Saturday, August 21, 2010

Photography Fridays - Shutter Speed Addiction

Welcome to lesson 2 (part 1) of 12 Weeks to Better Photography! Last week, we learned about how aperture (f/) controls the depth of field. This week we're learning about ISO and shutter speed.

ISO is the film speed (how fast your camera captures an image) and determines how sensitive the image sensor is to light. If you are outdoors in the bright sun, you should use a low ISO such as 100. If you are indoors on a cloudy day, you should use a higher ISO such as 800 or 1600. There is one drawback. The higher the ISO, the more noise will be in your photograph. In other words, the image will appear grainy.

Shutter speed controls how fast or how slow the shutter in front of the image sensor closes. Slow shutter speeds blur movement and fast shutter speeds freeze movement. A fast shutter speed might be measured as 1/1000 of a second. A slow shutter speed might be 2 seconds. When you use a slow shutter speed, it is best to use a tripod or to set your camera on a stable surface. Otherwise, the entire image will be blurred. When you use a fast shutter speed, it is important to have plenty of light. Otherwise, your image will be very dark.

This weeks assignment was to photograph moving water using the shutter priority ("Tv" or "S") setting on the camera. In this setting, the camera lets you select the shutter speed and ISO while automatically setting the aperture for you.

I began with low shutter speeds. Since I was outside in the bright sun, I left the ISO low at 100. See how the splashes are somewhat blurred?

Note that as the shutter speed gets higher, the aperture (f/) is automatically set lower by the camera, causing less of the photograph to be in focus.

As we get into the higher shutter speeds, we have to bump up the ISO to keep the images from getting darker. The splashes are considerably less blurred in these.

The highest shutter speed my camera goes to is 1/4000th of a second. It makes the water look completely frozen. I now have the power to freeze water. I am Ice Woman, defender of pink eye free penguins, supreme empress of the winter lands. All tremble before me and look on in awe.

At 1/4000s, the aperture is set at it's lowest, so only the water is in focus. The ISO is set high as well to keep the image bright.

On the other hand, this is what happens to water when you set the shutter speed low around 2 seconds. You get a blurred, cloudy effect. This is how people get pretty pictures of waterfalls. I had to use a tripod for this shot (and it's still not that great).

One last thing... high shutter speeds are ADDICTIVE. Everytime Joseph went down for a nap today, I snuck outside with my faithful pitcher of water and poured water over the nearest unsuspecting innocent bystander. Whoops, I mean inanimate object. I took a gazillion photos on 1/4000s. Or maybe I'm just addicted to taking photos? Nah. Not me.

Remember, I am not to be trusted when it comes to explaining these things. It's much better if you read lesson 2 (part 1) here.

Now go out and see what you can do with those high shutter speeds. This is what Stephen can do by tossing the contents of a cup into the air:


And this is what I can do by pouring pitcher-fulls of water onto the hood of my car:


Pretty nifty, huh?

Did I mention that high shutter speeds are addictive?

And that I took a gazillion, bajillion pictures of water?

Because I have no self control...

And, after all, I am Ice Woman. It's my birth right.

Any who attempt to stop me shall suffer my icy wrath (Except for the pink eye free penguins).

Unless they bring me cookies.

Forgiveness can always be found in a snickerdoodle and a cup of milk.

Aren't photos taken at sunset terrific?

I just love the warm light of a setting sun.

Are you still here? I would have left the blog by now.

I'm impressed with your perseverance.

Good gracious, someone take the camera away from this woman!

She's clearly gone too far. She must be stopped.

Didn't anyone ever tell her that everything is better in moderation?

 Maybe we should dump a pitcher of water over her head. That might stop the insanity.

Ack! They just keep coming! Photo police! Arrest that woman!

Ha. I'm a woman. I always feel like I'm about 7.

It probably doesn't help that I still listen to Disney music...

Do you ever get sucked into Disney Channel Movies? Even though you know they are terrible?

Pfft. Me neither. Glad we got that out of the way. How potentially embarrassing!

See you next week, folks!

(You are coming back, right? My excessive photo taking and pathetic lack of control didn't scare you off, did they?)


  1. Yikes, I love these. I may need to get in that photography class!

  2. My goodness Caroline! Those photos are gorgeous!

    And now I understand something about shutter speeds, hooray. I'll probably be outside with *my* pitcher of water on Monday.

  3. I really like this series. Learning something every time.
    As I was scrolling through the water pictures (and enjoying your commentary)I thought: this would be good bathroom art... and then I thought... do I need to pee?

  4. Wow! That is seriously cool! Not sure if my ole' point and click camera could do that, but will have to try when I finally upgrade to a better one!

  5. Hi! I just came across this blog and I just love your pictures and the commentary as well. I seen the attached lessons you have from the class you had taken, and I am very interested in knowing if you happen to have weeks 7-12. I went to the website of who taught your class, but apparently they no longer do photography classes since this was 3 years ago. I would love to be able to check them out if you are willing and able. I appreciate your time, and again, wonderful photos! :)



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