The length of time light is allowed into the camera is an important component of exposure. Shutter speed is one of the key elements in the exposure triangle however it has various uses in photography and can be used to achieve clarity in moving objects, capture images in low light situations and create stylistic images.
This setting is a measure of time and controls how long light is able to hit the sensor. It is measured on a camera as either fractions of seconds or whole seconds. For example a shutter speed of 1/2000 means the shutter is open for a 2000th of a second – a very short period of time. Where as having a shutter speed of 5″ indicates that the shutter is open for 5 whole seconds.
Slow Shutter Speeds
Having the shutter open for longer allows more light to be detected, such that having a slow shutter speed, a.k.a. a long exposure time, will allow for more to be seen in low light situations. However the longer that the shutter is open, the more movement will be blurred as light passes over the sensor. Movement while the shutter is open can lead to blurry objects or images and any shutter speed longer than 1/60 of a second will commonly be blurry if the camera is being handheld. Using a tripod or camera stabilising method, such as putting the camera on a flat surface, will ensure that any photos taken with long exposures will maintain clarity.
Fast Shutter Speeds
Having the shutter open for a very brief period of time takes a very quick snapshot of action. Fast shutter speeds are very useful for capturing movement and are commonly used in sports photography. Using a quick shutter speed will ensure any person or object that is moving will have clarity, capturing the moment the photograph was snapped. Fast shutter speeds do not allow long for light to enter the camera, and while this is helpful for capturing movement it can result in dark photographs. If a fast shutter speed in required the other two elements of the exposure triangle. ISO and aperture, need to be adjusted to brighten the photograph.
Freezing and Blurring Motion
I captured various images of water falling onto a glass with different shutter speeds.
The following shows the image with shutter speeds:
5″ ~ 1″ ~ 1/8 ~ 1/25 ~ 1/125 ~ 1/500 ~ 1/1000 ~ 1/8000
To show the difference in panning movement I photographed a ball rolling across a table. The following shows the rolling ball at the following shutter speeds:
1″ ~ 0″5 ~ 1/4 ~ 1/8 ~ 1/15 ~ 1/30 ~ 1/100
For this test I zoomed in on the ball to create stylistic zoom lines.
Utilising a slow shutter speed of between 5 – 15 seconds the movement of light can be turned into light paintings. Capturing light trails requires a large aperture to allow in more light.
These images were captured at 10″ with an aperture of f/5.6 and an ISO of 200.