Mastering Shutter Speed for Creative Photography


Shutter speed is one of the key controls the photographer can use to control the appearance of pictures. If you are using your camera in automatic mode, you are missing out on the opportunity to create awesome photographs. Once you understand how shutter speed influences the outcome of your pictures, you can take creative control.

Mastering shutter speed allows you to capture motion and action in a single frame. This is an incredibly powerful tool in photography, and the results can be incredible. Understanding shutter speed allows you to freeze the motion of a bird in flight, or to show the movement of water in a photograph.

In front of a camera’s sensor sits a mechanical device which shields it from the light. This is the shutter, and when you take a photograph it allows light to reach the sensor and record an image. The duration of time the shutter is open controls the amount of light reaching the sensor. A fast shutter speed will freeze motion, whereas leaving the shutter open will capture movement as a blur.

English: Effect of different shutter speeds on...

English: Effect of different shutter speeds on photograph. In photography, shutter speed is a common term used to discuss exposure time, the effective length of time a camera’s shutter is open. Slower shutter speeds are often selected to suggest movement in a still photograph of a moving subject. Fast shutter speeds freeze a moving subject on photograph. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Most modern digital cameras offer shutter priority mode. Using shutter priority allows you to choose the appropriate shutter speed and leave the camera to adjust other settings to achieve the correct exposure. Changing the ISO settings on your camera increases the sensitivity of the sensor and allows you to shoot at faster shutter speeds. Increasing the ISO settings can result in image quality reducing, so it’s important to test the results.

Selecting a fast shutter speed means that the shutter is only open for a fraction of a second, and is the way to freeze fast-moving subjects. None of the movement will appear in the photograph. Sports photographers rely on fast shutter speeds to capture the action of motor racing, football and other fast-paced events. Photographs taken at fast shutter speeds can look very static, so it’s important to look for other elements to suggest movement. For example, spray and debris flying up from the wheels of a motorbike show how fast it’s moving. Taking shots at different angles can give them a more dynamic look.

Choosing slower shutter speeds means that the camera’s sensor will record the movement of a subject. This can be used creatively for fantastic effects. It’s important not to allow a subject to blur too much, as it can become completely obscured. Panning the camera as you take a shot at slow shutter speed can result in stunning pictures. It’s usually advisable to mount the camera on a tripod when shooting at slower shutter speeds.

Images taken with a lower shutter speed invoke...

Images taken with a lower shutter speed invoke a visual sense of movement. Exposure time 3 seconds. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Slow shutter speeds work very well in landscape and nature photography. They can capture the movement of a waterfall or waves on the sea. Rather than freezing their motion, fluid movement can be illustrated in a photograph taken at a slow shutter speed. A tripod is essential to stop camera shake resulting in blurred images. A neutral density filter is a very useful tool when taking this type of photograph. The filter will reduce the amount of light reaching the camera’s sensor, and allow you to use longer shutter speeds without causing exposure problems.

Experiment with different shutter speeds and you will find a new dimension to your photography.

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