The art of photography stands on a tripod, where each of the legs of the tripod denotes a fundamental pillar namely ISO, Aperture and the Shutter speed.

Today, we will shed some light on the importance of shutter speed in the endeavour of photography.

Shutter speed primarily determines two things: Brightness of the image, and creating or removing the blur in the picture. Let us dwell into it to get a better understanding.

The Shutter Explained

The existence of shutter speed is thanks to a certain shutter present in your camera, which acts as a curtain for the images sensor, unveiled only at the time when you are actually taking a picture.

Whenever you click to take a photo, the shutter gives way so as to expose the sensor to light which is filtered through the lens. As the sensor is appropriately exposed to light, the shutter like a humble servant closes, so as to stop the light interacting with the image sensor.

The button that you click excitedly is the shutter button, as it commands the shutter to open and shut as and when needed.

Understanding Shutter speed

Shutter speed can be simply understood as the amount of time that your camera shutter is kept open, thereby allowing light to fall on the image sensor. Fundamentally it is the time for which your camera is engaged in capturing an image.

The variation in the exposure time leads to many effects that can change the way an image looks from the other.

For example, if you keep the shutter open for a long period (slow shutter speed), you are letting the sensor take more light for longer time. This sometimes leads to what we call motion blur.

Motion Blur(slow shutter speed)

If the sensor is exposed for long, a subject if moving will appear blurred like leaving a trail behind. You may have viewed such blurs in a cartoon to signify greater speeds, the blur creates an illusion of speed and motion.

On the other hand, if the shutter is left open for a shorter period of times(fast shutter speed), the picture is clear and crisp. If you want everything sharp and want to eliminate any blur, reduce the exposure time.

This is quite useful in situations where you want to capture a scenic landscape and want to portray in its detailed eternal glory, where every detail matters and should be kept as is.

No Motion Blue (Faster Shutter speed)

The shutter speed can be used in another important way; to freeze a moment of time, Using high shutter speeds can help up freeze a frame for high-speed objects, like a Cheetah running after its prey, or Louis Hamilton gunning for another F1 title. It can also be used to capture the dew in the air, otherwise invisible to the naked eye.

Memorial Day Cheetah Run

All this and more can be done simply by controlling the speed of the shutter, i.e. the time for which it remains open. You can keep it open for 300th of a second or for a quarter of a second. After all, you are the master of your camera.

Most Cameras these days are capable of shutter speeds up to 4000th of a second, more advanced ones can double up to 8000th of a second while there are still others capable of even greater feats.

On the other end of the spectrum, modern day cameras can provide you with 30-second shutter open time, which can even be triggered remotely.

Shutter speed also has a profound effect on the brightness of a photo. If the shutter is open for long, the sensor is able to capture more light which leads to brighter images, Similarly, if the shutter is opened for smaller intervals the sensor has less light to work with resulting in darker images.

It has to be said that there areĀ other variables in play when it comes to the brightness of the image, ISO and aperture for example.

Also, the brightness of the environment which you are about to capture is also a big determinant for brightness. You can, therefore, choose a suitable shutter speed by using the other variables appropriately for a high-quality image.

Having said that shutter speed can help you capture photos that are properly lit up. If the sky is bright and sunny you can use fast shutter speeds so that you get all the light needed without needlessly exposing the image.

If the sun god is not very kind, or the conditions are dark, long shutter speeds will help you capture all the available light so that your photo does not appear too dark, one thing to note here is that when you are using long shutter speeds, the camera should be firmly held in its place minimising any movement, to avoid motion blur.

If you are very particular about eliminating the blur, a tripod can always come to rescue. People play with shutter speed to get the right brightness for their photo, often forgetting about its blurring aspect which should never be ignored if you are out there to capture the perfect frame.

The Slow, the Fast and the Long

If you are out there to capture a bird flapping its wings 500 times a second, to freeze it in a frame you would require fast shutter speed for example 1000th of a second.

For other mundane purposes, like capturing a walking human you may need slow shutter speeds(100th of a second) so that you can capture more details without introducing any blur.

After the fast and slow comes the long shutter, which may vary from a mere second to half a minute. Here, even a slight shake in the camera can spoil the image, so always use a steady tripod while going long. Long shutter speeds can be generally used in dark environments or to deliberately create a motion blur for artistic purposes.

The shaking of hands can also come in play when capturing photos in slow shutter speeds (between 100th of a second up to a second). Most manufacturers deal with it using there image stabilisation algorithms to compensate for any camera shake. You must also learn how to hold a camera properly in order to reduce the shake to a minimum.

Your DSLR allows you to set the shutter speed manually, while you can always choose the auto mode to let the camera decide what’s best.

Shutter Speed dial

Generally, you should let the camera choose the shutter speeds. But if you find that there is motion blur that you don’t particularly appreciate always take things into your hands.

Also if you are caught in the bokeh fever, tweak the shutter speed to create your own artwork. Let the hair down, experiment and shake things up. The more you play with your camera the better you get. So tinker a little and Click that photo now.

Happy Clicin’

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