Discover all about shutter speed

Shutter speed is one of the most important functions that determines the final result and visual style of a photo. In this blog, we would like to delve a little deeper into the meaning of shutter speed and tell you how to set it on your camera and why it is so crucial for capturing the perfect moment. After reading this blog, you will be a true expert in shutter speed setting!

What does shutter speed mean?

Shutter speed is actually the time the aperture of your camera is open, allowing light to fall on the sensor. This is because a camera contains an image sensor that needs a certain amount of light to take a picture. Shutter speed is measured in seconds or fractions of seconds, such as 1/1000, 1/250, 1/125, 1/60, 1/30, 1/15, and so on. A fast shutter speed like 1/1000 means that the shutter is open for a very short time; you freeze the image, so to speak. By freezing the images, you freeze the images and motion disappears from the photo. You are taking a snapshot. In contrast, with a slower shutter speed of, say, 1/15, the shutter actually stays open longer, adding movement and dynamics to the image.

Waarvoor gebruik je de sluitertijd? 

Shutter speed is an important feature when you are going to photograph subjects that move, such as water, sports or fireworks. This is because the shutter speed determines whether or not you freeze the moment and the movement. This function has been around since 1890 and since then a lot of research has been done on the use of shutter speed in photography. For example, a study conducted by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), demonstrated that shutter speed still has a significant impact on how we as viewers can perceive movement in photographs. This study highlights the importance of choosing the right shutter speed to achieve the desired effect.

Fashion photography by Lisa van Dam for F/W collection of Simple the Brand in The Loft studio
Example of a short shutter speed | Studio:The Loft Photo credits: Lisa van Dam

Set short or long shutter speed?

Het kiezen van de juiste sluitertijd is afhankelijk van de omgeving, het onderwerp en welk effect je wilt bereiken.  Bij het fotograferen in een omgeving met slecht of weinig licht zul je al snel met een wat langere sluitertijd werken om meer licht op te kunnen vangen. Een korte sluitertijd is daarentegen een ideale instelling bij heldere scenes, zoals een zonnig landschap (NCBI). Wil je een beweging graag bevriezen, dan is het instellen van een korte sluitertijd van bijvoorbeeld 1/1000 perfect. Deze sluitertijd is geweldig voor bijvoorbeeld fotografie van een sprinter die over de finishlijn rent, een druppel die in een vijver valt of een vogel in de vlucht. Deze korte sluitertijd vangt de actie in zijn tracks, zonder daarbij in te leveren op scherpte. 

Want to see a bit more of the movement reflected? Then you can use slower shutter speeds to blur movements. This can create unusual, artistic effects, such as the flow of water in a waterfall or the movement of people in a busy street. A common setting for this blurred movement is 1/30. So in addition to the environment and subject, think about what effect and mood you want to achieve.

Below is an example of both a short shutter speed photo (top) and slow (bottom):

Tip! Make sure, especially with slower shutter speeds, that you keep your camera steady. Therefore, always take a good, sturdy tripod with you, even when travelling. A good tip is to set the camera to the self-timer: this makes it easier to hold it steady. And some cameras and lenses already have a so-called image stabiliser, for example IS Canon and VR Nikon.

Tip! Want to get really creative? Then experiment with very long shutter speeds, often from a few seconds to minutes. This allows you to create real light paintings by following moving light sources. This can lead to abstract and surreal photography: perfect for Fashion photography for example!

Setting shutter speed: here's how to do it

Now that you know what shutter speed is, let's take a look at how to set it on your camera. Most modern cameras come with different modes, including manual mode. This allows you to set the shutter speed yourself. We recommend selecting manual mode and setting your camera to M mode. This will give you full control over the shutter speed. Now choose the desired shutter speed by setting the dials on your camera to the desired shutter speed. Often this can be done using a dial. You should see the shutter speed change on your camera's display. Experiment with different settings to see which work best for your needs.

Tip: Don't forget to also adjust the ISO value and aperture: as these two functions work together with the shutter speed. Adjusting the shutter speed can affect exposure. We therefore recommend making sure you also change other settings to ensure you make use of the best light.

Practising shutter speed setting yourself

Shutter speed is a crucial element in photography. It not only affects the exposure of your images, it also allows you to freeze, blur or even make a movement artistic. Mastering shutter speed on your camera is essential to achieve unique results and give your photos a professional look. I therefore challenge you to come and enjoy shooting in our daylight photo studios Atelier Oost Amsterdam, and to have a go at experimenting with the shutter speed on your camera. Take your photography skills to the next level: we look forward to seeing the end result.

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