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All About Shutter Speed

There are many technical terms which are used when describing the functions of a camera. Examples include “aperture” and “ISO” (both will be discussed in later articles). However, the concept of shutter speed is arguably one of the most important principles to understand if you wish to take professional-grade pictures. Let’s examine this variable in greater detail to fully appreciate its unique role.

What is Shutter Speed and How is It Measured?

Shutter speed is simply a measurement of how long the shutter of a camera is allowed to remain open. This will impact the amount of light that falls upon the film. Those who increase this speed will shorten the amount of time that a shutter is open. Decreased shutter speeds correspond to more light being allowed to hit the internal film. In other words, the shutter will remain ajar for longer periods of time (1).

Shutter speeds are measured in seconds are more commonly, in fractions of a second. For instance, a reading of 1/40 signifies that a shutter will remain open for one-fortieth of a second. Slow shutter speeds are generally measured in whole numbers (such as 1, 4 or 12) and these correspond with actual seconds.

Why is Shutter Speed Important?

The speed at which a shutter closes will have a direct impact upon the resulting photograph. Long (slow) speeds enable more light to interact with the exposed film. These are generally preferred by those who wish to produce a still rendition of an object in motion (such as a race car circling a track).

Short (quick) speeds will help to “freeze” the motion of a person or object. This is often preferred by photographers who are more concerned with clarity when capturing extremely detailed images.

Choosing the Correct Shutter Speed

So, which of these speeds is the most appropriate for your needs? The first factor involves what type of image you hope to capture. Do you wish to emphasise motion or is definition the most important attribute? Other variables such as the time of day are also relevant, as longer shutter speeds expose the film to more photons; ideal when dealing with low-light situations.

Of course, this is only a brief rundown of some core principles attributed to camera shutter speeds. If you want to learn more about how to make the right decision, please contact Jonathan at Piers Photo. He will be happy to help!


1. https://www.adobe.com/creativecloud/photography/discover/shutter-speed.html

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