Photography’s a funny thing… With most arts and crafts you start with a nothing apart from say paper and paint or a bucket of clay and fashion something of beauty from that. Photography works the other way around: we start with a fully formed scene in front of us and attempt to manipulate it in some way to capture an impression of some part of it we’d like to convey to our viewer. Luckily we have a few tools to help us do that and one of them is shutter speed, that aspect we’ve already mentioned in connection with exposure. So, what is it? Well, let’s go back to film for a moment. We load a roll of light sensitive material in the back of our cameras which is contained and maintained in a light-proof environment. Then, for a fraction of second, we expose it to light, move the film on and repeat before sending it off to be made into prints. The shutter is the device that controls for how long the film is exposed to light. It might be a blade within the lens or it might be a pair of metal or fabric curtains just in front of the film itself. With digital cameras both of those options still exist but now it might be just an electronic virtual “shutter”, not a physical one at all. The actual mechanism is not so important for right now. It’s just something that allows us to control for how long the sensor is exposed. So how can we use this to change our image? Let’s think of photographing a race car at full speed. What are some options?
Let’s think about how these might come out.
On your camera choose shutter priority mode. On most cameras with is probably sensibly labelled “S” but on some Canon cameras will be called ”TV” (time value). The camera will still calculate what it thinks the correct exposure is, but now lets us dictate what shutter speed to use.
So now we’re in control let’s go out and shoot. Rather than a car we’ve chosen an example of running water here. The first is a perfectly reasonable shot, at 1/250 second. But, to me, it’s a bit boring. There’s no feeling of movement, we could just as well be looking at ice:
So let’s increase the exposure by quite a bit, to 1/13 second. Here the impression is totally different! We feel the water’s speed and now can see the warm afternoon sun playing off of it. And the blurred water forms a nice backdrop to any foreground elements in the picture rather than fighting with them:
And,here’s a fountain at 2 seconds:
Next up, aperture…