Interested in learning more about how to Move to Manual? Check out A Day With Amy: Photography Workshop | ONLINE where I cover all of this and more in a series of live classes (8 hours of instruction!) teaching you everything you need to shoot in manual and start taking amazing images!
One attendee wrote: “The online workshop with Amy Earle is phenomenal! I successfully moved over to manual mode the second meeting of our online workshop (this was after 5 months of my own reading and researching). I highly recommend Amy’s workshop! My images have improved so much in such a short time frame. Amy is very patient and down-to-earth. Best money I have spent in a while!!”
I sure look forward to writing these posts and I know Courtney does too! I hope they are helpful to you on your journey to learn photography, create beautiful images, and capture memories. Make sure you check out the post Courtney wrote last week about understanding aperture and depth of field as all these posts build on each other.
Do you remember the last post I wrote about finding great light? I mentioned that photography comes from the Greek word for light. Finding great light is an important step for creating a beautiful image, but you also have to understand how that light gets to your camera’s sensor and how it affects your pictures.
The amount of light that enters your camera will determine your exposure. If too much light enters, your image will be over-exposed. If too little light enters, your image will be under-exposed. There are two ways that you can control how much (or how little) light enters your camera: aperture and shutter speed. Courtney talked about aperture last week and this week I’m going to discuss shutter speed.
A quick preview of shutter speed:
- When you press the shutter button on your camera, it opens and closes your shutter for a predetermined about of time.
- How long your shutter is open is called your shutter speed.
- Shutter speed is measured in time. Typically in seconds or fractions of a second.
- The longer your shutter is open, the more light is let into your camera. (The faster your shutter speed, the less light.)
- Shutter speed is responsible for recording motion in your image.
Take a moment and go get your camera. I want you to play with your shutter speed settings for a minute. Change your settings, see what shutter speeds your camera is capable of.
You probably have numbers that look like 1/200 (which is read: one two hundredth of a second) or 1/1200 (one twelve hundredth of a second) or 1/4 (one fourth of a second). (NOTE: some cameras will leave off the “1/” and just write the denominator. But remember you are still dealing with fractions.) What do those numbers mean? These numbers are the amount of time that the shutter is going to stay open. 1/200 means that the shutter will be open for one two hundredth of a second. That’s pretty fast.
Fast shutter speeds are used to freeze time. To capture the water suspended in time in this image (straight out of camera) of Courtney’s Little Man and my Miss B, I used a shutter speed of 1/1250. In that split second, my camera recorded each water droplet exactly where it was in that moment of time.
You also have numbers that look like 1″ (one second), 5″ (five seconds), 30″ (30 seconds). Rather than fractions of a second, the ” sign denotes full seconds.
Slow shutter speeds are used to show motion in an image. The sensor in your camera captures everything that happens when the shutter is open. If it is open for a short amount of time, it freezes time like in the image above. When a shutter is open for a longer amount of time, it captures all the motion that occurs while it is open. I took the image below 18 months ago when I first started teaching others about photography to show how a slow shutter speed captures motion and movement in a photo. My camera was on a tripod and my husband was holding a glow stick. My shutter speed was set at 4″ (four seconds). After I pushed the shutter button, he drew a heart in the air with the stick. My camera’s sensor captured all the movement that occurred in that 4″.
There are a ton of gorgeous images out there that demonstrate slow shutter speed photography if you google it. Beautiful soft waterfalls where the water appears to be moving, freeways at night time where white headlights and red taillights are a blur along the road, star trails in the night sky. All these are captured using a shutter speed set slow enough to record the movement of the scene.
(You probably also have a setting called “bulb”. In bulb your shutter will stay open from the time you press the shutter button until you push it a second time to close it. It’s best to use a tripod and remote for this setting.)
When I first got my DSLR, my images often looked like this one of Miss B. Here she was 3 months old and very wiggly. The day took this picture, I had shot a whole series of pictures. At the end of the session I was particularly frustrated. None of the images had turned out. Many of the images would have been perfect if not for the blur of her hands and/or feet. I didn’t understand what was wrong.
After some googling and lots of study, I realized that my images were turning out like this because my shutter speed was too slow. I was new on my photography journey and always had my camera in program mode. (The only difference between program mode and AUTO for me was that I had programed my camera not to use my flash.) By setting my camera to program mode, I was allowing it to make all the decisions. It had set my shutter speed to 1/40th of a second which was slow enough to capture the blur of Miss B’s wiggly hands. My camera didn’t know what I was taking a picture of. For all it knew, I could have wanted to capture the movement of her hands. This is why it is so important to start learning how to use your camera in manual mode. It’s the best way to consistently get the pictures you want.
NOTE: When I’m taking pictures of wiggly children (like my own Miss B), I keep my shutter speed set at 1/200 or faster to avoid blur in my images.
It’s important to remember that not only does your shutter speed record motion, it also lets light into your camera. If you let too much light in (with a slow shutter speed), your image will be over exposed. If you let too little light in (with a fast shutter speed), your image will be under exposed. This is part of the dance of using your camera in manual.
For now, practice using your camera in “S” mode (for Nikon users) or “Tv” mode (for Canon users). This will allow you to set your shutter speed while your camera makes the other decisions for you.
This week use your “S” or “Tv” mode to capture a few different types of images.
Try a slower shutter speed to capture movement. My kids like when I get images of them darting across the room while I’m using a slow shutter speed. They look like they are running at supersonic speeds. When you are using speeds slower than 1/50, you may get some blur in your images due to camera shake (this comes from even the slightest movements you make which will then move the camera if it is handheld). It’s best to use a tripod for slower speeds. If you don’t have a tripod, you can place your camera on a counter or a stack of books.
Try a faster shutter speed to freeze time. Have your kiddos splash water or jump up high and catch them suspended in air. Shutter speed is a blast to experiment with!
Have fun this week! Courtney will be back next week to discuss ISO!Pin It