Two weeks ago, I wrote a post on ISO, so today we’re moving onto the second pillar of photography, shutter speed! If you’re not familiar with what that means, shutter speed is the unit of measurement which determines how long the shutter stays open when capturing an image. Shutter speed works in tandem with aperture to determine how much light reaches your sensor.
Shutter speeds are expressed in fractions of a second or whole seconds. With each shutter speed increment, the amount of light that is let in is halved.
So how do you go about selecting a shutter speed? Generally speaking, the faster the shutter speed, the better because the faster the shutter can open and close the crisper, your image will be. The best example of using a fast shutter speed is capturing action without it blurring. For fashion, lifestyle and food shots, I’d say that as bloggers, we typically want things to be really crisp and sharp, not blurred. So I always get my settings to a place where my shutter speed can be fast.
The longer your shutter remains open, the more likely it is that you’ll get a blurry image and that’s because humans are human. Even if you’re sitting ‘perfectly still’, some natural body movement will happen and those little movements can make your image blurry.
Long shutter speeds can be used to capture movement — think car lights at night or pouring a jug of lemonade. There are definitely times when a slower aperture makes a photo more attractive. You should consider using a tripod though to take away that human error I talked about earlier.
But for everyday shots and most of your blog pictures, you’ll probably want them to be crisp, so I typically keep the shutter speed as fast as possible to maintain a crisp image, but don’t be afraid to change it when the lighting situation calls for it. A good rule of thumb I once heard was to look at your lens. Let’s say you’re using a 50mm — don’t let your shutter speed go below 1/50. I even think 1/50 is pretty low and usually the lowest I’ll go is 1/150. Pull out your camera and change the shutter speed to see the difference in real life.
Yes, shutter speed plays just as important of a role as film speed and aperture, but I think of it as the fine-tuning. I typically set my aperture (coming in two weeks!) first and then base my film speed of that and the available light and lastly I change my shutter speed. As I’m shooting, I’ll change it up or down a bit as the light source changes. If you look through your viewfinder, you’ll notice a meter at the bottom and if you roll the wheel either direction, you’ll see that the little notch moves. Ideally, you want it in the middle, but do note that sometimes the light meter can’t read the situation perfectly (backlighting is tricky because of this). For the most part, it’s pretty accurate, but there’s plenty of times where you’ll have to take a few test shots, and decide whether the image is properly exposed or whether it needs more or less light and adjust from there. At the end of the day, the light sensor is a machine and can’t predict some of the things the eye can see, so use your own judgement!
Now it’s time for you to practice. Pull out your camera and check out the light meter when you look through the viewfinder and play around with the changing the shutter speed to see what happens. Like most things, practice makes perfect, so keep practicing and playing with your manual settings. The more you use them, the more familiar you will become with them!
Questions? Leave them below, I’m happy to answer! And if you’re looking for what kind of camera equipment to invest in, I’m sharing my favorites here!