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Exposure Digital Field Guide by Alan Hess

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Chapter 3. Shutter Speed

Photography can be described as capturing a moment in time, and the shutter speed is what controls how long that moment is. Think of the camera's shutter as a blind that hangs in front of the sensor; when the shutter is opened, the light can reach the sensor. The shutter speed is a description of how long you leave the shutter open, and in doing so it controls the amount of light that reaches the sensor. The shorter the amount of time the shutter is open, the less light is allowed to reach the sensor. I used to be more concerned with using the shutter speed to absolutely freeze the action in my scenes. After a time, I began to see the advantages of using a slower shutter speed in certain circumstances, now I set the shutter speed depending on how I want the images to look.

Shutter Speed

This fighter jet was frozen in mid-flight using a shutter speed of 1/2000 second. Even with plenty of light, I needed to boost the ISO to 640 to get the shutter speed necessary to freeze the jet in flight. I used the widest aperture available on the lens, which was f/6.3 to let in as much light as possible.

Controlling the Shutter Speed

Knowing how to change the shutter speed is just as important as knowing when to change it. The first thing to think about is why you're concerned about the shutter speed; what is it about the scene you're going to shoot that makes the shutter speed the priority? ...

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