Before I go into any depth regarding tips for any aspect of photography, I think it’s very important to know the features and functions of your camera. I’m only going to go over the core features that all cameras share; the things that actual affect the images you take. I’m going to fully explain each aspect so only one will be covered per post. Think of these posts as a sort of very detailed glossary.
Whenever you take a picture on any camera be it a DSLR, a CSC or even your phone, there are several aspects that determine how the photograph will look. These are the shutter speed, the aperture, the sensitivity and the focus. All four of these aspects work together to produce your images and depending of what you set them to the image you take can look very different.
The shutter speed is exactly what is sounds like, it’s how fast the shutter of the camera takes to close. It is sometimes referred to as exposure time, meaning the time the film or digital sensor is exposed to light. When dealing with shutter speed alone the shorter the shutter speed, the less light will reach the sensor and so the image will be darker or underexposed. Shutter speed is usually displayed in seconds or fractions of a second. For example if your camera displays the shutter as 1/100, that implies that the sensor is exposed for one one-hundredth of a second. If it is displayed as 1”, that implies that the sensor will be exposed for one whole second. Obviously more light will enter the sensor at one second over one-hundredth of a second so the image will be brighter or overexposed. However there is a secondary characteristic associated with shutter speed, motion blur.
One one-hundredth of a second is very fast, you can’t even blink that fast. As a result of this the image that is taken appears very sharp and crisp. It’s like a freeze frame of life where everything is captured in perfect clarity in the moment. High shutter speeds are often used by wildlife photographers and sports photographers for capturing high speed and often unpredictable events.
Conversely exposing an image for one second will have a lot of motion blur as a lot of things can change in one second and the camera will have captured all of this for the duration of the exposure. Long shutter speeds can be used to great effect for giving your images a sense of speed, such as when photographing cars. They are also necessary for taking pictures in low light conditions such as at night.
It is important to be aware of what shutter speed your camera is set to so that you achieve the desired effect. For images of people I tend to set my shutter speed to 1/125 so that the image is very sharp. Even when standing still people tend to move a lot so having a high shutter speed removes unwanted motion blur. Another time I utilise a high shutter speed is whenever I am using the camera handheld and not using a tripod or monopod. The high shutter speed counteracts the natural movement of our bodies. It is damn near impossible for you to produce a sharp image just by holding the camera without a high shutter speed. Even attempting to is the first mistake of most rookie photographers. I’ll cover shooting handheld photography in more detail in a later blog.
It takes a lot of trial and error to achieve the desired effect from shutter speed. With practice you’ll develop a pretty good idea what speed you need or want for a given situation. When used correctly, shutter speed can help you produce some jaw-dropping images. However shutter speed alone is not enough. In the next blog I will explain Sensitivity.