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Understanding Shutter Speed and ISO

Understanding Shutter Speed

Shutter speed is how fast the camera records the picture or how long the shutter is open. You can also look at shutter speed as how long the light is allowed in. To change your shutter speed, there is usually a black dial on your camera. For my Canon, I have a small dial on top for my shutter speed. Turn the dial to the left for a slower shutter speed and to the right for a faster one. When I am shooting portraits, I keep mine around 125. If I’m shooting toddlers, I increase it. Why? Because they move around a lot and I need to be able to capture their movement. The more your subject moves, the higher your shutter speed will need to be.

Shutter Speed for this image: 600

Not only did I need to increase the shutter speed because they were jumping, but they were also in open sun.

In order to get the right look with her blowing the glitter, I had to make sure my shutter speed was increased. The set up for this shot goes very fast and once she starts blowing, that glitter goes quick!

ISO-200 | f-3.5 | SS-400

SIMPLE TIP: Make sure to always keep an eye on your shutter speed. A general rule of thumb is to not let your shutter speed go lower than twice the length of the lens on your camera, and that’s only if you have a steady hand. So if you have a 50 1.8 lens on your camera, your shutter speed shouldn’t go below 100. Remember to take a deep breath, tuck your elbows in and when you can, steady yourself on something like a door frame, wall or railing.

Understanding ISO

ISO is also known as film speed. The ISO number indicates how quickly a camera sensor absorbs light. A higher ISO means you can use a faster shutter speed, great for those times when there is little light, but if you are outside on a sunny day, you generally will have your ISO set to 100. A lower ISO is always recommended for cleaner images and more detail. Once the ISO starts going up, you will find your images become grainy and you lose the crispness in your images that you would have otherwise had. When shooting indoors or when light becomes lower, there is a need to increase your ISO. I always increase my ISO before sacrificing shutter speed. If you go too far down in shutter speed to bring in more light, your images will become blurry. I would rather have a photo with some grain than blur. The picture on this page was taken with the ISO set to 1600 and shutter of 100. The roller coaster was going upside down and I wanted to capture it moving. I needed to keep some of that shutter speed, but because it was taken after the sun had nearly set, I also needed to let in more light. So I chose to increase the ISO, have the aperture set to 3.2 and shutter speed was 100. I had to fiddle around several times to get in enough light and hope the roller coaster made a few more rounds so I could get the shot I wanted! Sometimes it’s as easy as setting your aperture to 3.5, your shutter to 125 and your ISO to 100. Other times, you need to look at the light available and know how to bring more in to push your camera and achieve what you want. I couldn’t lower my aperture any more than I did and still have some focus. So I kept my settings as explained above and was happy with the results.

So now we’ve gone over Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO. We’ll do one more post that will cover Exposure and how to tell when your settings are correct. This is one of the most important aspects of understanding Manual settings that you can learn. Everyone that I mentor is always blown away that there is this simple yet powerful tool that you become dependent on to steer you in the right direction.  Read my last post on the exposure triangle here

Amy Phipps is the photographer behind On the Phippside Photography, located in Stockton, California.  Amy has been married for 21 years and has 4 children.  When she’s not trying to decide between which of her 43 black shirts to wear, you can probably find her sipping on a Dr. Pepper and walking around any day of the year in flip flops.

Visit her website.



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