Shutter & What is Shutter Speed

Holi India, Festival of Colours

Aperture, ISO  and Shutter these are the three major components of photography and cameras. I must say shutter is the magician who creates magic in your image. It is responsible for creating magical effects by either freezing action or blurring motion in images. In this topic, I will try to explain everything about the shutter I know and will try to explain shutter speed in very simple language whatever I know.

1, Camera Shutter :

Before you start reading this topic, I assume that you all know what is DSLR.  In simple words to put, a shutter is a curtain wall between outside word and camera sensor and stays closed until you press the click button to take a picture. When you click (camera fires) Shutter opens and camera sensor exposes to the light certain amount of the time (depends on setting) and light passes to the sensor to take a respective image and stops sensor from heating.  The button that fires the camera’s shutter is also known as  “shutter” or “shutter button” as it triggers the shutter operation of a camera.

2, Shutter Speed:

What is shutter speed, yes it is also known as “exposure time” in technical language and it stands for the amount of time a camera shutter is open to expose light on the camera sensor? Mainly Shutter consists of Fast, Slow or open mode for long.  If the shutter speed is fast enough, it helps to freeze action as a sample is given in below photo of kids playing in the water. If you set the shutter speed to slow, it can create an effect called “blur” or a “motion blur”, where moving objects appear with less sharp with blurred effect and you can see the motion of an object moving along in the direction of the motion.

This also helps to create some creative images as well and most such images are used in advertisements in sports. Slow shutter speeds are also used to create images in the night or a low light or very dim lighting conditions. And the use of a tripod is good to create images without “blur” sometimes shooting waterfall and capture water motion effect slow-shutter speed is very much useful but don’t forget to use a tripod to make overall image sharp.

To avoid image blur in low light you might need to play with ISO, after some experience, and trial-error will help you to create wonderful images.

3, Shutter Speed and its Measurements:

Speed! Yes, shutter speed is typically measured in seconds or in fractions of a second, when it runs under a second. To make it easy for you here are some examples, 1/2 means a half of a second, 1/4 means a quarter of a second and with a large number like 1/250 means one two hundred and fiftieth part of a second or four milliseconds. Most of the modern DSLRs are capable to handle 1/4000 of a second easily and some higher end can handle 1/8000 as well. And on ower side DSLRs are capable to go low as low like 30 seconds with an inbuilt facility. If you are using some external control such as remote you can keep the shutter open as long as you want to. Keep in mind this action might damage your sensor as it is a very sensitive part of a camera.

4, Slow, Long and Fast Shutter speed:

Slow Speed:

Slow shutter speed is must be considered to be the slowest speed that you can handle without camera shake and that also depends on person to person, I can handle as low as 1/30 without a tripod. Nowadays new camera lens technical IS/VR helps to reduce camera shake. But it’s advisable to use a tripod if you are looking for nice and sharp images in slow shutter speed.

Slow Shutter Speed, Example
Slow Shutter Speed, Example

Fast Speed:

Why one need fast shutter speed? It is typically needed when you want to freeze an action pack game or bird or some kind of race. In simple language when you want to capture action you need fast shutter speed. For me, it is typically above 1/400 of a second for general photography in a good amount of light and above 1/1000th of a second for action photography and few more respective setting which we will discuss here as and when it comes.

Holi India, Festival of Colours
Holi India, Festival of Colours

5, Set shutter speed on camera:

Most of the modern DSLRs handle shutter speed automatic from the in-camera setting (metering). If you set your camera to “Auto” it sets shutter speed automatic by reading external light conditions from the metering sensor.

You also can set the shutter speed as per your need and we call it manual settings and it can be set in two ways.

Manual Mode:

By setting a camera on manual mode, you can set shutter speed and aperture as per your need and light conditions.

Shutter Priority:

This is one more way to set the shutter speed and this setting will allow you to set the shutter speed and aperture will set automatic with this need.

Most of my shooting pattern is on Aperture Priority and I change it very rare or very much need a base of shooting conditions.


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