Fast and Slow Shutter Speed

Posted on November 21, 2008. Filed under: Net Spy | Tags: , , , |

One of the basic and fundamental principles of digital photography is learning or taking control of the shutter speed. Using correct shutter speed will help you capture good pictures without taking so much time. In photo contest, shutter speed determines the amount of light that is allowed into the camera. If you are new in the world of photography and photo contests, let me first discuss what is a shutter. In photography, a shutter is a device that allows light to pass for a determined period of time, for the purpose of exposing photographic film or a light-sensitive electronic sensor to light to capture a permanent image of a scene. In a more detailed context, the longer the shutter remains open, the more amount of light enters into the camera and vice versa. People joining photo competitions nowadays make use of modern digital cameras with shutter speeds that are usually expressed as 1/8 of a second. The range of shutter speeds can be expressed as: 1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250, with each one being a fraction of a second. Each speed in this series is roughly half that of the one on the left.

Selecting the appropriate shutter speed depends greatly on your subject. Or if you are in a photo competition, the shutter speed relies on the category and what the contest requires as a subject. However, regardless of the subject your going to shoot, modern cameras are now equipped with auto exposure features. These features will automatically set the shutter speed for you, saving you less time. In picture contests, I recommend beginners to use this function but if you like to play with manual setting then the choice of shutter speed clearly matters. Keep in mind that the shutter speed is somehow related with the movement of your subject.

Setting the Shutter Speed

Slow Shutter Speed

Use slow shutter speed (around 1/60 or lower) to put some blur in the image you want to shoot. In picture contests, setting the shutter speed in a slow phase will mean you need to keep the still for a longer period of time. Tripods come handy in this situation. If you can’t afford a tripod, find stores that offers rental service.

Fast Shutter Speed

Photography contests that requires action, sports, and wildlife subjects generally requires fast shutter speeds. A racing car or an eagle in flight are good examples. First thing you should know when using fast shutter speed is you can totally miss a shot because the shutter opens and closes so fast. In picture contest, try to follow this steps to work your way around it. First, avoid the camera LCD – look through the viewfinder with one eye and use the other eye to spot the subject crossing the camera’s field of view. Second, you can try uses a lens that increases the field of view, allowing you more time to take the picture.

To see how John Warton, senior photo editor at Photo Laureates reviews photographs and meet, go to


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