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What is Shutter speed and its impact on photos.

Shutter speed is another magic word that beginners need in order to understand the exposure triangle. It is as important as the value of ISO and Aperture. Basically, it is the duration for which your camera shutter lets the light in and hit the sensor. Your sensor is always covered with the shutter plates that move according to the shutter speed. Longer exposure time (lower shutter speed) will let in more light and shorter exposure time (higher shutter speed) will let in less light.
I will simply start with a duck shot taken by me recently. The photograph below was taken at a shutter speed of 1/1250 seconds, ISO 200 and aperture of F7 during the daytime. The water dripping from the nose appears to be frozen because of the high shutter speed value. This is called pausing motion or action shots. You can apply the same strategy to fast moving objects. In this particular scenario, I did not have to bump up the ISO or decrease the aperture (for more light) as it was a sunny day.


Let's focus on how does shutter speed impact your photos if aperture and ISO are kept constant. I am using a high-speed portable fan as an example.
DSLR used: Pentax K-5 II
ISO: 6400
Aperture: F/4
Focal length: 21 mm


Shutter speed impact
1/60 second

Shutter speed impact
1/160 second

Shutter speed impact
1/500 second

Shutter speed impact
1/2000 second
With an increase in shutter speed, light hitting the sensor decreases which leads to darker image output. In addition to this, there is another big change. The fan motion appears to be paused as the shutter speed went higher and higher. The fourth image was taken at 1/2000 second shutter speed and the in motion fan blades are clearly visible. This is how shutter speed in a DSLR works.
But what happens when you start decreasing shutter speed? 1 second? 5 seconds? It will either lead to a way overexposed shot or will blur the motion. A decrease in shutter speed leads to another phenomenon called motion blur. If there is a street dance performer, using a low shutter speed will lead to a blurred shot. Similarly, a moving dog or person will be blurred if their photo is taken at slow shutter speed. With advancement in the creativity level using slower shutter speed values, another huge field of photography called as long exposure photography has evolved. It is known for taking long exposure shots by increasing the exposure time. Some of the common examples include silky ocean waves, cotton clouds, frozen waterfalls, car tail light trails, cityscape shots, daytime shots using neutral density filters. More about long exposure in a different post though:)

Hope you enjoyed this post and found it helpful. Share the photography love by sharing this post. 

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