I’ve written about how important aperture-priority mode is to mastering your camera. Now let’s look at the second part of the exposure triangle: shutter speed.
Shutter speed is crucial when you need control the amount of action or motion in a scene. When this is your primary concern, turn that dial to S (Nikon/Fuji/Sony) or TV (Canon) and use shutter speed-priority mode.
Slow shutter speeds
Your shutter speed is denoted by a number representing a second (or more commonly a fraction of a second), e.g. 1/60s is equal to one sixtieth of a second.
Using a slow shutter speed – generally accepted as anything slower than 1/60s – means that the shutter is open for longer, allowing more light to be captured. In a situation where light levels are low, a slow shutter speed is required so that a sufficient amount of light is captured for a proper exposure.
It also means that during this exposure time more motion is captured. Used creatively, slower shutter speeds can exaggerate motion in a scene, e.g. incoming waves or waterfalls will take on a milky, smooth effect or the lights of moving vehicles will streak across the frame.
Fast shutter speeds
Using a faster shutter speed has the opposite effect. Using a fast shutter speed is critical in sports photography if you are looking to freeze a fast moving subject by limiting the amount of motion. Here you will typically require a shutter speed of at least 1/500s.
Another situation might be street photography. In order to make sure that your images are not affected by motion blur you may want to consider setting a fast shutter speed. Photograph a crashing wave with a fast shutter speed and you’ll capture every droplet.
Is it that simple?
Almost! As with everything, there are compromises. The slower your shutter speed the more likely it is you will need a tripod to keep the camera stable, otherwise you will see the visible effects of your shaking hands.
Alternatively, especially fast shutter speeds might be difficult to achieve if there isn’t sufficient light available. To compensate for this you can increase your ISO – the third and final part of the exposure triangle – which I will be covering in my next tip.