Inside your camera just in front of the sensor is a curtain that opens and closes to expose the sensor to light for a certain amount of time.  The amount of time that you choose will effect how the movement of the subject is recorded.

shutter

 

Lets first take a look what speeds are available.  Cameras can shoot as short as 1/8000th of a second, or if you use bulb mode you can leave the shutter open as long as you want … minutes or even hours.

Each step on the shutter speed scale will give you half or twice the amount of light.

shutter-diagram

Your shutter speed will determine how movement in your scene is perceived.  Whether you want to stop motion or show movement over time with blur.



 

Lets take a look at what a fast shutter speed can do for you.

The little bird was shot at 1/1000th of a second, the wings are sharp and you do not see any blur even though you know that his little wings were flapping like crazy.

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The rain drop was shot at 1/125th of a second and you can see that the droplet of water on top  is not sharp.  I wish that I had taken this shot at 1/500th or even faster to completely stop the motion of the droplet.  (I still love the photo though)

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What can you do to make your shutter speed faster.

  1. Open up your aperture – Use the smallest f-stop number that your lens is capable of. Remember that your depth of field will be shallow so make sure that your focus is spot on.
  2. Use a higher ISO like 800 or 1600 – Just remember that if you go too high you will start seeing noise in your picture.


 

Now lets take a look at slower shutter speeds.

I like to use slow shutter speeds to show the movement of water over rocks or a waterfall but it really can be used for any movement.

The first shot was taken with a shutter speed of 2 seconds.  The water was moving while the shutter was open causing it to blur.  I should have been on a small tripod to use such a long shutter speed but I did not have one with me so I set my camera down on a rock and used the timer mode so that the camera was not moving during the exposure.
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The next shot of the trees I was experimenting.  I loved the way the light was coming through the multi colored leaves so I set my shutter speed to 1/15th of a second and took a few shots while moving the camera around.  I love this shot because it reminds me of an impressionist painting.

tree

What can you do to make your shutter speed slower.

  1. Close down your aperture – Use a large f-stop number, not the largest number but one down (the reason is – your lens is not sharpest when the aperture is closed down all the way because of an optical effect called diffraction) .
  2. Use a low ISO like 100 or 200

If that is not enough to get the slow shutter speed that you want then you can use a filter called a neutral density filter or ND filter.  These filters have a dark element and cut down the amount of light that go through your lens

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In this shot I was on a tripod and used a 10-stop neutral density filter.  With the filter my shutter speed was 15 seconds long, without the filter my exposure would have been 1/60th of a second.

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Now that you have a better understanding of how to control movement in your photographs it is time to get out there and give it a try 🙂

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All images and text by Melinda Walsh

www.mlnda.com


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