Natural Bridge

The Shutter Speed Setting

Shutter Speed are one of the three main settings on a camera you need to understand to properly expose an image. Changeing the Shutter speed will influence two main things, first the amount of light reaching the sensor, thereby chancging the brightness of your photo, and creating dramatic effects by either freezing action or blurring motion.

Viewing this lesson in Virtual Reality

As part of my ‘Basics of Using a Camera‘ workshop, I have filmed this lesson to answer the question of ‘what is the f-stop?’ in a virtual reality 360 degree format which is best viewed using a virtual reality headset like the Oculus Quest. However you may also use a cheaper headset like a google cardboard with a smartphone mounted inside, or failing that you can also simply use a smart phone, or your mouse to click and drag through the video on a screen.

For best viewing make sure you select the highest quality of stream.

Click the play symbol to start

Understanding your camera’s shutter

In the below diagram you see a simple cutaway of the inside of a DSLR camera. The light from the scene you are trying to capture travels through the lens, and depending on if the mirror has been raised or not, will travel throguh to the sensor, thereby creating an image. If you have set your shutter speed to a fast setting, the amount of light reaching the sensor will be much less making your image darker, whereby if you have set the shutter speed slower, more light over time will reach the sensor, making your image brighter.

Capturing Motion

A magical part of still photography is playing with shutter speed when capturing moving objects. If you set your shutter speed to a fast setting, it means that less light, over a shorter amoutn of time reaches your camera’s sensor, thereby freezing time. The result can be that something moving that you’re taking photos of will be ‘frozen’ in your image. Whereby if you set your shutter speed lower, light will reach your sensor over a longer period of time and capture any movement that happens during that time. This can be often be seen as a ‘blur’ in a photograph. This may be a good or bad thing depending on what type of image you’re after.

An example is below of images of a spinning windmill with a short shutter speed on the left and a slow shutter speed on the right.

How Shutter Speed is Measured

Shutter speeds are usually measured in fractions of a second, when they are under a second. For example 1/4 means a quarter of a second, while 1/250 means one two-hundred-and-fiftieth of a second (or four milliseconds). Longer exposures can be recorded in multiples of whole seconds. For example when I’m out taking photos of waterfalls or moving water, I might want to have a shutter speed of at least 5 seconds. Some examples are below.