The Power of Shutter Speed In Two Photographs

Apr 28, 2016

Rowan Sims

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The Power of Shutter Speed In Two Photographs

Apr 28, 2016

Rowan Sims

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

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Shutter speed is one of the first elements of photography that you learn as a beginner. Learning how to control your camera’s shutter speed to make sure your images are sharp and well exposed is Photography 101.

Learning how to use shutter speed creatively to manipulate the look and feel of an image is something else entirely, and something that I continue to experiment with a lot.

No doubt you have heard of and seen long exposure techniques used to create beautiful images with smooth, milky water and clouds. Long exposure photography is addictive, and I use the techniques a lot, especially when I’m photographing seascapes. Leaving your shutter open for extended periods, from seconds to minutes, opens up a whole new world of possibilities. You can make a crowd of people disappear, capture stunning streaks of stars crossing the night sky, or turn crashing waves into haunting mist. Alternatively, faster shutter speeds can freeze motion.

The following two images illustrate the power of your camera’s shutter speed to create very different images. Despite the composition being almost identical and the images being captured within minutes of each other, they not only look different, they feel different.

They were captured recently on the rocks under Mt Maunganui, New Zealand. The waves were BIG this particular night, and I eventually had to abandon the spot due to the rising tide bringing them closer and closer to the point that I really wasn’t safe.

1/5s, f/11, ISO 200
1/5s, f/11, ISO 200
107s, f/11, ISO 400
107s, f/11, ISO 400

As you can see, the the 1/5-second exposure freezes the waves beautifully while the 107-second exposure blurs the waves into a mist. The images have also been processed slightly differently to help with the different feel I was wanting to create.

Creating very long exposures requires neutral density (ND) filters, which are very dark and limit the amount of light being allowed through the lens and into the camera’s sensor. I personally use the Lee Big Stopper, but there are a number of options.

Next time you’re photographing a scene with movement, try experimenting with your shutter speed to create different images and play around with how different amounts of movement and blur make the images feel.

Leave a link to your images that show creative use of shutter speed in the comments, I would love to see them!

About the author

Rowan Sims is a landscape photographer based in New Zealand.  You can find out more about him on his website, follow his work on Instagram and Facebook, or reach out to him through twitter.  This article was also published here and shared with permission.

 

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3 responses to “The Power of Shutter Speed In Two Photographs”

  1. Antoimn Avatar
    Antoimn

    Good stuff! Other cool applications:

    Panning: https://flic.kr/p/nHhFBf
    Surreal vibe: https://flic.kr/p/qjpd8a – it was actually dark out and the building had light coming though windows
    The zoom effect (only possible with zoom lens though, plus a tripod is highly recommended): https://flic.kr/p/nQ8G49

  2. Ql Omar Avatar
    Ql Omar

    I don’t understand why people call it shutter speed referring shutter time:

    The huge mistake of calling time as speed :

    Change the exposure time in a camera (focal shutter plane) what changes is the starting time of the movement of the second curtain .

    This is curtains always move at the same speed (speed equals distance over time): travel 24mm ( length) in about 4 milliseconds (time) and this is more than 10 km / h REGARDLESS if a short time 1 / 2000s or long ⅛ second time ,

    And what changes is the time interval between the passage of a curtain and the other .

    For this exposure times are always measured in seconds or fractions of a second.

    So the next time you wonder what you can say you used speed 14km / h (depending on camera model )

    1. Jayson Carey Avatar
      Jayson Carey

      shutterspeed rolls off the tongue much easier than “shutter time”