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How the Shutter Speed Works | Shutter Priority - Introduction

Updated: Aug 18, 2020

First of all, what is the shutter speed? As you probably already know, when you take a photograph, your camera's shutter opens to let in light during a certain amount of time. This amount of time is the shutter speed. For this reason, the longer it stays open, the more light will come into your camera, whereas the faster it opens and closes, the less light will come in.


So if you're just starting to venture into the manual world of photography but aren't quite prepared to go full out, I recommend you try the mode on your camera that's marked S or (Tv). This mode, called 'Shutter Priority' will let you fiddle around with your shutter speed whilst your camera takes of the rest. To change your shutter speed you simply have to:

  1. Select the mode marked S or Tv. Your camera probably has a dial, and if not, simply access the menu to change the mode.

  2. Lightly tap your shutter release button (the one you use to take photographs) to make your camera come to life.

  3. Scroll one way or the other to make your shutter speed slower or faster.


So the shutter speed will vary on a scale that looks like this one:


1” ½ ¼ 1/15 1/30 1/60 1/125 1/250 1/500 1/1000…

+light ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------> -light

slow <----------------------------------------------------------------------------------> fast


Your camera might present the numbers like this (1/15, for example) or without the fraction (15). In either case, what this number means is that it's a fraction of a second. When the number has a double quotation mark next to it, it means it's a full second. This way, we can see that on the scale above, the first number indicates it's a full second, the next is half a second, the next a forth of a second (...), and so on.


When we need more light, we will need to use a slower shutter speed, to let more light into our camera. However, you have to be careful. If you go any lower than 1/30 (and even this is on the limit) without a tripod, you run the risk of your image being blurred, but this is a whole other topic in itself.


I hope this introduction was useful, and that you'll stay tuned for blogs that'll go more in-depth and allow you to use the shutter speed of your camera for your creative purposes.


If you want a guide for photography that is like a bible me, as it explains everything in such an amazing and concise way, check out Read This If You Want To Take Great Photographs by Henri Carroll.


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