Experimenting with Shutter Speed


Photography is powered by light. Cameras are designed to produce images by harnessing light, and the shutter is the mechanical doorway that allows light in to expose your sensor or film. Shutter speed refers to the length of time that the shutter is open, which is determined by the setting value you select. Your shutter speed directly effects the exposure level and sharpness of your raw image. In terms of exposure, the longer the shutter is open, the more light is allowed in, and therefore the brighter your images turn out. With these slower shutter speeds, if your subject is in motion, your photos will come out blurry or even double exposed. This can create mesmerizing effects and capture the essence of motion, as seen on the top row of images above (0”6 means .6 seconds, 0”4 means .4 seconds, and 1/8 means 1/8 seconds). However, if you prefer a clear image, and especially if you're shooting action photography such as sports or concerts, you should select a faster shutter speed. This means that the shutter is only open for a tiny fraction of a second, and results in a darker yet sharper image. If you're shooting with strobe lights, and the shutter speed is super fast, you may even shoot faster than your light can fully flash as shown on the last image (1/320). There’s no right or wrong way to manipulate shutter speed; it all depends on what the occasion calls for and what kind of results you want. So pick up your camera, play with your settings, and shoot until you find your style.

Cameron Kirkland