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Shutter Speed

Photo Tips by Ken Finegan



I hope you all got to try last week’s tips about Aperture Priority and what aperture does to pictures. Even if you didn’t succeed the first time try, try again!!! It takes a bit of time to get used to where all of the buttons are but it’s worthwhile.


Don’t forget if you want to ask a question directly you can message me on my Facebook page: Ken Finegan Newspics Photography.


This week I want to talk about the other semi-automatic mode on your DSLR. It is Shutter Speed Priority. Shutter speed priority is represented by the letter ’S’ on Nikon cameras and ‘TV’ on Canon Cameras. ‘TV’ represents Time Value.


This mode is similar to Aperture Priority in that you control one setting, namely the Shutter Speed and the camera controls the aperture this time. The exact opposite to Aperture Priority. But, as with Aperture Priority, you will get pictures.



So what does a shutter do. When you press your shutter release button to take a picture the mirror lifts and then the shutter opens to let light into your camera making a noise (the one I asked you to listen to last week). The light hits the image sensor in a digital camera and the film in a film camera making the image.


The shutter speed ranges from very fast speeds of up to 1/8000th of a second to really slow speeds of 30 seconds depending on the camera model you have.


What is the effect of a slow shutter speed on an image?

Using a slow shutter speed allows you to show movement in an image to emphasise speed or motion. It is a beautiful effect and can even make a moving object appear semi-transparent or see through. In illustration ‘1’ you can see where I used a very slow shutter speed and the tennis ball is nearly invisibly. You would have a problem even recognising it as a tennis ball.

Illustration 1

Illustration 2


In Illustration 2, I used a slightly faster shutter speed which still blurs the ball but it is more apparent as a tennis ball and in illustration ‘3’ I used a faster shutter speed and stop the ball mid-air. Showing all of the detail.

Illustration 3


The 4th illustration sums up shutter speed in general. This picture was taken of people in an ice rink in France a few years ago. If you look in the background there is a girl who is perfectly sharp with no movement. This is because she is standing still. You will see varying degrees of blur or movement in other people in the image depending on the speed they were actually skating. So the amount of blur or movement is also related to how fast your subject is moving.

Illustration 4


Here is a guide (Rule of Thumb) I use on a day to day basis:


To show movement us a shutter speed of 1/30th of a second or slower.

To stop movement us a shutter speed of 1/500th of a second or faster.

For general images where there is no major movement, such as a family occasion use 1/125th or 1/250th of a second.



To use faster shutter speeds you need good light, so outdoors is the best place. I’ll be dealing later in the series with some specific settings which will assist with shooting faster shutter speeds in low light.


Now, we’ve discovered we can show movement in our images or stop movement. But remember there are two types of movement. The one we have already discussed is ‘Subject’ movement but the other is ‘Camera’ movement.


If we use a slow shutter speed we can become subject to camera movement often called camera shake. This can actually produce some really artistic and abstract images but for the moment we will try and stop camera shake.


The usual way to do this is to support your camera on a wall, something steady or a bean bag for instance. The best way is on a tripod. There are various models of tripods ranging from a few Euro to thousands of Euro. When selecting a tripod go for something that suits your camera.


In general when I suggest buying a cheaper tripod I always say extend the tripod to its full height and put some of your weight where the camera would go. If the legs bend or the tripod lowers under this pressure do NOT buy it!!! You should get a reasonably good tripod for around €100 and there are quite a few really great camera shops locally, all offering great advice.


When shooting really slow shutter speeds, such as night time views I would always suggest using a remote control or the camera self timer to fire the camera. This stops you touching the shutter release button and prevents movement as you press on the camera causing camera shake.


There is another general ‘Rule of Thumb’ I would suggest when you are experimenting with your new camera ‘Do not use a shutter speed slower than the focal length of your lens’.


What does this mean exactly? Focal length of a lens is measured in mm. As stated in previous tips you kit lens is usually around 17-55mm. The next lens most people get is a 70-300mm. This brings your subject closer (Zoom).


So to implement the rule of thumb with the 70-300mm lens I would not use a shutter speed slower than 1/300th of a second. This is just a general rule but a good one to keep in mind.


For sport such as Gaelic, Soccer, Hurling, Rugby etc I would rarely go slower than 1/500th of a second to keep my images sharp. This Rule works every time.


One thing I forgot to mention last week was ‘when I would use Aperture Priority’? In general I would always use manual settings to control my camera but I do use Aperture Priority.


The main situation where I use Aperture Priority in on a sunny day covering a match. If there is a shadow falling across the pitch from a stand or group of trees the camera can react quicker than me to adjust the speed. I know it can be either slightly over or under exposed BUT I will get an image which I can then adjust.



So until next week, enjoy your camera and keep safe!


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