The last section covered ISO, this part covers Shutter Speed, the next part will cover Aperture Size; the three camera settings you need to know to get the exposure you want in any situation.

It Is What It Is
Shutter Speed is perhaps the simplest to understand of the three. ISO is pretty straightforward, but the Shutter Speed setting benefits from having a descriptive name. That is, when you adjust the Shutter Speed setting, you are adjusting the camera’s shutter speed. And to make it crystal clear, the shutter speed is the speed at which the opening in your camera (aperture) opens and shuts, thereby controlling how much light hits your sensor, and in that way controlling how light or dark your images turn out.

What Else It Does
It’s other effect is also pretty obvious. It effects how motion is captured, whether it is the camera’s motion or an object in the scene. Longer shutter speeds let you capture light trails, i.e., car headlights, or can be used to soften how moving water looks, among other things. Shorter shutter speeds help you stop motion, useful in sports or nature photography, and helps you control camera shake, to prevent blurry images.

Shutter Speed Settings
The actual Shutter Speed settings may not be as straightforward as the concept, but after you get the hang of it, it is really a simple matter.

For settings less than a second, they are in fractions of a second. Whatever number your camera is displaying for shutter speed represents the fraction of a second the shutter will remain open.  For example 60 means that your shutter speed is 1/60 of a second, the aperture will open and stay open for that fraction of a second and then shut. However, most digital cameras allow you to shoot slower than a second and usually up to 30 seconds. When displaying these shutter speeds, camera’s will display the number followed by double quotes, e.g., 30 seconds would be displayed as 30″. Some cameras will allow you to shoot for indefinite periods of time, allowing you to get 12 hour exposures or more. So know you should understand what the Shutter Speed numbers mean.

Setting The Shutter Speed
Unlike ISO, there is no generally “preferred” shutter speed, and this is also true for aperture size. The Shutter Speed you select will depend greatly on the circumstances and what kind of shot you are looking for. It should be pretty easy to figure out when faster is better than slower. When you are shooting a moving object, or when you are shooting from a moving object, you will want a faster shutter speed. Faster shutter speeds will minimize or eliminate camera shake as well as allow you to “capture the moment”. Slower shutter speeds are great for effects, or night shots, or capturing movement. Usually when using a camera at slower shutter speeds bracing yourself, or using a tripod, or a flash will be necessary.

What Is Too Slow
The shutter speed is the most important thing to focus on when trying to capture a sharp image. When the shutter speed is too slow, the camera will capture its own movement, resulting in a blurry subject or entirely blurry image.  Longer focal lengths exaggerate the effects of camera shake and relatively faster speeds are necessary when zooming in. A rule of thumb is that you shouldn’t shoot slower than the fraction of 1 over your focal length. So if you are shooting at 200mm, you should not have a shutter speed slower than 1/200 second, without the aid of a tripod.

In practice you can actually shoot slower than that, and still get great results. One reason is that most new digital cameras have some sort of anti-camera shake technology incorporated into the camera. When this is turned on, manufacturers claim that you can shoot at several settings slower than you typically can. Check with your digital camera’s manual to see if your camera has such a technology and turn it on. Besides this, you can still shoot a couple of settings slower than the rule of thumb, if you brace yourself and take multiple shots.

Coming Next
That’s it for Shutter Speed for now. Of course, I will return to it when I discuss all how to set all three settings.  But before that I am going to write about the last setting, Aperture Size. Maybe the most difficult of the three to grasp, but still pretty easy, hasn’t it been easy so far?