6.07.2013

Exposure Made Easy PART 2: Shutter Speed

     ♥ 
by melissa

In the first segment of the DSLR Exposure Series, I briefly discussed the exposure triangle, and one of the three settings in the Exposure Triangle, aperture. Today we're moving onto a second setting in the exposure triangle: shutter speed.

When you're dying for a crystal clear shot and all you're getting is blurred eyes and streaks of arms and legs moving as your two-year-old runs away from you, it can be very frustrating—especially if you're shooting in auto and you have no idea why your camera is blurring every. single. shot. Not cool. Most likely you want to avoid motion blur, and understanding shutter speed is the first step to stopping it.

Shutter speed is a refreshing setting to learn about (at least it was for me) because it's pretty self-explanatory, and we like self-explanatory around here. No big tricks to throw you for a loop like aperture does. Just speed (or lack of it). You can totally do this. You've got it in the bag.

What is shutter speed?
Shutter speed is the length of time the shutter remains open for a shot, or how long the digital sensor is exposed to light. Shutter speed controls the ability to capture motion blur or stop action in a photo. It means your shutter is open for a longer amount of time or shorter amount of time, depending on where you set it. And that setting affects two things: light and motion blur. The faster the shutter speed, the darker the photo and crisper the capture, freezing motion in time for your shot. The slower the shutter speed, the lighter the photo, and more blurry the capture, allowing more time to pass and more movement to be recorded in the shot. Easy breezy.




Let me specify that motion blur is different from the bokeh we talked about in the Aperture post, and it's different from just missing the focus and not nailing the shot. Motion blur and out of focus are two different things. Motion blur happens because your subject (or anything else in your shot) moved, or you moved, and you were shooting on a slow shutter speed.

Let's have our 2 minute tech-y session and get it over with. Shutter speed is measured in seconds and fractions of a second. For example, 1/500 means that the shutter will be open for one five-hundredths of a second. Like I mentioned above, fast shutter speeds (like 1/1000) are used when trying to freeze action but decrease the amount of light entering the camera. Slow shutter speeds, like 2 seconds, are often used for night shots or when trying to show motion.

Speeding up your shutter will ALWAYS mean a darker photo…UNLESS you compensate for it somehow with other settings (sound familiar? From the aperture post? Remember, each setting in your Exposure Triangle equally affects how light/dark your photos will be). If it is bright where the picture will be taken, but you want to show motion, you can make the aperture smaller or use a lower ISO to compensate for the extra light the slower shutter speed is letting in.

In most cases with every day shooting, though, you should probably be using shutter speeds of 1/80th of a second or faster, because anything slower than that is very difficult to use without getting camera shake and blurring the heck out of your shot.


Left: f/1.4, 1/5000s, 50mm, ISO:100. Right: f/10, 1/60s, 50mm, ISO:100




How do I avoid motion blur?
Speeding up your shutter is the obvious answer, but when you do that, you'll find that your shots start losing light in a hurry, especially if you're shooting in dark shade, in earlier or later hours in the day when light is low, or indoors. A black photo, crisp or not, isn't doing anyone any favors. There are four quick steps for avoiding motion blur when your light is low. If you've tried the first step and your shot is dark or still blurry, move on to then next one.
  1. Make sure you're on your LARGEST aperture. This will let in the most amount of light.
  2. Max out your shutter speed by using as low of a shutter speed as possible without blurring.
  3. Use your last resort and adjust to a higher ISO. (more on this to come in Part 3 of this series)
  4. If you've tried all of the above, and your shots are still blurry, you need a new lens with a bigger aperture (you can learn more about that in my lenses post).

Left: f/9, 1/60s, 50mm, ISO:100. Right: f/1.4, 1/2500s, 50mm, ISO:100



Is motion blur ever a good thing?

Yes. It's one of those things where if you understand the rules, you can break them on purpose and do something awesome. But that will probably be rare unless it's something you're crazy about experimenting with. There are times when you want to show blur, indicating movement, speed, or a time lapse, and if you ever decide to get a little crazy with shutter speeds and venture into long exposures by using incredibly slow shutter speeds, it can be pretty fun (I'll probably do a fun long exposure post in the future). When you're blurring on purpose, slow shutter speeds are on your side. Otherwise, try to nail your settings and you'll be able to leave your blurry days behind.




Top: f/1.4, 1/3200s, 50mm, ISO:100. Bottom: f/10, 1/80s, 50mm, ISO:100





Photo challenge of the week!
Switch to timing priority/shutter speed priority (Tv for Canon, S for Nikon). Play around with different shutter speeds to see how it changes your photos. This is especially fun if you try slower speeds with people or things that are moving to show motion, then switch to a faster speed to stop them in time. Get a feel for what shutter speed works best in broad daylight, in the shade, indoors, and commit them to memory if you're feeling ambitious.

Good luck! Let me know how it goes, and be sure to share your questions, comments, and experiences with us!

And I had to leave you with this outtake photo to kick off the weekend, because it cracks me up. Nailed the jump, killed it with the shut eyes. But he's so focused and trying so hard it just can't go unshared! Have a great weekend! :)
Pin It

13 comments:

  1. I really enjoy and appreciate your sharing your photography knowledge. the one you wrote a while back about taking indoor pictures changed the look of my blog..and I shared it with another blogger...thanks for putting the time into this. it is surely helping me..come visit sometimes and maybe follow me..
    Love, Mona

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much for stopping by and for your sweet comment, Mona! I'm so happy to hear that my posts are helping in any small way, it's the reason I'm here! Thanks for sharing it with others as well, I love open sharing and think it's the best way we can all learn from each other! I'm so glad it's even helping change the look of your blog...that's so fun to hear!! Keep it up!

      Delete
  2. You are so talented Melissa!!! Thank you so much for such a clear and fun-to-read explanation and for the amazing examples! I can't wait to try adjusting my shutter speed in some action shots!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're so sweet to stop by and comment Nicole! I'm so happy you thought it was clear and fun-to-read, especially since my two biggest fears in writing about this stuff are not making any sense and being boring :) you'll have to let me know how it goes with some adjusted shutter speed shots!

      Delete
  3. This is really great Melissa, thank you. I am so lazy sometimes switching my camera onto auto but this blog and the {aperture} one reminded me that I can use so much more of my camera and have lots more fun with it :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's so true Sarah. We lived on aperture priority for the first year, and ended up being so frustrated with so many of our shots, with exposures that weren't anything like what we wanted. It's pretty liberating to realize our cameras can do so much more when they're coupled with OUR OWN know-how and style. It's capable of quite a bit on its own, but loads more when we decide to bite the bullet and stop letting it do everything on it's own. Pretty awesome. I'm so excited for you and so happy that my posts are helping remind you that it's supposed to be FUN! Keep it up, and thanks for stopping by!

      Delete
  4. I really like taking pictures but i didn't have any lesson yet. So i usually take my camera and try different ways to make good pics. Your post help me a lot to understand this kind of thing! You're so didactic, thank you! I'll be waiting for.more post..

    Veronica

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Veronica for your sweet comment! What a kind compliment to give! Another post is on its way this Friday! Keep coming back for more, and feel free to ask any questions! Practice really does make perfect, and the more you shoot I'm sure the more confident you'll be in understanding what's going on in your camera. Keep it up!

      Delete
  5. I like taking pictures but i don't know exactly how to do it ok. So i usually take my camera and try different ways to make good pics. With your post i could understand a lot of things, thank you! Their are very didactic! I'll be waiting for next post!

    (sorry if my english isn't good enough)

    Veronica

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thank you SO MUCH for these exposure posts. I have been getting more into photography (especially with the birth of my son!) and have always shot on Aperture priority, but have been frustrated with the lighting in my pictures. And Manual has been tricky because I didn't understand it. When I've tried to learn more about shooting in Manual, it's been frustrating because it seems like photographers don't know how to explain these concepts to newbies like me =)

    Your posts on aperture, shutter speed and ISO have been a light-bulb moment for me and my pictures have gotten exponentially better. Thank you, thank you, thank you!! I know I have more to learn, but I finally feel like I have a grasp of the basics.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thank you SO MUCH for these exposure posts. I have been getting more into photography (especially with the birth of my son!) and have always shot on Aperture priority, but have been frustrated with the lighting in my pictures. And Manual has been tricky because I didn't understand it. When I've tried to learn more about shooting in Manual, it's been frustrating because it seems like photographers don't know how to explain these concepts to newbies like me =)

    Your posts on aperture, shutter speed and ISO have been a light-bulb moment for me and my pictures have gotten exponentially better. Thank you, thank you, thank you!! I know I have more to learn, but I finally feel like I have a grasp of the basics.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thank you SO MUCH for these posts on exposure. I have been getting more into photography (due to the birth of my son!). I have been frustrated with my pictures taken in Aperture Priority but felt lost when it came to shooting in Manual. Trying to research and learn has also been a frustrating process because it seems like professional photographers don't know how to explain these concepts to newbies like me! =)

    And then I found your posts on aperture, exposure and ISO. They have been a light bulb moment for me and my photos have gotten exponentially better. I know I have a lot more to learn but feel like I finally have a grasp of the basics.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

    ReplyDelete
  9. You are soooo good are explaining photography stuff! Thank you for all your wonderful posts!

    ReplyDelete

Pin It button on image hover