Shutter speed is a little more intuitive than aperture. It controls how long the shutter stays open. To freeze action, like a car race, use a fast shutter speed. To show movement, of water flowing down a waterfall, for example, use a slow shutter speed.


Fast shutter speed (1/500sec):


Slow shutter speed (1/6sec):

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Shutter speeds typically range from 1 second or slower up to 1/2000sec. When taking pictures at 1/60sec or slower, it's a good idea to use a tripod because if the camera isn't steady you'll be able to see the effects of “camera shake” in your photo. Obviously, this gets more important as you chose slower shutter speeds. For extremely slow shutter speeds you may also want to use the camera's timer function or a remote to take the picture instead of pushing the shutter button to eliminate that cause of camera shake as well.

That's all there is to shutter speed. Grab your camera and set it to “Shutter Speed Priority” mode now (see your manual to find out how to do this). On most Canons this is indicated by “Tv” on the mode dial. On most Nikons it's “S” on the mode dial. “Shutter Speed Priority” will allow you to set the shutter speed you want manually, then the camera will automatically choose the aperture so that your picture is properly exposed (as if it were in “Auto” mode).

Find some moving cars (or something similar: kids running, fan blades, whatever) and set your camera to 1/6sec (this may displayed on the camera as just “6”, see your manual). Hold the camera as steady as possible (it may help to rest it on a fence or table or something) and take a picture of the moving subject(s). Next, set the camera to 1/250 and take another picture of the same moving object as before. Download the pictures or have them developed to see the difference that the various shutter speeds had on your photos.


Experiment with using shutter speed to take creative control of your photos. The results don't have to be dramatic -try to find a shutter speed that just barely shows some blur to convey the fact that the subject is in motion. Or, go ahead and experiment with slow speeds if you want: Here's some creative things to do -try zooming in or out while taking a picture of a non-moving subject, try moving the camera at the same speed as a passing car while taking a picture (this will blur the background, but the car will stay in focus), take a picture of a highway or expressway at twilight while the cars have their lights on.

When you feel you have the idea of shutter speed and aperture down, move on to: How Aperture and Shutter Speed Work Together.


about_shutter_speed.txt · Last modified: 2010/06/16 13:42 (external edit)
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