The camera is an essential part of the process and the photographer's life. It can 'see' events that the naked eyes can't. It can stop time or slow it down. When times are dim, it can help you see clearly. It simply is magical. That is why being familiar with your camera helps you capture photos in more ways than you can imagine.

        On to the topic at hand - the shutter speed. The shutter is somewhat like a curtain. It opens to let light in to start exposure. Then it closes to end the process. Shutter speed is the term used to describe the duration of the exposure. Although some might argue that it's more appropriate to call it “shutter time” instead.

        Nevertheless, the key thing to remember is that you can't change the shutter speed without affecting exposure or image quality. As part of the exposure triangle, you also have to take aperture and ISO into consideration. A faster shutter speed means high ISO setting and low aperture. This results in decreased depth-of-field and increased image noise. Inversely, a slower shutter speed means low ISO and high aperture. This results in increased need for stability and decreased sharpness due to diffraction. With that said, let's get started.

lemon dropping in glass water splash high speed photography

Stopping action / freeze the moment

  • Shutter speed: Fast (1/250 of a second or faster)
  • Aperture Value: Low
  • ISO value: High           

        This includes high-speed photography. Be aware of the focus, and the right moment to take the shot. It helps to take continuous shots and hopefully, the perfect one is among them. Anticipation is key. Stay alert. Be ready.

motorcycle moving shutter speed technique panning

Panning & moving with the subject

  • Shutter speed: Slow (1/30 of a second or slower)
  • Aperture Value: High
  • ISO value: Low

        For panning, move the camera during the exposure to follow the subject. This doesn't necessarily mean that the camera has to travel the same speed. Pivot the camera fast enough that the subject is still in frame as you follow in one continuous motion. Ideally, the shutter speed should be slow enough to create a streaked background, but fast enough that the subject still appears sharp. Textured background yields the best results. Using a tripod with a pan-tilt head would tremendously help too.

        You can also try having the camera on the moving subject/object itself. For example, take a photo from a moving vehicle. Focus straight ahead and watch as the surrounding turn into streaks. It's like an amazing warp speed effect. But always do this with caution of course.

waterfalls moving water create sense of motion

moving crowd shutter speed technique create sense of motion

Creating a sense of motion

  • Shutter speed: Slow (1/8 of a second or slower)
  • Aperture Value: High
  • ISO value: Low

        You can go two ways: the subject is identifiable but slightly blurred because of his/her movement, or the subject remains sharp while everything else is blurred. This technique is commonly used in moving water (i.e. beach waves, waterfalls). Imagine transforming water into a smooth silky cloth blanketing and cascading in the scenery. You can also use this technique to emphasize a stationary subject amongst a sea of movement. A bystander in the middle of a bustling crowd in the metro. A woman waiting on the platform as the train swiftly passes.

highway light streaks at night long exposure

fire dance at night shutter speed technique long exposure

Long exposures

  • Shutter speed: Slow (10 sec or slower)
  • Aperture Value: High
  • ISO value: Low

        Hold the shutter open for a long time to capture more light and movement. Be sure to allow just enough light so as not to overexpose the image. This is mostly used in night photography and low light situations. Tripod is a requirement for this technique. You don't any unnecessary shakes and movements to spoil the shot.

trees trunks zoom burst

Zooming blur

  • Shutter speed: Slow (1/15 of a second or slower)
  • Aperture Value: High
  • ISO value: Low

        It's often called a zoom burst. Set your camera on a tripod then twist the lens’s zoom ring upon pressing the shutter. This will create a radial blur effect. It can only be possible with SLR cameras or compact cameras with manual zoom capabilities.

light in motion shutter speed technique abstract and artistic

Abstract & artistic

  • Shutter speed: Slow (1/2 - 1/30 of a second)
  • Aperture Value: High
  • ISO value: Low

        There's not much to it really. You're free to do as you wish to intentionally add camera-shake-induced blur. Tilt the camera slightly during exposure. Move it side to side or in any direction. Adjust the settings accordingly. Take as many attempts as you like until you achieve the desired result.

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