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Arriving at the best exposure for a photo is part science and part art. In Foundations of Photography: Exposure, Ben Long helps photographers expand their artistic options by giving them a deep understanding of shutter speed, aperture, ISO, and all other critical exposure practices. This course covers the basic exposure controls provided by all digital SLR cameras, as well as most advanced point-and-shoot models. Learn how to master a camera's metering modes, how to use exposure compensation and bracketing, and much more. By the end of the course, you'll know how to develop an "exposure strategy" that will allow you to effectively employ your exposure knowledge in any shooting situation.
Shutter speed is a pretty intuitive thing to understand. With a longer shutter speed, I capture a longer stretch of time. If something during that stretch of time is moving around it looks blurry. If I capture a very small sliver of time, I freeze motion. You have seen how with shutter priority mode, you can dial in whatever shutter speed you want to take control of motion, and intentionally blur it or render it sharp. We are going to look at a couple of real-world examples in this video, and we are going to start with this fountain here. Water is moving all the time, so if I use a slow shutter speed, I am going to get what appears to be just a solid sheet of water.
If I use a really fast shutter speed, I am going to freeze droplets in mid-air. So, let's take a look at a couple of shots here. You have to have a tripod to make this work, because we are going to be using a very long shutter speed--something so long that there is no way I can handle that. So, I have got my tripod set up. You can see that to get the angle that I wanted, I had to put my tripod in this kind of weird, legs-akimbo-position-here thing. So, when you are shopping for a tripod, you want to get one with as much flexibility and motion as you can. That's a real nice feature of this tripod is that the legs can go out like this.
So, I am going to start with just a kind of midrange shutter speed to show you what I have got here. Now, I put my camera in shutter priority mode, and I have dialed in 60th of a second, which is what we have been telling you should be the kind of slowest shutter speed that you should use in low-light situations. So, that's just a good general purpose shutter speed. I am going to put it there. Now, at the bottom of the screen here, you see this gauge that says -3, -2, -1, +1, +2, +3. You are going to learn all about this in just a little bit. This is the exposure compensation dial.
It also serves other functions when you are shooting in manual mode. You might see that it's at -1 right now. Don't worry about that. That's something I had to do because of the brightness of the top of the fountain. You are going to learn all about that later. All we are worried about right now is shutter speed. So I am here at 30th of a second. I have already focused my camera just to save time during this lesson. I am going to meter, and you see that my camera says it wants to shoot at 16. We are fine with that. I am going to take my shot, and here is what I get. It's an okay shot of a fountain. The water is just kind of there.
It's not raiser sharp. It's not super blurry. Let's sharpen it up. I am going to crank my shutter speed up to something really speedy here. I am going to go as far as I can, which is to a shutter speed of a 1000th of a second. Now, my camera will actually go faster than that. I can get my camera actually up to an 8000th of a second. When I do that you see that the 4.0 starts flashing. That's because this particular lens, the aperture cannot open any wider than f/4. So if I do this, my image is going to be underexposed.
So I am going to go back to 1/1000th of a second. It looks like actually maybe I can even get up to 1,250. Now, I am going to take that shot, and now our water has frozen up pretty well there. Let's go ahead and bump it up a little faster and risk a little bit of underexposure, meaning my image is going to be a little dark at 1/2000. I can brighten this up in my image editor later, but it will also just give you a view of just how much I can freeze the motion of the fountain. Now, let's go the other direction. I am going to go to a slow shutter speed.
Now, what's slow enough to stop a particular motion is something that you will usually have to experiment with, because our eyes see things at a particular speed all the time. So I am not sure. I am going to put this at 30th of a second and take a shot. That's kind of soft, but it's not really what I am going for. I want that water coming off the bottom of the fountain to just look like a solid sheet of water. So I am going to go much slower and drop down to an 8th of a second. The f/22 is flashing, so I am going to go back up until I can get-- there we go--a 25th of a second.
Let's shoot that. That looks better. Let's go all the way down. I am going to shoot this at 15th of a second. So, that's where we want to be. Now we are getting a nice solid sheet of water. This is the effect you can use on mountain streams, waterfalls. Anytime you've got moving water, try shooting both with a fast shutter speed and a slow shutter speed. If you really want to freeze motion-- you have seen that we have a problem of running into the speed of our lens-- there is a type of filter you can get called a neutral density filter that you can put over the end of your lens that will cut some light without changing the quality of the light.
It won't color it or anything, and that can buy you a little extra shutter speed latitude. Let's look at some other slow and fast shutter speed examples. So, here we an image that we shot with a pretty quick shutter speed. We have frozen this motion. This is a trumpet player playing pretty quickly. The image is a little bit soft, and that's partly because I couldn't get the shutter speed up super high, so I was still getting a tiny bit of blur, but also this particular camera in low light, you just get a lot of softening from the noise that's in there. But another option that I shot at the same time, because I wanted to really cover my subject well and shoot a lot of different ideas and try a lot of different things, I went intentionally to a much slower shutter speed and actually tried to get some motion blur.
Obviously, this is a fairly abstract image; it conveys a very different sense than a razor sharp image. Here is another intentional motion blur. This guy was hammering on this pointy piece of metal, and I wanted to really get the hammering, so I went to a slower shutter speed intentionally. Now when I do that, I have to be aware that that slower shutter speed is going to mean that I am really at a risk of camera shake, so I worked extra hard to be sure that I was holding the camera as still as possible, so that the only thing that would be blurry in the image would be actually the fall on the hammer.
And what turned out really nice in this image is that he was holding the rest of his body very still, so it was really nice. There was only the arm that was moving, so I only got softening and blurring where I wanted it. Here is another example. You can choose to shoot a sporting activity, or something like the skate boarder, with a really slow shutter speed to catch a lot of motion. Or you can choose to shoot it with a very fast shutter speed and try and freeze motion. And again, all of the shots are being controlled with shutter priority mode, just like we did at the fountain: dialing in the shutter speed that we want and letting the camera choose the corresponding aperture that will give us a well exposed image.
This thing, you may not recognize right away as a train, but that's what it is. That's a speeding locomotive. And this is a case where I didn't really have a choice but to shoot with a slower shutter speed, because this was the middle of the night. It was really dark; I was not going to get away with a fast shutter speed without having an image that was incredibly underexposed. I should have brought a tripod. It would be nice if the rest of the image was a little bit sharper, but still it works. I had to go to a very slow shutter speed and just try and hold still, and what was nice was the train was going fast enough so I got a really nice blur.
So, sometimes if you are in low light, you have no choice but to work with a slow shutter speed. You have no choice but to blur motion. At that point, don't fight it. Just give in to it and see what you can come up with, by choosing to let moving objects smear around. Again, shutter speed is a big apart of your creative toolbox. It's a very important apart of your photographic vocabulary, so don't be afraid to try to experiment with blurring motion, experiment with freezing motion, trying both if you have the option. You may not be sure what's going to be best until you get home and take a look at your images.
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