What is a shutter?
Simply put, a shutter is a “curtain” located in front of your camera’s sensor. It controls the exposure time of the sensor to light. When you press the button, this curtain opens for a certain amount of time and then closes. Today, shutters can be either mechanical or electronic. They have the same purpose but operate differently.
How is shutter speed defined?
Shutter speed is the duration for which the shutter remains open when taking a photograph. It is the time your camera spends capturing a photo. It is expressed in fractions of a second, such as 1/1000s or 1/50s. The faster the shutter speed, the less light reaches the camera sensor, and the more motion is frozen. Conversely, the slower the shutter speed, the more light reaches the sensor, and the more motion appears blurred.
How do you choose the shutter speed?
The choice of shutter speed depends on several factors, such as:
- Available light: The more light there is, the faster shutter speed you can use to avoid motion blur.
- Desired motion effect: If you want to capture motion, you can use a slower shutter speed to create artistic blur. If you want to avoid any blur, you can use a faster shutter speed.
- Desired depth of field: Depth of field depends on the lens aperture and focus distance. If you want a shallow depth of field to emphasize the subject, you can use a faster shutter speed and wider aperture.
- Shooting conditions: Factors like vibrations or wind may require a faster shutter speed to avoid motion blur.
In general, you can start with a shutter speed that corresponds to the focal length of the lens to avoid motion blur and adjust it based on the shooting conditions.
Shutter speed and exposure
As mentioned, shutter speed plays a significant role in exposure. If you use a long shutter speed, the camera sensor collects a lot of light, resulting in a very bright photo. By using a fast shutter speed, the camera sensor is exposed to only a small fraction of light, resulting in a darker photo.
On a sunny day, you may need to use a fast shutter speed to prevent your photo from being overexposed. Conversely, at night, you will likely use longer shutter speeds. However, when using longer shutter speeds, you will probably need to use a tripod to obtain sharp images.
Shutter speed and motion
When using a longer shutter speed, the shutter will capture any movement during that duration, resulting in an “artistic” blur in your photo. This effect is often used in car advertisements to convey a sense of speed by showing the direction of motion. This motion blur is called “motion blur.”
How is shutter speed measured?
Shutter speed is measured in fractions of a second when they are less than a second. They appear as “1/n” fractions. The higher the “n,” the faster the shutter speed, the darker the image, and the sharper the subject.
For example, 1/4 means a quarter of a second, while 1/250 means two-hundred-fiftieth of a second.
Most modern cameras can handle shutter speeds up to 1/4000th or 1/8000th of a second. The longest available shutter speed is typically 30 seconds. You can use longer shutter speeds by using external remote controls if needed.
How do you adjust the shutter speed?
To do this, you need to know what type of photo you want to create. If you are a landscape photographer shooting with a tripod, then shooting at slower speeds won’t be a problem. However, if you intend to photograph fast-moving subjects (animals, athletes, etc.), you will likely need a minimum of 1/250s and potentially up to 1/1000s or 1/2000s depending on the subject.
It is essential to set your shutter speed accurately and then adjust your aperture and ISO accordingly.