Definition of Shutter Speed : Shutter Priority Mode Explained in DSLR

Definition of Shutter Speed :

Definition of Shutter Speed : Shutter Priority Mode Explained in DSLR
Shutter Speed Explained in Graphics

Definition of Shutter Speed : Like its name, its a physical shutter which opens and exposes camera sensor to light, and then closes as per your shutter speed. The length of time that shutter keeps open is called the shutter speed and also sometimes referred to as ‘exposure time’. We generally measures this in seconds. The shutter speed scale is generally half or double of its previous value and gradually it can go as fast as 1/2000 or 1/4000 or slowest can be 30 sec. Further in this article, Shutter Priority Mode Explained in DSLR for beginners.

Shutter speed is one of the three sides of our exposure triangle, along with aperture and ISO, that allow us to control the brightness of our image. These three things work together to give us both creative control and also exposure control for our photos. We can select a fast shutter speed that freezes any action in a photo, or we can select a slow shutter speed that introduces ‘motion blur’ to any moving objects within our image.

Scale to measure each value in DSLR is called STOPS. The most commonly used shutter speeds are : 30, 15, 8, 4, 2, 1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250, 1/500, 1/1000, 1/2000, 1/4000 n goes on.

The maximum  exposure you can select by camera is 30 sec. To go below 30 sec like for a Min or 2 min, you need to switch to BULB mode. Click here to see what BULB mode is all about. Above picture clearly illustrate the use of shutter speed. With slow shutter you will get the motion blur because camera sensor exposes to subject for longer period of time where with fast shutter it captures the sharp image of an object.


Fast shutter speed can be selected to freeze the motion of fast moving subject, as in situation like 

  • Panning of super car/motorbike sports race.
  • Capturing planes and helicopter, fast shutter speed would freeze the propellers and its movement in sky.

    Slow shutter speed can be used in situation like:
  • Capturing light trails.
  • To give silky smooth effect to flowing like, like  waterfall.

Note : When you shoot with handheld with slow shutter speed then camera can shake and final image can be blurry. At the max you can shoot till 1/60 without any shake. Below this point you have to use tripod to avoid camera movement during exposure.

Fast Shutter speed = Sharp picture in good lighting condition, Also less light reaches sensor.Slow shutter speed = The result can be shaky with slow shutter but it will allow more light to enter in camera. This Can be used when lighting is not good and you dont want to compromise with Aperture.

How to decide shutter speed :

There is no straight forward answer to this. Aperture, ISO and Shutter speed are Related (Read here how) to each other. So increasing or decreasing one thing might affect other. I will try to explain this with two examples :

1. When you can compromise with Shutter speed but not with Aperture :

You want to shot Portrait with Aperture f/1.8 (fixed) : means Bigger Opening More Light and Bokeh effect

If light condition is good enough, you can keep shutter speed as 1/250 or you can go even higher. If light is dim, you have to allow more light to reach sensor, Aperture is allowing more light to come already with f/1.8, now you need to keep shutter speed below 1/125 or 1/60 to max handheld. Slower shutter will allow more light to enter. And If its dark, you need to keep shutter speed as low as 1/20 or 1/30. You will be required tripod to avoid any shake due to slow shutter.

You want to shot Landscape shot with Aperture 8.0 G (fixed) : means Smaller Lens Opening Less Light

If light condition is good enough, you can keep shutter speed as 1/250 or you can go even higher. If light is dim, you have to allow more light to reach sensor. You have kept Aperture as f/8.0 which is allowing  very less light to reach sensor. So, here you need to slow down shutter speed like in between 1/60 or 1/30 or may be 1/15 and you definitely need tripod to shoot. And If its dark, then final image would be underexposed with f/8.0 aperture. To compensate, shutter speed has to be as low as 1/20 or 1/10 or even 1 sec depending upon how dim light is. You will also required tripod here to avoid any shake due to slow shutter.

2. When you can compromise with Aperture but not with Shutter speed:

You probably shooting on a race track with higher shutter speed.

Suppose you have kept your shutter speed as 1/1000 to shot motorbike race which will pass on track at very high speed. Here bigger aperture like f/1.8 will give you more light to work with but also it will blur the background of subject. To get everything in focus you need to change your aperture to f/8.0 or f/16.0 which will keep foreground and background tack sharp.

Now, for f/8.0 or f/16.0 you should have good enough lighting condition. If lighting is poor then aperture needs to be wide open but again you don’t want this as it will blur the background. Here you can use third pillar of photography ISO, you can bump up the ISO to 400 or 600 to check which setting is working for you with minimum noise.

Remember, higher ISO also bring lots of noises in your photo, so use it when you don’t have any option left to play with Aperture or Shutter speed. In most cases just try to change these 2 things, if nothing works then ISO would be the last option. Use it wisely 🙂

OR probably you are shooting light trails or Silky waterfall affect :

To shot light-trails or waterfall silky affect you have to use slower shutter speed like 1/20 or 1/10. With this slow shutter you are allowing more n more light to reach sensor which will result overexposed image. So to compensate this you can use bigger f number like f/8.0 or f/16.0, means small opening and less light. Again even with f/8.0 or f/16.0 you are getting overexposed image due to slow shutter then keep increasing f number to maximum your lens supports and check which f number suits for your click.

Alternatively, You can use Exposure Compensation button to fix this. Its explained here “What is Exposure and Exposure Compensation” .

Shutter Priority Mode Explained in DSLR :

The length of time that this shutter is open is called the shutter speed and also sometimes referred to as ‘exposure time’. Shutter speed is one of the three sides of our exposure triangle, along with aperture and ISO, that allow us to control the brightness of our image. These three things work together to give us both creative control and also exposure control for our photos. We can select a fast shutter speed that freezes any action in a photo, or we can select a slow shutter speed that introduces ‘motion blur’ to any moving objects within our image.

Few Points:

  • If there is very little light available, the shutter speed will slow down because it takes longer for the camera to record the image.
  • If we make the camera sensor more sensitive by bumping up ISO, we can speed up the shutter. Conversely, if we lower the ISO sensitivity, the shutter slows down.
  • If we open up the aperture so it lets more light in, we speed up the shutter too. If we shoot at a smaller aperture, we slow down the shutter.

Image samples showing uses of Shutter Speed :

With high Shutter speed: 

NIKON D3300, Shutter Speed : 1/800 sec @ 18mm, ISO : 400, Aperture : f/10.0 

With Slow shutter speed:

Definition of Shutter Speed : Shutter Priority Mode Explained in DSLR
Exif: Nikon D3300, Aperture: ƒ/13.0 @ 35.6 mm, Shutter speed: 30 sec, ISO: 200

 

Definition of Shutter Speed : Shutter Priority Mode Explained in DSLR
Exif: Nikon D3300, Aperture: ƒ/2.8 @ 35 mm, Shutter speed: 1/2 sec, ISO: 100

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