April 27, 2011

#17 - Understand shutter speed.

Ever wonder why your photos sometimes look blurry?

You can probably blame your shutter speed.

When it comes to taking photos, you’ve really got three ways on the camera to get more light into the camera. ISO is one way. Aperture is another way. Shutter speed is a third – and it’s really  really easy to understand.

When you press that button on the front of your camera to take a picture, what you’re really doing is opening a pair of panels called the “shutter.” Opening the shutter lets light in and light is a good thing when it comes to capturing a photo. The more light, the brighter the image.

“Shutter speed” then is just the amount of time those panels open up. The longer they’re open, the more light gets in. If your picture is a bit dark, you can change the shutter speed for longer increments of time to lighten things up.

And this, of course, is where the problem can creep in.

If you open the shutter for too long it can make things look blurry. An open shutter sees everything that happens in front of it. If your shutter is open long enough to see something move, it’ll show it moving. That also goes for camera shake – that’s where the shutter is open long enough to sense you moving while you’re holding the camera. Your pictures are blurry as a result.

You can do some pretty nifty things with a shutter that’s open for too long, but we’ll cover those off in another post. For now, a good rule of thumb is to never go below 1/60th of a second if you’re holding the camera for a portrait or landscape. You’ll need a longer shutter speed for someone who is walking (1/125th of a second) or running (1/250th of a second).

The best way to figure out what works? Try stuff out. Shoot a picture and if it’s blurry or dark, adjust the shutter speed. You don’t need to know the numbers that well to figure out what works and what doesn’t.

When to use a faster shutter speed.
·      Bright light.
·      Fast moving subjects.
·      You can’t change the aperture.
·      You can’t change the ISO.

When to use a slower shutter speed.
·      Not a lot of light.
·      Slow moving or non-moving subjects.
·      Using a tripod.
·      Using an external flash.

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