Camera Shutter Speed Explained – a curtain on a window to creativity

Welcome to my post ‘ Camera Shutter speed explained ‘. In this article I will attempt to explain camera shutter speed and how it effects our final photo. Although final photograph is a combination of Shutter Speed, ISO, and Aperture, we will focus mainly on shutter speed in this article. A Shutter is a mechanism that covers the digital senor to block light coming in from the lens. It only slides opens when the shutter release button is depressed on the camera body to take a photograph. It older film cameras, the shutter literally a looked like a black cloth curtain that would get out of the way to expose the film to create a photograph.

Shutter Speed

Shutter speed is the amount of time the shutter is not in the way blocking the light from striking the film or the digital sensor in modern cameras. Essentially, this is the amount of time the light is allowed to fall onto the camera senor and is referred to as the shutter speed. Typically, these time segments are very small. Shutter speed varies anywhere from 30 seconds to 1/1000 of a second or less.

Light travels through the lens carrying with it the outer world scene and exposes the sensor to recreate the image or the photo we are taking. By allowing the shutter to remain open, we can control the amount of time the light will be permitted to keep on falling onto the sensor. This will control the brightness of the image along with the sharpness of the image.

Shutter Speed and Shaprness

As mentioned earlier, shutter speed will control the amount of time the light is permitted to expose the camera sensor. A photograph captures a still moment in time. If we let the shutter remain open for a very short period, let’s say about 1/60 of a second, the image may look very natural. It may produce a more life-like effect. Speeds in this range may be useful for birthday parties or social gathering where a more subtle effect is desired. Photograph may not look completely frozen. Because the shutter is open slightly longer, this allows light to pass for a bit more time to capture the ever so small movement that might occur during a photo shoot.

Low shutter speed
Lower shutter speed(image wiki commons)

Shutter speeds such as 1/500s or lower will produce a very still and sharp photo. Small speed as such are useful for completely freezing a moment in time . Examples when such speeds may be desired are sports, wild-life, or anything that requires a moment to freeze in time( maybe a snake striking a rodent).

High Shutte Speed

Higher Shutter Speed(image

Shutter Speed and Brightness

Longer the shutter is open, more light is allowed to enter the sensor therefore brighter the photograph. Although brightness can be controlled with the adjustment of shutter, it may not be the best method to do so. As mentioned earlier shutter speed controls sharpness of an image. A lower shutter speed effect may not be desired at the expense of a brighter photograph. Other options are the combination settings of ISO and Aperture. These are topics will be discussed in a different post.

ISO and Aperture

ISO and Aperture are two other elements that need to be understood to achieve that perfect shot. Photographers choose a carefully calculated combination of Shutter Speed, ISO, and Aperture to achieve the desired result. There is no such thing as  a perfect combination. There will be a separate post as a guide lines on how to choose a certain combination to achieve a particular result.  Ultimately it is up to you, the photographer, to see through the lens to achieve your own creativity.

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  1. Hi Pardeap

    Thanks for your article.  It explained things I didn’t know and I appreciate the effort you put in.

    My Uncle is an avid photographer – he would love your article!

    With so many people using smartphones to take photographs, I wondered what your views are on the merits of smartphones versus cameras?



    1. Author

      Hello David, a smart phone can take a good snap, while a camera dedicated to photography will allow you to reach you creative edge.

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