Getting to Know Shutter Speed

A couple of weeks ago I looked at how changing your aperture can allow you to get more creative with your photography by changing the depth of field - I hope you all were able to take some time to play around with it! Today I thought I'd look at the next element in the Exposure Triangle and introduce how Shutter Speed can affect your photographs.

What is Shutter Speed? 
Shutter Speed is essentially how quickly the shutters open and closes over the opening in your camera, and controls how long the light is allowed to hit your camera sensor. Shutter speed is usually measured in seconds or fractions of a second for example 1/50 or 1/600.  The smaller the number, the longer the shutters are open for. The larger the number, the faster the shutter closes.

What does that actually do? 
The main reason for changing shutter speed when getting more creative with your photos is to control how motion is captured. For example, if you wanted to freeze the motion so the subject is caught perfectly without blurring, you would use a faster shutter speed.  If you want to show the motion through blurring, then use a slower shutter speed .

Shutter Speed 1/1000

What Shutter Speed should I use?
This really depends on whether you want to freeze the action or have motion blur. Most of the time when photographing children, we are looking at ways to stop motion blur by making sure we have a high enough shutter speed, so here is some examples for stopping unintentional blur.

If you child is nice and still, you can use a lower shutter speed of around 1/125
For photographing children who are playing but in one place, aim for shutter speeds of around 1/200.
For children playing running around, aim for shutter speeds of at about 1/500.
For playing sports, aim ever higher, at about 1/1000

If you do ever want to try and show motion blur, please note that it should look intentional - and there is a specific skill to this! You want the movement to be the only blurry part of the image - this generally involves using a tripod, so is not something I do much with a toddler running around!  You are probably looking at shutter speeds of around 1/8 to 1/60 depending on what you are trying to capture.

Anything else I should know?
You can get motion blur just by your movement with the camera, even if you think you are perfectly still! A good rule of thumb to ensure you don't get unintentional motion blur by just holding the camera is to use a higher number than the focal length of your lens for your shutter speed. For example if you were using a 50mm lens, you need to use a shutter speed of at least 1/60. If you are using a 85mm focal length, then you need to use a shutter speed of at least 1/100. However, I normally go higher than this (I have shaky hands!)

Shutter Speed 1/250

Getting to know Shutter Speed: Your Turn! 
It's not quite as easy to play around with shutter speed as it is with Aperture, as there are different techniques depending on the result you want to achieve but this post really isn't about that - more about experimenting with Shutter Speed so you can see the affect it has on your photos and on the other camera settings.

When your kids are out playing, dancing or generally causing mayhem, get out your camera and set it to Shutter Priority (Tv) and choose a high shutter speed, I'd say around 1/1250. This will pretty much freeze all motion. Keep lowering your shutter speed and firing away, and you'll see that you start to get bits of the picture of out of focus, for example a hand or foot - that's motion blur coming into play. As you get down to the lower numbers, they will pretty much be a blurry mess. When you are moving through the range of shutter speeds, keep an eye on how this affects your other settings. (If you do want to play around to try to get intentional motion blur, the trick is to keep the camera completely still, as  this will ensure that the setting is sharp, but the kids are blurry. You'll definitely need a tripod for this, or at least anchor the camera in some way, like on a table or fence)

The following photos are of bubbles coming out of Callum's favorite new toy - The Bubble Gun -but taken at different shutter speeds. The first is taken at such a slow shutter speed that I've captured the path of light shining of each bubble as it goes through the air.  In the second, I've used a fast shutter speed so you can see each individual bubble.

 Shutter Speed 1/13

Shutter Speed 1/2000 (it really didn't need to be this high!)

I hope that helps you understand Shutter Priority mode on your camera a little better. Playing around with it might seem like a waste of time, but if you aren't yet comfortable shooting on anything but Auto, it's great practice for learning to shoot Manual (which is where this is all slowly heading!)

P.S There are so many ways to get creative with motion blur that I am actually going to direct you to another sit to see some examples. Go to Cambridge in Color where they have a great tutorial on uses of different shutter speeds and techniques if you want to take it a step further - and I will be looking at ideas for use of creative motion blur in future posts!

Other Posts You Might Like: 

Getting Creative With Aperture 
How to Photograph Children: Camera Settings
A Quick Tutorial on Camera Exposure 


Chrysti said...

I love this website! i read one article at a time, thank you so much for all the tips and for keeping up with this website.

Audrey said...

I'm so glad you are enjoying it - thank you!

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