s, 1/250s, 1/500s, 1/1000s, 1/2000s, 1/4000s, 1/8000s As with the diaphragm opening, shifting from one gear to the other will result in an
multiplying or halving the amount of light entering through the shutter to expose the sensor.
Let’s assume that the data below corresponds to a correct exposure: The problem is that I want to avoid a freehand motion blur.
Diaphragm opening: F/8.
Laying time: 1/30th of a second.
Iso sensitivity: 200 If I increase the shutter speed from 1/30s to 1/60s in shutter-priority mode to compensate for camera shake or subject blur, I know that half as much light will pass through the shutter.
To compensate for this loss of light, the camera will have to act on the aperture of the diaphragm to let twice as much light through when possible.
If not, you will need to increase the sensitivity.
How to get fast shutter speed indoors?
To take indoor pictures with a moving subject, we will have to proceed differently because we are missing an indispensable element, sunlight.
Inside a house, artificial light sources are not powerful enough to allow us to work at high speeds.
The shutter speed will often be low.
To increase it, you need to use a lens with a large aperture, such as a 50mm F/1.8 or even better F/1.4, and/or increase the ISO sensitivity of your camera sparingly.
If your lens or housing is stabilized, then the gain in speed you can achieve is not negligible.
Remember to turn it on when shooting indoors.
This will give you a shutter speed high enough to freeze the movement.
Another solution is to use a flash, but it’s in another very interesting article in which I discuss its advantages.
Shutter Speed Priority Mode
Now that you have understood these basics, you are able to use the speed priority mode.
This is usually the preferred mode for photographing moving subjects.
So, if you like sports or wildlife photography, or if your goal is simply to photograph your children or grandchildren, this mode will be of great use to you.
You can also use it to photograph a landscape to create a motion blur effect on the foliage of trees for example when there is a little wind.
In this case, use a photo tripod.
In conclusion, you now know that shutter speed plays a very important role in exposure, but more importantly in how you want to capture movement.
Now it’s up to you to be creative!