Photography Basics - Shutterspeed - mikecphoto








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Shutterspeed controls how long your camera exposes for a picture. A long exposure time is generally used for low light and night photography whilst shorter exposures are best for everyday photography in normal light. If you are taking sports images or pictures of animals or cars then you would need an even quicker shutterspeed.


Sharp images

To get sharp images you need to have a shutterspeed quick enough so that any handshake doesn't affect the shot. The general rule for what shutterspeed to use is normally 1/focal length for full frame cameras and 1/(focal length*1.6) for APS-C cameras. For smaller sensor cameras you may need even fast shutterspeeds.

eg with a focal length of 60mm...
Full frame: 1/60sec for sharp exposure.
Cropped Sensor: 1/96 for sharp exposure.

Short Shutterspeeds

For shutterspeeds of 1/15 or slower you would normally need to use a tripod so that your shots are sharp. If you don't use a tripod you may have handshake resulting in the picture not good focus. Vibration Reduction and Image Stabilisation may help to some extent, but I always think of those as a bonus and prefer to always stick to the rules above.
Toronto Cityscape at Dusk

F/4 | 1/640 sec | ISO 100

Medium Shutterspeeds

For shutterspeeds from 1/30 to around 1/320 you could use these for most every day shots and get sharp images. Remember the rule above for sharp images so the shutterspeed you'd need depends on the focal length you are using for your lens. Sometimes you could go faster to guarantee sharp shots as I have done below.

New York City Skyline from Brooklyn Bridge

F/11  | 1/320 sec | ISO 200

Fast Shutterspeeds

For pictures of sports, fast moving vehicles, animals etc you would generally a faster shutterspeed. You could use a slower shutterspeed and try a panning effect. If you don't use a fast shutterspeed when shooting some of the mentioned subjects you would most likely get blurry out of focus shots.
Boat on Hudson River

F/4 | 1/1600 sec | ISO 500

Shutter Priority Mode

A lot of modern cameras now have a shutter priority mode (TV Canon, S Nikon). This allows you to set the shutterspeed for your camera. The aperture will then be set by the camera when you go to expose for the shot. This would limit your control of depth of field though but is often a good option for ensuring your shots are always sharp. Note if you're pictures are coming out too dark at the shutterspeed you pick then you may need a slower shutterspeed and if your picture are too light then you may need a fast shutterspeed.

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