Shutter Speed – Which to use and when

Shutter Speed
Shutter speed is a setting on your camera which controls the length of time the shutter is open, allowing light through the lens to the sensor inside your camera. Shutter speeds can go from very small fractions of a second, to several seconds long on most cameras.
If you allow the shutter to be open for too long then too much light will get to the sensor. When this happens you end up with pictures that are very pale and almost all white. This is known as being Over Exposed.
If you don´t leave the shutter open enough you would get an Under Exposed image. This is because not enough light got through to the cameras sensor. So in order to compensate against lower levels of light, you would need to keep the shutter open for longer.

Cameras have an inbuilt light meter to help with this. This is also tied in with aperture which we covered earlier. If you have a wide open aperture (small f number) then more light is allowed in, and if you use a small aperture (large f number) then less light is allowed in.
This may seem straight forward enough, but the longer the shutter is open, the more chance there is of ending up with a blurred image. The slightest of movements while the shutter is open will register as a blurred effect. Sometimes this can be the desired effect, but most of the time you want a sharp image. Using a tripod, sitting the camera on a solid object like a wall or the floor or holding the camera against a solid object like a big tree or wall can help reduce the chances of getting blurry images. You can also adjust the ISO to help get longer shutter speeds. This have been covered here.

Shutter Priority is another partly manual mode that most digital cameras will allow you to use. (aperture is the other) Shutter Priority is usually indicated as an S (Nikon) or Tv (canon) on the camera and it allows you to set the shutter speed while the camera will control the aperture setting.

6 secs, ISO 80, f4.5 manual mode. A night time shot of the coliseum in Rome with light trails of a bus. This time I was without a tripod so I placed the camera on a trash can for stability.

1/1000 s
1/500 s
1/250 s
1/125 s
1/60 s
1/30 s
1/15 s
1/8 s
1/4 s
1/2 s
1 s (some cameras, specially the DSLR´s will have faster and shorter shutter speeds.)
B (for bulb) keeps the shutter open as long as the shutter release is held.
Slow Shutter Speed Shutter speed is considered to be “long” or “slow” when it is slower than 1/60th of a second. (Remember, this is marked as 60 on your camera dial or display.) This numbers comes from the fact that most people can only hold a standard lens (between 35mm and 70mm) steady for 1/60th of a second or less. This is different from the commonly used term “long exposure” which usually refers to shutter speeds of over 1 second.

 0.25 secs, ( ¼) f36, manual mode.

Fast Shutter Speed Fast shutter speeds are generally considered to be those shutter speeds faster than 1/500th of a second. These shutter speeds are used to freeze, or stop, motion for a clear image when shooting fast subjects.

1/1250 sec ISO 200 f/9 These are two blue footed boobies fishing at sunset.

1/500 sec, ISO 500 f/5.3 This is a section of the monument to the miner in southern Ecuador.

Rule of Thumb

A good rule of thumb for knowing the slowest shutter speed you can use with a particular lens, without using a tripod, is to use the number of the lens size. For example, a 300 mm lens can be hand held at shutter speeds of 1/300th of a second and faster. Note that the minimum hand held speed should never be below 1/60th of a second without image stabilization assistance from your camera or lens.

Ice Skating
Jumps – 1/250
Open Spins – 1/350
Tight Spins – 1/500
Pitched Ball Parallel to Photographer – 1/1000 (1/500 for blur)
Pitched Ball Coming at Photographer – 1/500
Players Catching a Ball – 1/350
Running Players – 1/350 (depending on angle to camera)
Players Preparing to Throw a Ball – 1/350
Pitched Ball Parallel to Photographer – 1/1000 (1/500 for blur)
Pitched Ball Coming at Photographer – 1/500
Players Catching a Ball – 1/350
Running Players – 1/500 (depending on angle to camera)
Players Preparing to Throw a Ball – 1/350
Players Running Towards Photographer – 1/250
Players Running Parallel to Photographer – 1/500
Cheerleader Being Tossed – 1/250
Kids Running
Towards the Camera – 1/180
Parallel to the Camera – 1/250
People Jumping
Unassisted – 1/350
Trampoline or with Other Assist – 1/500
Golf Balls Parallel to Photographer – 1/3200
Golf Swing Parallel to Photographer – 1/2500
Waves – 1/350
Splash from Thrown Object – 1/1500
Please remember these are just general guidelines and rules are meant to be broken.
Shutter speed is measured in seconds – or in most cases fractions of seconds. The bigger the denominator the faster the speed (ie 1/1000 is much faster than 1/30).
If you’re using a slow shutter speed (anything slower than 1/60) you will need to either use a tripod or some some type of image stabilization (more and more cameras are coming with this built in).
Motion is not always bad –There are times when motion is good. For example when you’re taking a photo of a waterfall and want to show how fast the water is flowing, or when you’re taking a shot of a racing car and want to give it a feeling of speed, or when you’re taking a shot of a star scape and want to show how the stars move over a longer period of time etc. In all of these instances choosing a longer shutter speed will be the way to go. However in all of these cases you need to use a tripod or you’ll run the risk of ruining the shots by adding camera movement (a different type of blur than motion blur).

 1.25 sec (1/4) f/45 ISO 100 I blurred this shot on purpose, the f/ stop is high to get a slow shutter speed in bright light conditions.

Focal Length and Shutter Speed – another thing to consider when choosing shutter speed is the focal length (the .mm of the zoom) of the lens you’re using. Longer focal lengths will accentuate the amount of camera shake you have and so you’ll need to choose a faster shutter speed (unless you have image stabilization in your lens or camera). The ‘rule’ of thumb to use with focal length in non image stabilized situations) is to choose a shutter speed with a denominator that is larger than the focal length of the lens. For example if you have a lens that is 50mm 1/60th is probably ok but if you have a 200mm lens you’ll probably want to shoot at around 1/250.
Remember that thinking about Shutter Speed in isolation from the other two elements of the Exposure Triangle (aperture and ISO) is not really a good idea. As you change shutter speed you’ll need to change one or both of the other elements to compensate for it.
For example if you speed up your shutter speed one stop (for example from 1/125th to 1/250th) you’re effectively letting half as much light into your camera. To compensate for this you’ll probably need to increase your aperture one stop (for example from f16 to f11). The other alternative would be to choose a faster ISO rating (you might want to move from ISO 100 to ISO 400 for example).

White Balance in Digital Photography

White balance is unique to digital cameras, this was not an issue on film cameras. It is the process of getting rid of the ´weird´ colour cast that we often see after taking the photo. Proper camera white balance has to take into account the ?colour temperature? of a light source, which refers to the relative warmth or coolness of white light. Our eyes are very good at judging what is white under different light sources, but digital cameras often have great difficulty with auto white balance (AWB) — and can create unsightly blue, orange, or even green color casts. Understanding digital white balance can help you avoid these color casts, thereby improving your photos under a wider range of lighting conditions.
– Auto – (AWB) this is where the camera makes a best guess on a shot by shot basis. You‘ll find it works in many situations but it‘s worth venturing out of it for trickier lighting. If you are shooting in RAW you can use this setting all the time and adjust in you favourite editing software. The downside is the time you take in doing so.
– Tungsten- this mode is usually symbolized with a little bulb and is for shooting indoors, especially under tungsten (incandescent) lighting (such as bulb lighting). It generally cools down the colors in photos.
– Fluorescent- this compensates for the ?cool‘ light of fluorescent light and will warm up your shots.
– Direct Sunlight/Daylight- Great for direct sunlight..
– Cloudy- this setting generally warms things up a touch more than ?daylight‘ mode. Used in cloudy situations. I personally like this setting and use it more for outdoor shooting even with sunny days. I t can also be used for shade.
– Flash- the flash of a camera can be quite a cool light so in Flash WB mode you‘ll find it warms up your shots a touch.
– Shade – Use shade white balance in shady area‘s or sunset shots. It will help give a warmer color to your shots.
-Custom. With this setting you must take a picture of something of neutral color, ( a white card of grey car) in the light situation you are currently in. Use the menu setting on your camera (read the manual) you can calibrate the camera to use this setting. Personally I prefer this setting for indoors when you have more control over the light, as when you use it outside the light changes very frequently and therefore the settings need to be changed in camera.



Fill the Frame.

The Cross – Slight crop to achieve the composition I desired.

One of my favourite techniques is to fill the frame, that doesn´t mean I don´t like other techniques likenegative spacein photography but there is something special about this one. It means using a zoom lens, cropping in post processing or using your feet, your feet??? I have to walk? well yes, but how far depends on your situation with each photo you take, although there are times I recommend using a zoom lens, especially when it comes to wild animals, like lions, see below photo.

Couldn´t resist in leaving this one large. LOL . Believe it or not there is no crop on the lion photo, just a nice long zoom lens.

Filling the frame adds impact to the composition. You need to think more about the details. The sharpness of the photo, the reflections in the eyes, the mood of the photo.

Again, no crop, just used my feet to get in close for this photo.

If you are going to crop in post processing you should also consider what you will be doing with your image, as you won´t be able to print as large as if you have a full size image. So when you are in the process of taking the photo consider the final result.

The Lock – This was taken with a 50mm lens and then cropped

There will be times when a little background is visible, in which case think about it as you would any other composition.

I took this in studio conditions with artificial light and then cropped. The post processing was done in PS.


The sheep, I was lying down on the ground for this one, she looked at me attentively for a moment or two, enough to take this. no crop with this photo.

Autofocus on a Digital Camera

There are various ways to focus your camera depending on the situation you are photographing.
When you press the shutter button you feel a slight click halfway down, this allows the camera to focus and locks the focus while you maintain the button depressed, then you press it all the way down to take the photo.(on some DSLRs you may find you have a dedicated AF button). But on DSLR´s and most bridge cameras there are several different focusing options. I will describe them below to help you get the most of your camera and sharper shots. I have described Nikon and Canons options, for other users and for any bridge camera users please consult your manuals.
“AF-S” for Nikon and “One shot AF” for Canon. Here you pick a focus point, one your cameras you should see a little squares on the screen, you can change this and this is where it will focus. It is a pretty simple and straight forward. Although it normally requires you to lock focus on the subject before taking the photo, so if you are taking a photo of something moving the focus may not lock. “AF-C” for Nikon (continuous) and “AI Servo Focus Mode” for Canon. Used for shooting moving subjects, sports, etc. It analyses the subject movement and predicts where the subject will be, placing the focus at the predicted point. The advantage of this is that it will automatically readjust focus if you or the subject moves. All you need to do is continue half-pressing the shutter button or holding the dedicated AF button (if you have one) on your camera and the autofocus system will automatically track any movement.
“AF-A” for Nikon or “AI Focus AF” for Canon. This option switches between the other two options. If the camera detects if the subject is stationary, it automatically switches to Single focus, while if the subject moves, it will switch to Continuous focus. The default method on lower-end Nikon DSLRs is AF-A and it works quite well for most situations. Those with the newer Nikon camera with live view recording there is also a new setting. Full-time Servo AF mode, also known as “AF-F” is a brand new mode that was introduced by Nikon to the latest Nikon DSLRs like Nikon D3100 and Nikon D7000, specifically for recording video in Live View mode. Focus points are the little squares or dots you see when you look through the viewfinder. Depending on your camera you will have more or less of these dots, the more advance the camera the more focus points.
To change between focusing options and to change which focus point you are focusing with you´ll need to check your camera manual. Simple exercises. Set the focus mode to “AF-C” for Nikon (continuous) and “AI Servo Focus Mode” for Canon , and then photograph a moving object. For example, someone walks towards you. Focus on the person by pressing your shutter button half way down (keep it down until you take the shot fully). You should notice the camera re-focusing as the person moves. The important thing here is to not release the shutter button. You need to keep it pressed half way down, then when you’re ready to take the shot, press it down fully.
Now set the camera’s focus mode to “AF-S” for Nikon and “One shot AF” for Canon and photograph a stationary object. Notice this time, it focuses once.
For the third exercise, change the focus mode to “AF-A” for Nikon or “AI Focus AF” for Canon and photograph both a moving and stationary subject. You’ll soon notice, the camera doesn’t always guess the setting for the moving subject correctly. Hence the reasons why photographers like to choose focus settings for themselves. Here are two examples of focusing, in the first I focused on the stream and in the second I focused on the branches. Which is correct, well it totally depends on the intentions of the photographer. But it is important to focus in the correct place if the subject is a person.
Reasons why autofocus won’t always work on a digital SLR camera?
The first thing to check when your camera’s autofocus fails, is that you have your DSLR lens set on AF (autofocus) and not MF (Manual Focus). This may seem obvious, however there have been many times when I’ve used manual focus and forgot to change it back to autofocus when required. If you are able to switch between AF and MF, you will find the switch for this on the side of your actual lens.
Autofocus may have trouble working properly in low light conditions.
Many photographers find autofocus fails when photographing non contrasting subjects. For example, a cloudless blue sky or a wall that contains one solid color.
Photographing highly repetitive patterns like skyscraper windows or cars with reflective bodies can also cause problems.


Macro shots can also be challenging
Focusing on overlapping objects can also confuse your lens. For example, if you are trying to focus on a particular leaf of a tree. The lens can find it difficult to know what to focus
What to do when your DSLR lens autofocus AF won’t work?
Sometimes just focusing on something different then returning to what you want to focus on sorts out the problems.
Try focusing on an object within the same distance as the subject you are photographing. Then switch the lens to manual focus MF, recompose and take the shot.
There are times when your only option may be to use manual focusing.

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