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Shutter priority

From: Photography 101

Video: Shutter priority

To switch your camera into shutter priority mode. You'll be looking at the dial on top of your DSLR. On a Canon, it's actually under the letters TV. It stands for Time Valuation. It's a little bit odd, but that is what shutter priority is called on a Canon. On a Nikon, it's simply S for Shutter priority. And on the Sony, it's also S. I think on most DSLRs outside of Cannon.

Shutter priority

To switch your camera into shutter priority mode. You'll be looking at the dial on top of your DSLR. On a Canon, it's actually under the letters TV. It stands for Time Valuation. It's a little bit odd, but that is what shutter priority is called on a Canon. On a Nikon, it's simply S for Shutter priority. And on the Sony, it's also S. I think on most DSLRs outside of Cannon.

You're going to find that it says S for shutter priority. So what does this actually mean? Well, first of all, when you set the camera to shutter priority. This means that you as the photographer gets to choose the shutter speed. And the camera's going to choose the aperture automatically to give you a proper exposure. So why would you want to choose the shutter speed, and what is a shutter speed anyway? Well, let's talk about that first. Let's talk about what a shutter speed actually is. When you take a picture, there's a shutter that opens which lets light through the lens and into the film plane, in the days of film. But now to the digital sensor in the back, and then closes after preset amount of time.

Now that amount of time is very, very short. Usually 100th, or maybe 200th of a second. But sometimes when you have a longer exposure, you'll have that shutter open for longer. So let's take a look at what's actually happening, inside of the camera. So this is about a one second exposure. The shutter's open for one whole second, allowing light to come in for one long second. And that's a very long time and pretty much anything you're shooting's going to be blurry during that time. Unless you have the camera on a tripod. For most shooting you're going to be shooting much longer than that.

But I wanted to make it nice and long so you could just see it through the camera there. Okay, so let's talk about why you would use this. Let's say that you were shooting some kind of action sequence. And you want to have a really frozen motion. You want to have your sports person flying through the air, frozen in mid-air. Well, then you want to make sure you have a really high shutter speed. So by choosing shutter priority and setting a shutter speed at maybe 2000th of a second. You can freeze just about anything. But then let's go the other direction. Maybe you want some blur in the picture. Again it could be action, right? You could be shooting a car going down the road. Let's say you want to show the car moving, but you want to have the background be blurry.

By tracking the car as it moves, with a long shutter speed, maybe a 15th or a tenth of a second. The background will actually be soft and streaky. You've probably seen that in some car ads before. So it really just depends on what you're trying to do. Now there are times where you have very low light, that you absolutely need to have a long shutter speed. And times when you're really bright light, when you have to have a high shutter speed. But in other situations, like in sports and action, you may want to control that, just to get whatever you want. So let's talk about some of the actual settings, and the results that you get. So a high shutter speed would be something like around 125th of a second or higher.

You're going to be able to work with that when you have a lot of light. And you're not really working with a tripod generally, because you don't need a tripod for that high of a shutter speed. And generally what that's going to do, is freeze your motion. If we go the other direction, to a low shutter speed. About a 60th of a second or lower, that generally means you're working in low light. You probably have a tripod, or you might be using a flash. And chances are you're going to be blurring your motion. Unless of course, everything in the scene is rock solid and not moving. In which case, the exposure can be as long as you want.

So, it just depends on what you're shooting. But by choosing the shutter priority mode, you get to choose the shutter speed. And the camera automatically picks the aperture for you.

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Photography 101

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Joseph Linaschke
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