A camera captures an image when the digital sensor or a film is exposed to light. The shutter is basically a screen that keeps this light out when one is not taking a photograph. In simple terms, upon pressing the shutter release button, the shutter opens, allowing an image to be recorded, and its closing stops the recording. Shutter speed refers to the time this is screen opens to allow the light onto the image – it could be milliseconds to minutes. Understanding shutter speed is crucial to understand how light affects an image. A longer time frame that the shutter is open for will allow a lot of light in and on the contrary a very quick shutter speed will make the image dark. Its one of the three different settings that affect the exposure along with ISO and aperture, and is responsible for the brightness or darkness os an image and to create either a blur or freezing an action (Creative Live, 2020).
Shutter speed is responsible for two particular things: changing the brightness of your photo, and creating dramatic effects by either freezing action or blurring motion.A simple diagram to understand how shutter speed works is given below. A shutter speed too slow will create a blur as shown in the diagram below.
Shutter priority mode allows you to control the speed of the shutter while the camera takes over the rest. While the shutter is open and recording an image, any movement will cause a blur and therefore shutter speed must match the speed of the movement. A faster shutter will ensure that the blur is avoided. As a general rule the shutter speed must match the focal length of your lens. For example, if you are using a 300mm lens then your shutter speed must be at least 1/300 in order to avoid any unwanted camera shake by maintaining a shutter speed equal to the focal length of a lens, often referred to as the Reciprocal Rule. Using faster shutter speeds can prevent blur by camera shake because there is a direct correlation between the two – the more chances of a camera shake the longer your focal length is as camera movement gets magnified at longer focal lengths. It is important to note that this applicable on a handheld camera as cameras mounted on a tripod will not require as fast a shutter speed (Mansurov, 2020)
Having talked about how to avoid blur, creative usage of shutter speed can also result in creating intentional blur to produce some great effects. Intentional blur, added to the right spot can create a sense of motion into an image. Another creative usage of shutter speed can be used to keep the subject in sharp focus while blurring the background. Panning and long exposure photography are some examples of how to use shutter speed to generate creative images. I found this video explaining shutter speed simply (Creative Live, 2020).
Using a longer shutter speed means exposing the camera sensor to light for a significant amount of time resulting in a motion blur, an effect often used in advertisements of cars and bikes to communicate the sense of speed and motion. A slow shutter speed can be creatively used for night photography and landscapes with a waterbody in it to create effective blurs (Mansurov, 2020).
I would like to show some experimentation I did with shutter speed during FiP that effectively explains the effects of various shutter speeds. More about my set-up and on this exercise can be found here.
Shutter Speed Chart (Fig 3-21)
On the other hand, shutter speed can be used to freeze motion like in the image below.
To wrap it up, shutter speed should ideally be thought about keeping in mind the other two elements of the exposure triangle in mind, that is aperture and ISO, as one will need to change those settings as well in order to compensate for a correct exposure. For instance, speeding the shutter up from 1/125th to 1/250th will mean that the light coming in to your camera is reduced to half and to compensate for this you will need to increase your aperture by one stop say from f16 to f11 or pump up your ISO from 10 to 400 (Rowse, 2020)
This post is just a refresher course for me as I have always preferred to work with Aperture priority mode for my wildlife work and manual for my commercial work. Shutter priority mode is something I am not too comfortable with as I haven’t practised much in it, so I look forward to great learnings from this part of the coursework, working with shutter priority as my main setting.