Camera Shutter speed

Shutter speed involves a mechanical switch between the lens and the camera sensor. The switch determines the amount of time the sensor is expose to the light.
Aperture setting determines the amount of light going into the sensor whereas shutter speed determines how long the sensor is exposed to light. Both the setting of aperture and shutter speed determines the exposure of the camera sensor to the light.

  • Shutter speed is expressed in seconds, usually it is expressed in:
    B, 1, 2, 4, 8, 15, 30, 60, 125, 250, 500, 1000, 2000, 4000, 8000, etc
  • B is referred to Bulb setting, whereby user control how long the exposure time. During Bulb setting, when we press the shutter once, the sensor is expose to light until we press the shutter again to close it and it can goes as long as it is.
  • For the rest of the shutter speed setting above, it is express as (1/N) seconds, meaning the shutter speed controls are from 1s, 1/2s, 1/4s, 1/8s and so on. Notice that the exposure time actually goes twice as fast from stage to stage, for example 1/500s is twice as fast as 1/250s which is again twice as fast as 1/125s. Similar to aperture setting, the different between the shutter speed is also referred as one stop; hence 1/500s is one stop faster than 1/250s.
  • While aperture setting determines the depth of field of the photos, shutter speed determines the time/moment the photo is taken. As we try to take photo of a fast moving object, we need faster shutter speed in order to freeze the action and capture it into photo. On the other hand, when we want to take photo that gives an impression of continuous movement, such as the movement of water that looks like angels hair in the photo, or the movement of a fast speed sports car, we need slower shutter speed to extend the time of exposure and capture the continuous movement.


                         Movement of water in slow shutter speed of seconds.

  • Other than time, shutter speed also determines the stability of a photo taken. Depending on how stable you hold the camera while taking photographs, though generally there is certain of shutter speed that we can safely take the photos without risking it getting blurred.
  • The general rule of thumb is to shoot with the shutter speed at least 1/focal length. For example if the focal length is 100mm, then we must at least shoot with shutter speed of 1/100s in order to get a clear photo, if the focal length is 300mm, then the safety zone of shutter speed will have to be at least 1/300s. Any shutter speed slower than that will have a high risk of getting blurred. As can be seen from here, tele lens will generally need a much faster shutter speed in order for the photos not to get blur.
    If you still need a slower shutter speed to take the photos, then you will need to use a tripod or lens with stabilizer options. Tripod will allow you to take photo with long exposure time such as night scenery shots and photos with bulb setting. Lens with stabilizer options will enable user with a further 2~3 stops in shutter speed setting. For example with a focal length of 100mm, the safety shutter speed setting should be at 1/100s. One stop from the stabilizer will drop the safety shutter speed from 1/100s to 1/50s, two stop will drop it further to 1/25s. Hence, stabilizer is a great option to have especially when taking photo with tele lens and require slower shutter speed to achieve sufficient exposure. Of course, lens with stabilizer option will have an expensive pricing.


More about Camera Setting

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