• Aditya Saxena

What is Shutter Speed? Camera Basics | Fundamentals of Photography

In this post, We will learn about one of the basic fundamentals of exposure which you need to understand in order to improve your photography. Let's dive in..

What is shutter speed?

Shutter speed is the duration of time in which the digital sensor of the camera is exposed to the light creating an image.

Let’s get into some of the details about it.

Shutter refers to the curtain between your camera sensor and the outside world (light). So, when you press the shutter release button, that curtain opens up allowing the sensor to get exposed to the light for a fraction of time which in turn creates an image.

It is one of the three deciding factors of how well exposed an image is. That’s right! Exposure of an image is directly dependent on the shutter speed you use. The longer the shutter speed, the more light strikes the sensor, resulting in a brighter image. And the faster the shutter speed, the less light reaches the sensor, resulting in a darker image. Besides brightness, Shutter speed is also used for creating dramatic effects by either freezing action (fast shutter speed) or blurring motion (slow shutter speed).

The other two being Aperture and ISO, which can directly affect the final exposure of a photograph.

There is a separate article about how shutter speed, aperture, and ISO are interlinked (Exposure Triangle), you should definitely check that out. It's very interesting how the three elements can be changed and for a different set of values, the exposure of the image remains same. I'll explain everything in that article with practical examples.

We know it’s a duration of time so it’s measured in ’seconds’. You can go up to 30 seconds in ‘manual’ mode and up to however many minutes you want the sensor to be exposed in ‘bulb’ mode depending on the light conditions you are in.

Shutter speed is also used for creating dramatic effects by either freezing action (fast shutter speed) or blurring motion (slow shutter speed)

What is a fast shutter speed?

A fast shutter speed of 1/1000 sec means that the shutter remains open for one-thousandth of a second, which is usually used to freeze a motion/action.

Suppose you want to freeze a moving bird in a photograph. Since the bird is moving at a very high speed. For the bird to freeze on the sensor, shutter speed has to be very fast.

Insert images showing examples of fast shutter speed.

What is a slow shutter speed?

A slow shutter speed of ¼ sec means that the shutter remains open for one-fourth of a second.

For me, any shutter speed which is hard to handle without a tripod to get it sharp is a slow shutter speed. I consider any speed slower than 1/20th of a second, a slow shutter speed, and as a result, you can get blurry pictures. And of course, that is my personal preference. You might be able to handle much slower speeds pretty well. All I’m saying that there is a high probability of getting blurred images. I highly suggest you use a good sturdy tripod for shooting slower shutter speeds.

For example, when I shoot portraits it’ll be very easy for me to introduce any motion blur in my photographs with a shutter speed of 1/20 seconds or slower. My preferred settings are always faster than 1/80 seconds in most of the cases. A quick tip: you generally shouldn’t use a shutter speed slower than your focal length. For example, if shooting with a 50mm lens, don’t go lower than 1/50. If shooting with a 200mm lens, don’t go lower than 1/200. (use a tripod if you do so)

Insert images showing examples of Slow shutter speed.

Do you want to know What shutter speed to use? And how does it affect a photograph keeping two other (Aperture and ISO) variables constant. I’ll show you exactly when and where to use appropriate shutter speed in various conditions I have faced all along my journey. I hope you got everything you were looking for about shutter speed.

I’ll show you how to find shutter speed on your camera and how to set it.

I’ll talk to you on another blogpost.

Have a great day. Attach a short video showing visible slow and fast shutter speed inside a camera.

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