So what is shutter speed and why should you be concerned with it? Simply put, shutter speed is the length of time the shutter inside the camera is opened, exposing the camera’s sensor to light. Knowing this is important for a number of reasons. I’ll focus on one of those reasons in this entry.
Shutter speed is commonly measured in fractions of a second. When your camera displays the shutter speed as 500 that means your shutter speed is 1/500 of a second.
When shooting action photography, such as for sports, it’s good to use a faster shutter speed like 1/1000 of a second or greater. Faster shutter speeds are more likely to prevent a subject from blurring. In the baseball photograph the ball appears to be suspended on a line because of the 1/3200 of a second shutter speed. In the photograph of the mud runner the mud drops are frozen, muddy bubbles in the air as a result of the 1/1600 of a second shutter speed.
Slow shutter speeds are good to use for subjects like portraits or landscapes. In these types of photographs you generally don’t have to worry about a moving subject. However, if you do use a slow shutter speed you may want to use a tripod to prevent camera shake.
Slow shutter speeds can be used creatively, as in the photograph of the sandhill cranes. At a 2.5 seconds shutter speed, the cranes that didn’t move were recorded as a solid image while the cranes that were moving appear blurred or translucent in the photograph. This can be a desired, creative effect known as ghosting.
In my next entry I’ll discuss another creative way to use shutter speed.
- Shutter Speed for Creative Photography, Part One (focus)
- Panning in Photography (Part Two)
- Shutter Speed for Creative Photography, Part Three (light)