Crash course in Shutter Mode - the 3 key concepts you need to know to start using Shutter Mode!

Coffee on and brewing:

This week, I thought I would do a crash course in Shutter Speed Mode. So once your coffee is brewed and poured read on! If you want to learn about Aperture check out my crash course blog, here!

Coffee brewed and poured - let's dive in!

Shutter Speed mode will be denoted on your camera with an T/Tv orS/SS, for Time value or Shutter speed respectively. Shutter speed is such a powerful setting to master to help create movement in your images and can be the easier mode to start with when you get off auto mode.

So what do you need to know about shutter speed!

1. Shutter Speed

The shutter in shutter speed refers to the curtain or cover that closes down over your lens. The speed refers to the time this takes. You can set this to close really fast (eg. 1/1000th of a second) or really slow (eg. 30secs).

So when we set our shutter speed this is what we are determining. It is measured in seconds and displayed as fractions or whole numbers. So for example you can have a shutter setting of 1000 or 1/1000 both are 1 thousandth of a second. The faster the shutter speed the less light that will be able to enter the camera before the shutter is down.

A faster shutter speed will let less light in
A slower shutter speed will let more light in.

But apart from controlling the amount of time light has to enter the camera, it affects how movement is captured in the image.

2. Movement

So if I want to take a picture of someone moving but want it to be sharp I would need to set my shutter speed to a fast shutter speed. As such sport and wildlife photographers often will use a fast shutter speed.

Of course this will restrict the light entering the camera so to get correct exposure you may need to adjust your aperture or ISO to maximise light that way.

Conversely if you want blurred movement, you need to slow your shutter speed down and allow that movement to travel a bit while your shutter is shutting down! Depending on how much you push this you can actually go from some slight blur to making your subject disappear.

This is also how you can create light trails with cars at nighttime. The cars move too fast to be captured but the lights create a path through your image!

A faster shutter speed will sharpen movement.
A slower shutter speed will blur movement.

3. What are the shutter speed limits?

It does vary between cameras and brands but as a rough guide you can not go longer than 30secs on your camera without some sort of external shutter button. This is rarely necessary though unless you are doing night photography.

Also if you go slower than ¼ secs* you will introduce handshake which will cause undesirable blur in your image from the movement of your hand and the camera’s parts (if it is mirrored).

*this will change depending on how steady a hand you have - some can hold it steady for longer, some will need to help at a faster speed. It also depends at least for me which lens I am using as the heavier it is, the faster the shutter speed I would need to hold it steady.

Once you start to see hand shake in the image you will need to use a tripod or some sort of steading tool.

Some practical examples and an excuse to look at cute dogs

Ziggy was panting hard after having a good run in the woods, you can see if you focus on his chest, it is a bit blurred - my shutter speed was not fast enough to capture him fully sharp yet his face is sharp as he was holding this more still.

Similarly, with Ziggy (bottom right) he leaped and ran so fast that it took me many attempts to get this type of shot in focus - this one I am close but it is not as crisp as I would like.

However, with Dak I did manage to get him sharp as he ran along the beach with a fast enough shutter speed. What helped here was it was brighter so I could push the shutter speed more (remember faster speed = less light) and Dak was not racing as fast as Ziggy.

The image of Maya the white fluff ball (top right) is blurred with a slower shutter speed however this time, the blur was intentional. I wanted to capture the movement of her shaking her fur out so I needed to slow my shutter down to acheive this.

These photos (hopefully) demonstrate there is no one right shutter speed for a subject. Each scenario will have its own challenges but by having a grasp of the basics of shutter speed you should be able ot adapt in the field to find the shutter speed that is right for that shot.

Final sips of coffee …

So that is a crash course in Shutter Speed. I hope this will give you some inspiration to head out and try some capturing movement with shutter speed.I recommend setting up a shot and trying to take it at slower and slower speeds and see where your limit is in terms of steadiness.

This week's challenge is to try and capture your kid or pet - perfect subjects to practice shutter speed.

It is time for me to pour some more coffee, so happy sipping and happy shooting everyone,