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The easiest way to understand shutter speed – quick guide for beginners

what is the shutter speed

In this article, we are going to look at:  what is the shutter speed? How the shutter works and how you can use it in photography. Before start, you have to keep in mind that shutter speed is one component of exposure. Understanding shutter speed works and control are very important to capture right amount of lights.

What is the shutter speed?

Shutter speed is the time which shutter opens and close. The shutter is metal curtain which is in front of the sensor.Shutter speed helps you to freeze subjects or make subjects bluer. And also it determines how much amount of lights came into the camera.

Normally, if you want to take a shot with a motion bluer, you can use a slow shutter. And if you want to take a shot of faster moving subject without blurring, like a bird in flight, you can use a faster shutter speed like 1/1000th second or faster shutter.

How shutter works

The shutter open to let lights into the camera onto the sensor and it close again. Slow shutter speed means brighter your images and fast shutter speed means less light.

In order to understand how shutter works, let say you have a shutter thousand of a second, it means we divide second into 1000 of pieces and shutter open in very small time and it closes again.

For another example, you have a ten of a second shutter, which means the shutter opens and closes in 1/10th second. To better understand this example, look at the image bellow.

shutter speed examples

You can use a shutter like a thousand of a second to take faster moving subjects, for examples races, bird in flight.  So keep in mind, fast shutter speed means freeze your faster moving subject to take a shot and it also means less light get into the camera.

If your subject is bright and it isn’t moving you can use a faster shutter because your subject is bright. Let say your subject is the sun, so you don’t need to concern about lights because the sun is a bright object.

If you want to shoot in a dark movement, like in the evening or in an artificial lights environment, which means, the camera needs more lights to get into the camera because you shoot in a less light condition. So you can use a slow shutter speed in order to let more lights into the camera.

There is a very important thing you should keep in mind when you use a slow shutter speed is that your hand shake.When you are holding the camera and you hand is shaking; it means your images are blurred. You can simply avoid this using a tripod. However some lenses have image stabilization feature to avoid this.

But you can also use a little fast shutter speed because you can control amount of the lights get into the camera by controlling the aperture and also you can increase the light artificially using the ISO settings. Try to use right ISO range because if you use unnecessary ISO range (too much) which means your images are noisy.

The best way to understand these things are practice. It is the best way you can understand these concepts very well, just take photos and enjoy. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes because mistakes are our friends, when you make mistakes you learn new lessons. Every mistake teaches us new lessons and no one is not going to blame you about your mistakes. So don’t be afraid, learn through mistakes.

Well, let’s say you want to take a motion bluer photograph, so you can use a slow shutter speed. Examples for slow shutter speed photography: blurring moving water, fireworks, light painting. You can also use a slow shutter speed if you want to show the direction of moving subjects, like car, motorcycle, waterfall and etc.

If you haven’t read our camera buying guide make sure to read it. We have pointed out some very important other factors that you should consider when you are going to buy a camera. I hope this article was helpful you to understand: what is the shutter speed, how it works and how you can use it in photography.


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