Shutter Speed - Creative Utility in Photography

Creative Utility in Photography

Shutter speed is one of several methods used to control the amount of light recorded by the camera's digital sensor or film. It is also used to manipulate the visual effects of the final image beyond its luminosity.

Slower shutter speeds are often selected to suggest movement in a still photograph of a moving subject.

Excessively fast shutter speeds can cause a moving subject to appear unnaturally frozen. For instance, a running person may be caught with both feet in the air with all indication of movement lost in the frozen moment.

When a slower shutter speed is selected, a longer time passes from the moment the shutter opens till the moment it closes. More time is available for movement in the subject to be recorded by the camera.

A slightly slower shutter speed will allow the photographer to introduce an element of blur, either in the subject, where, in our example, the feet, which are the fastest moving element in the frame, might be blurred while the rest remains sharp; or if the camera is panned to follow a moving subject, the background is blurred while the subject remains sharp.

The exact point at which the background or subject will start to blur depends on the rate at which the object is moving, the angle that the object is moving in relation to the camera, the distance it is from the camera and the focal length of the lens in relation to the size of the digital sensor or film.

When slower shutter speeds, in excess of about half a second, are used on running water, the photo will have a ghostly white appearance reminiscent of fog. This effect can be used in landscape photography.

Zoom burst is a technique which entails the variation of the focal length of a zoom lens during a longer exposure. In the moment that the shutter is opened, the lens is zoomed in, changing the focal length during the exposure. The center of the image remains sharp, while the details away from the center form a radial blur, which causes a strong visual effect, forcing the eye into the center of the image.

The following list provides an overview of common photographic uses for standard shutter speeds.

  • 1/16000 s: The fastest speed available in APS-H or APS-C format DSLR cameras (as of 2012). (Canon EOS 1D, Nikon D1, Nikon 1 J2, D1X, and D1H)
  • 1/12000 s: The fastest speed available in any 35 mm film SLR camera. (Minolta Maxxum 9xi, Maxxum 9 (de)
  • 1/8000 s: The fastest speed available in production SLR cameras (as of 2012), also the fastest speed available in any full-frame DSLR or SLT camera (as of 2012). Used to take sharp photographs of very fast subjects, such as birds or planes, under good lighting conditions, with a ISO speed of 1,000 or more and a large-aperture lens.
  • 1/4000 s: The fastest speed available in consumer SLR cameras as of 2009; also the fastest speed available in any leaf shutter camera (such as the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1) (as of 2012). Used to take sharp photographs of fast subjects, such as athletes or vehicles, under good lighting conditions and with an ISO setting of up to 800.
  • 1/2000 s and 1/1000 s: Used to take sharp photographs of moderately fast subjects under normal lighting conditions.
  • 1/500 s and 1/250 s: Used to take sharp photographs of people in motion in everyday situations. 1/250 s is the fastest speed useful for panning; it also allows for a smaller aperture (up to f/11) in motion shots, and hence for a greater depth of field.
  • 1/125 s: This speed, and slower ones, are no longer useful for freezing motion. 1/125 s is used to obtain greater depth of field and overall sharpness in landscape photography, and is also often used for panning shots.
  • 1/60 s: Used for panning shots, for images taken under dim lighting conditions, and for available light portraits.
  • 1/30 s: Used for panning subjects moving slower than 30 miles per hour (48 km/h) and for available-light photography. Images taken at this and slower speeds normally require a tripod or an image stabilized lens/camera to be sharp.
  • 1/15 s and 1/8 s: This and slower speeds are useful for photographs other than panning shots where motion blur is employed for deliberate effect, or for taking sharp photographs of immobile subjects under bad lighting conditions with a tripod-supported camera.
  • 1/4 s, 1/2 s and 1 s: Also mainly used for motion blur effects and/or low-light photography, but only practical with a tripod-supported camera.
  • B (bulb) (1 minute to several hours): Used with a mechanically fixed camera in astrophotography and for certain special effects.
  • The Whirligig ride during night at SFGAm at an exposure time of 0.8 Seconds.

  • Light streaks outside Waterloo Rail Station in London

  • Light streaks on Tottenham Ct. Rd. in London

  • Light streaks on Tottenham Ct. Rd. in London of turning Taxis

  • More Light streaks of a bus in London

  • Bus moving at high speed

  • Slow shutters cannot be handled by hand, a side rail is being used. Bus in London

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