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Sunday, March 11, 2012

MEP 30 Photos in 30 Days - Day 25 | Maris Ehlers Photography

Day 25 is all about our theme SHUTTER SPEED.  It's not very creative by name, but shutter speed can add an exciting element of creativity to your photography.

You can push the envelope with shutter speed either out of necessity or for creative purposes.  Let me explain. 


If you are shooting a scene that is too dark and you do not have proper exposure, you can lower your shutter speed in order to get more light into the image, therefore properly exposing it.  This can work really well.  Up to a point.  If you shutter speed gets too low, your image may be blurry because of camera shake, but you may not recognize it as such. 

For creative purposes, if you want to add some motion or blur to an image, a lower shutter speed can help you achieve this. 

Here are some guidelines for effective shutter speed use: 

1.  Your shutter speed should never be lower than your focal length.  What? I know, that sounds confusing.  I'll first explain focal length.  Without going into all the nitty gritty here (because that would be an entirely different tutorial), the easiest way to think about it is to know that the focal length of a lens determines how "zoomed in" your photos will be.  The longer the lens (i.e. 400mm), the more zoom will take place.  So, regardless of the focal length of your lens, a good rule of thumb for most people is that the shutter speed should never go below the focal length you are using. 

So… if you are using a 70-200mm lens, and you have it zoomed out to 100mm (you can see this in your camera meter), your shutter speed for that particular image should not go below 100mm to ensure sharpness when hand holding your camera.  If you are using a tripod, lower away.  

Do I practice what I preach?  Within reason.  I often push my shutter speed below the focal length of my lens while shooting hand held (without a tripod), but I compensate for that in other ways.  

Having said that, if you are shooting at 100mm, and your shutter speed is 1/30, you are asking for blurry pictures.  You may also hear the shutter release slow when you press it.  This is a sure indicator that your shutter speed is too low. 

2.  Hand held vs tripod:  As I mentioned above, a tripod will allow you additional stability when shooting at lower shutter speeds.  I very rarely use a tripod, but when I am using a lower shutter speed, I often brace myself against a wall, my arm, or sometimes even my leg if I am sitting and shooting.  That extra stability can really make a difference in the sharpness of your image. 


So if that's what low shutter speeds are all about, what's the scoop with higher shutter speeds and why would you want to use them?  

Here's the way I like to think of it:  slow shutter speeds are all about blur.  High shutter speeds freeze action.  Most of you are familiar with the theory that higher shutter speeds are great for sports photography, but they can really play a role in every day photography as well, in particular macro photography.  

The biggest downside to shutter speeds in my opinion (or why I use it less than the other dials for creative photography) is that your camera will have a limit to how high your shutter speed can be when using flash.  For many cameras, it is 1/250, or even 1/200.  It depends on your make and model, but this is something you should look up for your particular camera if you do not know what that value is.  If you pick a shutter speed that is too high to sync with your flash, you will often get "vignetting", which means a section of your image will be black (typically the bottom if you've shot the image in the landscape format).  

Your assignment:  Take a picture three different times, and experiment with your shutter speed.  Post all three images, the camera values you used, and explain what you saw as the difference.  

I will be adding images to this tutorial as time allows.  

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