Most new digital photography beginners use their cameras on automatic. Is it because they don’t know any better or just easier keeping it on automatic? Maybe it’s a combination of both. But, effective use of shutter speed can dramatically improve your images. Here’s how.
Sometimes it’s too scary to take the setting off automatic and switch it to the Tv setting. Tv is the shutter speed setting and stands for time value as opposed to the other setter, Av which stands for aperture value. The problem most of us have when starting out is that if we change from automatic we’ll miss or mess up important photos that cannot be recaptured. There is any easy answer to this. Practise. Don’t try using the setting unless you are prepared to take the time to practise.
So what is shutter speed? It’s a simple answer. It’s the amount of time the shutter remains open when pressing the shutter button.
1. Shutter speed is measured in seconds
This is true but most of the time we are shooting in fractions of seconds e.g. 1/250th, 1/100th or even as low as 1/30th of a second. The bigger the number the shorter the time it is open. 1/1000th is open less than 1/60th of a second.
2. Slow shutter speeds need a tripod
If you are shooting anything lower than 1/60th of a second you will probably need a tripod or some support like leaning against a wall or post. A bean bag on top of something is a good alternative to a tripod.
3. Using your lens as a guide
What I mean by this is that if you are using a 100mm lens or the 100mm end of a zoom lens, use this as a guide to the minimum shutter speed i.e. 1/100th of a second would be you slowest speed you could use when shooting with a 100mm lens.
4. Freezing movement
In order to freeze movement in your images you need to use a fast shutter speed such as 1/250th, 1/500th or even 1/1000th of a second. The speed you decide on will be determined by the speed of the action. An athlete would be slower than, say a motorcycle racer.
5. Blurring an image
Sometimes you will want to intentionally blur an image to create the effect of speed. This is opposite to freezing movement so you’ll need to use a shutter speed of below 1/60th of a second. This basically allows the subject to travel across your image while the shutter is open. Faster subjects will create more blur. The key here is to experiment with the subject you want to capture.
6. Shooting in low light
When shooting in low light or taking shots of lighted buildings you need to reduce your shutter quite significantly. Most times you will be shooting in full seconds and need to use the B or bulb setting which allows you to keep the shutter open until you release it.
Remember that you cannot alter shutter speed in isolation to other settings such as aperture and ISO. The great thing about the TV setting is that when you alter the shutter speed, the camera automatically sets the correct aperture for you. In most cases this works but you need to realise that when the light is low and you are using a faster speed, you might not have a big enough aperture setting to let in sufficient light. You may need to compromise on your shutter speed and use a slower setting to capture the shot.
So there are limitations but practise will allow you to learn what works and what doesn’t. Experiment as much as possible to gain the experience to use your shutter speed setting at an important event. Effective use of shutter speed will dramatically improve you photography. Happy shooting.