On the first article of this series, “The Exposure Triangle: Aperture” I talked about the first side of the Exposure Triangle. Today, I’ll approach Shutter Speed.
Shutter speed (or exposure time) is the amount of time a camera’s shutter is open while making a photograph. In other words, the quantity of light that reaches the sensor is directly proportional to the exposure time.
It is measured in seconds, or fractions of a second (1/1000, 1/500, 1/250, 1/125, 1/60, 1/30, 1/15, …). The faster the shutter speed, the less light reaches the sensor. So, with a speed of 1/250, there is twice as much light as with a speed of 1/500.
A good base speed to shoot without incurring in motion blur or camera shake is said to be 1/60’s of a second. But of course, it depends on whether the subject is moving and how steadily you can hold the camera. For low shutter speeds a tripod is recommended.
A good rule of thumb to remember is this: There’s a correlation between shutter speed and focal distance. For example, if the focal distance is 50mm, the minimum shutter speed should be 1/50s, to avoid a blurry image. Likewise, if you’re shooting at 200mm, the speed should be at least 1/200s.
Fast shutter speed
We typically use a fast shutter speed when we want to freeze action. A child playing or sports in general are two good examples where you want as fast a shutter speed as you can, without hurting the exposure. The image below is a case where a fast speed is helpful.
Slow Shutter Speed
If, on the other hand, you want to convey a sense of movement, you can use a slower speed.
On other instances you may be forced to use a slow speed, such as when you have little available light. In that case, find a steady stance (maybe leaning against a wall), take a deep breath, and click. In the image below, I used a slow speed and followed the movement of the car while shooting. This is a technique called Panning.
To wrap up, depending on the effect you want to achieve, you can use shutter speed to help you. That, combined with Aperture, gives you more and more possibilities.
In the next article of this series, I’ll talk about the third side of the Exposure Triangle: ISO.
Did you ever use shutter speed in a creative way? Share in the comments.