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  • Writer's pictureWilliam Newhall

Shutter Speed: What is it? How Do I Use It?

Updated: Jan 10

Ever heard of shutter speed? If you've been in photography awhile, you probably have. If that's the case, then this article might not be for you. Instead, check out my other post to get some ideas on what you can use it for. If you've just started in photography, this post might help you!

Shutter speed is exactly that. The speed at which the shutter opens and closes. More specifically, the amount of time that the shutter stays open so that the light sensors (or the film) can absorb the light and create the image. This is how the photographer "catches the moment."

The faster the shutter speed, the less light it absorbs. The same is true on the other side of the coin. The slower the shutter speed, the more light it absorbs. This can cause a couple of effects. For one thing, the more light the camera absorbs, the brighter the image will be. For another, the longer the frame is open the more time it has to collect the information.

These two things are important. When it comes to absorbing light, this can help brighten an otherwise dark image. Sometimes you want an image with a broad depth of field, but the meter says it's too dark. What do you do? Bring a light? Open the flash? Glare at the camera until it works? No. One of the things you can do is increase the amount of time on the shutter speed. The longer the shutter speed the more information, and therefore light, it collects.

Speaking of collecting information, the longer the camera is open, the more time it spends collecting information. This time can be spent as one of two things. Either keeping a subject perfectly still or recording the motion.

You have probably seen images like this one before. These are made through having a long shutter speed. That's what creates these blurs and lines. Sometimes these are good, sometimes these are bad. It just depends on what you wish to make. You'll notice that the image (in this case a tunnel) is bright. In fact, most images like this are made at night or in the dark. Why? That's because it's easier to have longer shutter speeds (and as a result brighter images) if the subject itself is dark. You should keep that in mind with long shutter speeds. The darker the subject, the easier it is to do long shutter speeds. Be careful though! If the shutter is open too long, you might get shaky photos.

On the opposite side of the coin, fast shutter speeds can freeze motion.

Source: Free By Wix.

Let's face it; it's extremely unlikely that the photographer was able to get all these people to stand in one spot for longer than a second. Therefore, they probably used a fast shutter speed. Probably something faster than 1/100 of a second. Because the camera was open for such a short amount of time, it was only able to get the information in that short time frame. As a result, it only caught that moment. In this case, people were mid-run.

Time doesn't stop, but a camera can save a moment for us. It can immortalize a time or a place. You just have to capture the moment. Shutter speed does exactly that.

So, what did you learn? Did you learn anything new? Have any more questions? Send me a comment!


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