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Explaining Shutter Speed

Shutter speed is one of the three key elements of exposure, along with aperture and ISO.  These three elements are called the exposure triangle.

Shutter speed controls the amount of time that the camera’s sensor is exposed to light, and it plays a crucial role in capturing sharp, well-exposed images.

In this tutorial, we’ll cover everything you need to know about shutter speed, including how it works, how to measure it, and how to use it to create different effects in your photos.

Understanding Shutter Speed:

First, let’s take a closer look at what shutter speed is and how it works.

The shutter is a mechanical curtain that sits in front of the camera’s sensor.

When you press the shutter button, the shutter opens for a brief moment, allowing light to hit the sensor and create an image.

The amount of time that the shutter stays open is known as the shutter speed.

Shutter speed is measured in fractions of a second, with common values ranging from 1 second to 1/8000 of a second. A slow shutter speed, such as 1 second, means that the shutter stays open for a longer period of time, while a fast shutter speed, such as 1/1000 of a second, means that the shutter stays open for a shorter period of time.

It’s important to note that shutter speed is closely related to aperture and ISO. Aperture controls the amount of light that enters the lens, while ISO controls the sensitivity of the camera’s sensor to light. Together, these three elements work together to determine the overall exposure of the image.

Measuring Shutter Speed:

Now that you understand what shutter speed is, let’s talk about how to measure it.

On most cameras, the shutter speed is displayed on the camera’s LCD screen or in the viewfinder. It is often represented by a fraction, such as 1/1000 or 1/30. The denominator of the fraction represents the shutter speed, with larger denominators indicating faster shutter speeds. For example, 1/1000 is a faster shutter speed than 1/30.

Adjusting the shutter speed is typically done by using the camera’s manual mode or shutter priority mode. In manual mode, you have full control over the shutter speed, aperture and ISO, while in shutter priority mode, you can adjust the shutter speed while the camera automatically sets the aperture and ISO.

Shutter Speed Techniques:

Now that you know how to measure and adjust the shutter speed, let’s talk about how to use it to create different effects in your photos. One of the most important things to keep in mind when using shutter speed is the “rule of thumb” for hand-held photography, which is to use a shutter speed that is at least as fast as the reciprocal of the focal length.

For example, if you are using a 50mm lens, a safe shutter speed would be 1/50th of a second or faster.

Slow Shutter and Blur is not always bad:

Using a slow shutter speed can create motion blur, which can be used to create a sense of movement or motion in a photo.

There are two ways to do this.

  1. You can keep your camera still and locked onto a scene while a subject such as a car travels through the frame.  A slow shutter speed will cause the car to blur while the rest of the scene is in focus.  In creative photography in low light or at night when cars have lights switched on this setup creates light trails.
  2. You can follow your subject, such as a car at a slower shutter speed which is still fast enough to capture a good photo of the car, but slow enough for the everything else to blur.  This is called dragging the shutter.

It’s also important to note that when using slow shutter speeds, it’s highly recommended to use a tripod to prevent camera shake.

Fast Shutter and Freezing Motion:

Using a fast shutter speed can freeze motion if set fast enough, which is useful for capturing fast-moving subjects such as fast moving cars, athletes or wildlife. For example, if you are taking a photo of a bird in flight, you can use a fast shutter speed to freeze the motion of the bird’s wings.

A fast shutter speed can be used to reduce the amount of light in a high-contrast scene, such as a landscape with a bright sky and dark foreground. This can help to prevent the sky from being overexposed and the foreground from being underexposed, resulting in a more balanced exposure.

Advanced Shutter Speed Techniques:

Flash sync speed:

Flash sync speed is the fastest shutter speed at which a camera’s flash can be used effectively. When using a flash, the shutter speed should be set to the flash sync speed or slower to ensure that the entire image is properly exposed. For example, if the flash sync speed is 1/250th of a second, you can use a shutter speed of 1/250th or slower to ensure that the entire image is properly exposed when using a flash. This technique can be used to add fill light to a scene, or to freeze motion in low light situations.

Using slow shutter speeds for light painting:

Light painting is a technique where the camera’s shutter is left open for a period of time while a light source is moved around the scene. This can create interesting effects, such as streaks of light or trails of light. Slow shutter speeds are typically used for light painting, as they allow more light to be captured by the camera. For example, a shutter speed of 30 seconds would be used to capture a light trail created by moving a flashlight around a room.  You would need to set your aperture to a desired setting to allow the light to be capture at your desired depth of field and an ISO value to your desired exposure.  You would also need to set a focus manually to a point in the image where you capture everything in focus.

Combining shutter speed with other techniques:

Combining shutter speed with other techniques can create unique and dynamic images. One example is the zoom burst technique, where you zoom the lens while the shutter is open, creating a burst of light that radiates outward from the centre of the image. To achieve this effect, you would typically use a slow shutter speed and a wide aperture. This can be used to create a sense of motion, energy, and dynamism in the image.  This may take some practice but creates interesting effects.  This can also be combined with flashes in first curtain or second curtain mode where each will create a different look.  It is important to keep the camera as still as possible during the zoom, so a tripod or monopod is recommended.

In conclusion

Experimenting with different shutter speeds can lead to a wide range of creative and dynamic images. Whether you’re trying to freeze fast-moving subjects, reduce the amount of light in a scene, or create a sense of motion and energy, there’s a shutter speed that can help you achieve the effect you’re looking for. I encourage you to take your camera out and experiment with different shutter speeds, and to share your results with me on email. I would love to see the unique and creative images that you’re able to capture.

Don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube Channel at the beginning of this article and do join me for the next video, where I’ll be answering more of your photography questions.

The Exposure Triangle – What Is It?

Exposure Triangle – What is it?

Welcome to another Learn Photography for Free video

The question has been asked:  I have often seen or heard people referring to the Exposure Triangle, what is it?

In photography, the exposure triangle refers to the three main factors that control the exposure of a photograph: aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. These three factors work together to determine the amount of light that enters the camera and is recorded in the photograph.

See video:

Let’s start with aperture.

Aperture is one of the most confusing settings on a camera because it has two distinct functions. The first function is depth of field, which is a range of distances around the subject of the photograph that are in acceptable sharpness or focus. Depth of field is controlled by f-stops, with a small f-stop number corresponding to a small depth of field and a large f-stop number corresponding to a large depth of field. A small depth of field is often used in portraiture to isolate the subject from the background, while a large depth of field is commonly used in landscape photography to keep the entire image in focus.

The second function of aperture is to control the amount of light that passes through the lens. Again, Aperture is measured in f-stops, and a large aperture is represented by a small f-stop number. For example, f/1.8 or f/2.8 are large apertures because it lets a lot of light into the lens. Conversely, f/16 or f/22 is a small aperture because the iris opening in the lens is small and only allows a small amount of light to pass through. In photography, making the aperture smaller is known as “stopping down,” while making it larger is called “opening up.” It’s important to understand how aperture works and how it affects the exposure and depth of field in a photograph in order to take high-quality images.

Next, we have shutter speed.

The camera’s shutter is a curtain in front of the image sensor that stays closed until the camera is triggered to take a photograph. When the camera is triggered, the shutter opens and exposes the image sensor to the light that has passed through the lens. After the sensor has collected the light, the shutter closes, stopping the light from reaching the sensor. The button that triggers the camera to take a photograph is also called the “shutter button” or “shutter.”

Shutter speed is a setting in photography that refers to the speed at which the camera’s shutter opens and closes during the exposure process. It plays a role in two main functions: stopping motion by using a high shutter speed or creating blur by using a slow shutter speed. Shutter speed also controls the exposure of the photograph by allowing more or less light to reach the image sensor. A high shutter speed allows less light to enter the camera, resulting in a darker image, while a slow shutter speed allows more light to enter the camera, resulting in a brighter image.

Shutter speed is measured in fractions of a second, and most modern cameras can handle shutter speeds ranging from 1/4000th of a second at the fastest to 30 seconds at the slowest.

By understanding how shutter speed works and how it affects the motion, blur, and exposure in a photograph, photographers can take more effective and high-quality images.

Finally, we have ISO.

ISO is a measure of a camera’s sensitivity to light. At higher ISO values, the image may start to show more noise, which is an undesirable grainy texture that can degrade the overall quality of the photograph.

It’s best to use the lowest ISO value when possible, in order to get the highest quality image. This is because lower ISO values result in less noise and a higher dynamic range, which is the range of tones that the camera can capture. However, in certain situations, such as low light conditions, it may be necessary to use a higher ISO in order to properly expose the photograph. In these cases, it’s important to find the right balance between the desired exposure and the acceptable level of noise in the image.

By understanding how ISO works and how it affects the exposure and quality of a photograph, photographers can more effectively control the look and feel of their images.

This makes up the Exposure Triangle

Exposure Triangle

In order to properly expose a photograph, the photographer must balance these three factors, Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO. The photographer must decide which combination of these factors will result in the desired exposure for the photograph.

It’s worth noting that each of these factors also has its own set of trade-offs. For example, using a larger aperture (smaller f-stop number) will result in a shallower depth of field, but it will also require a faster shutter speed to properly expose the photograph. Similarly, using a higher ISO will increase the camera’s sensitivity to light, but it will also result in increased image noise.

By understanding the exposure triangle and how these three factors work together, photographers can more effectively control the look and feel of their images.

I hope you now have a better understanding of the exposure triangle.

Is Editing Required?

A Learn Photography for Free Video

The question has been asked:  Do I need to edit every photo I take?  I have attended some workshops, and everyone tells me that I need to edit my photos.  Do I need to learn Photoshop or other editing programs to become a good photographer?

See the video:

Do you need to edit every photo you take?  The short answer is NO.

Let me explain:

If you approach photography from the mindset that you can fix your photos by editing them to look good, then that will make you a good editor, not a good photographer.  If you approach photography from the mindset that you need t create the best possible photo in camera then you become a good photographer and any editing you may choose to add then enhances something which is already good.

A good photographer focuses on creating great images in camera while a graphic designer, graphic artist or photo retoucher takes what they have and manipulate it until they have something that looks good.

Do you need to learn something like Photoshop or Lightroom to be a good photographer…no…but in the long run it will enhance your images.  When you are a beginning photographer, focus on creating good photos without any editing, before you attempt any editing.  If a photo does not look right or something is wrong, then focus on how you can do it differently or better in camera with your next photo.  These are the primary skills that will make you a better photographer.

Eventually all photographers start editing images but trying to combine this skill with your photography from the start may result in you learning to become a good editor rather than becoming a good photographer.

Learn photography first and when you get to the point where you know your camera and what it can produce and you have mastered it functions and abilities, then you look at editing to go beyond the abilities of the camera.

I am not against editing or digital manipulation of images, nor filters which are available on the various social media platforms, but once you master photography then editing becomes an enhancement rather than a tool to fix bad photography.

If you at a point where you feel that you are ready to learn editing, then first do subtle edits such a adjustment of light using exposure, contrast, shadows and highlights.

For editing purposes, it is best to shoot photos in your cameras raw format if available.  If your camera can shoot RAW and JPG at the same time, use this function and then edit the raw to a point where your feel it looks better than the JPG image without it being overdone. 

When you enter the world of professional photography then editing is part of the job to enhance the great photos you have taken.  A professional photographer does not rely on their editing skill to make bad photos good.

If you have any questions, leave them in the comments section on the YouTube video above and I will try my best to answer them.

Learn Photography for Free

Would you like to learn about photography… for free?

I am Riaan Roux, and I am a Full Time Professional Photographer with a many of years of experience from Product Photography, stock photography, studio and portraits, model photography and even weddings.  I want to teach those who are new to photography how to improve their skill and how to make their photos just that much better, and I want to provide this free of charge for as long as I can.

Watch the video:

Learn Photography for Free

So many new photographers have told that they have attended workshops about beginner photography, and they often come out of these feeling more confused and with more questions than when they went in.  Often these beginner photography courses force beginners to learn technical concepts like shutter, aperture and ISO and hammer on “the exposure triangle”, rule of thirds, focal length and inverse square law of light fall-off…and and and…and people become confused and feel as if they are standing at the foot of a mountain that they are ill equipped to climb.

Though these technical concepts are important in the long run, I feel that these are not what beginners need.

Photography is about capturing an image and learning how to make that image interesting so that the image tells its own story.  Capturing an image in such a way that whoever looks at it knows what it is the photographer wants them to see.  Learning to get only the important bits into an image and avoid unintentional clutter.  Develop that photographers’ eye that can see an image before you even pick up the camera to snap the shot.

I am not going to start from the beginning with a set series of videos in which I want to force you to follow what every other photography course follows.  I want you, as a beginner photographer, to ask me what you want to know, and I will create videos as answers explain what you need to know. 

Here is your opportunity as a beginner photographer to ask me what YOU really want to know.

Ask your questions in the comments section of my YouTube Channel (see video above) and I will try to get to your answer as best I can. Ask away…

Review of the QZSD-ER

As a photographer you sometimes need odd equipment to get to angles which are difficult. Then you get to making video and some angles like static overhead shots become almost impossible.
I came across this simple piece of equipment which made my life so much easier when you need static overhead shots.

The QZSD-ER is a piece of equipment which you can add to your tripod to achieve static overhead photos or video. In this video I do a review of this extention rod and also demonstrate how it is used.