Let’s Talk Shutter Speed!

February 1, 2022

Hi! WE're Adam & Becca
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Let’s Talk Shutter Speed!
Let’s Talk Shutter Speed!
Let’s Talk Shutter Speed!
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We are so excited to announce the launch of Adam’s new educational segment: Technical Tuesday. Adam has a wealth of knowledge on the technical aspect of leveling-up your camera skillset. In this segment, he’ll be guiding you on your learning journey through a new mini episode each Tuesday on our podcast, A Couple and Some Cameras!

For the very first Technical Tuesday, Adam is kicking off a mini series on the 3 fundamentals of working with a camera: shutter speed, f-stop (or aperture), and ISO. Today is all about introducing you to shutter speed and how this key fundamental impacts your creative process.

In this episode, we’re going to be covering everything you need to know to make your camera work for you. In my opinion, knowing your camera inside and out is the first step to becoming a great photographer. Once your camera becomes almost second nature to you, it opens up your mind to focus on being creative as opposed to being concerned about getting the right settings. Mastering your camera fundamentals will not only allow you to feel more confident at shoot, but it will make your final product truly wow your clients. So much of that is tied to the fact that you will have the capacity to be creative instead of having to spend the session triple checking settings.

It really is so freeing to master camera settings!

I remember when Becca and I first opened our photography business, I spent so much time with her just working on these fundamentals. Now she’s not only confident in her camera settings, but she’s able to run entire wedding days and produce fine art photographs.

Think about it: if you’re constantly thinking about your gear and how to use it, your final product is going to suffer. This is especially true in scenarios like weddings or events where you don’t get a second chance to capture certain moments. The best thing you can do for your growth as a photographer or videographer is get out there and practice. Assist creatives you look up to, have shoot giveaways to help with your own growth – the more you practice your settings, the sooner you’ll get the hang of them and truly master the three key fundamentals.

So let’s dive into shutter speed!

To me, shutter speed is probably the easiest key fundamental to grasp. You can truly visualize how shutter speed works as opposed to the more complex f-stop and ISO aspects that make up the three key fundamentals.

What is shutter speed?

Inside your camera is a shutter. It’s the thing that makes that iconic “click” noise that is associated with snapping a photo. What it does is expose the sensor in your camera to light. In other words: the shutter speed is how you control the amount of light let into your sensor.

The shutter speed can vary anywhere from 30 seconds to 1/8000 of a second, and there are uses for every speed in between. For our wedding work, Becca and I aim to keep our shutter speed faster than 1/250 of a second.

The key thing to remember is:

The longer your shutter is open, the more light it lets in.

The shorter your shutter is open, the less light it lets in.

If you’re trying to capture the night sky for astrophotography, you’ll want your shutter to be open for a long time to let as much light into your sensor as possible. It’s dark and you need a lot of light. When you have your shutter speed this slow, it’s important to put your camera on a tripod for the capture or the image will be exceptionally blurry just from the natural movement in your hands, no matter how small the movements are.

On the other hand, if you’re in bright, harsh sun, you might have to bump your shutter speed to something like 1/8000 of a second to keep from blowing the highlights completely out of your images. (It would literally be bright white with zero detail if too much light is let into the sensor).

More often than not, you’re going to be in an unideal lighting situation (but mostly not as intense of extremes as described above). When lighting situations are poor, we typically saying that a space is dark. In that situation, you’ll have to adjust to your surroundings and lower your shutter speed. When I say “lower shutter speed”, I mean moving your shutter speed wheel to the left and making a jump from a shutter speed of 1/1250 to 1/200 of a second, for example. When I refer to “increasing shutter speed”, I mean the reverse.

Increasing shutter speed equals letting less light in because it’s bright.

Decreasing or lowering shutter speed equals letting more light in because it’s low/poor light or dark.

For example, a shutter speed of 1/30 lets in significantly more light than 1/8000. And the scenarios you use both vary greatly. I personally aim to keep my shutter speed at 1/200 or faster because it aligns with our photography style. Within our style, we prefer to avoid image blur. Blurring images artistically can be a decision you make for your business,  and when done well, they can be truly beautiful images. However, I can’t recommend enough that you first master the fundamentals before jumping into blurring images. If you take the time to master the fundamentals, then you can artistically experiment with things like motion blur in your photography artwork. If you are a wedding photographer, using a shutter speed slower than 1/200 will most likely result in blurry movement photos like reception dancing, walking down an aisle, and most candid moments.

I can’t wait to see your growth as you start practicing this key photography fundamentals! Check back next week when I’ll be talking about f-stop (also called aperture)!

If you want to dive deeper into working on your photography fundamentals, we have a super unique coaching offering just for you! Check out more coaching info here.

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