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How To Note Shutter Speed In Photography


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Noting shutter speed

Violinists practice scales, painters practice line, people who are lousy at their craft don't practice at all. Now you can probably get where I am going with this: to be a good photographer you have to practice-- you have to practice a lot. Just as a violinist practices scales until they are in her fingers, you've got to practice shooting until certain things are muscle memory. You have learned the importance of half-pressing your shutter button to autofocus and meter. That's your first kind of muscle-memory habit. Your second one has to be to always take note of shutter speed after you meter. Here is why.

You have seen that a slow shutter speed can blur things in an image, and you understand that when I am shooting at a slower shutter speed, there is a chance that camera-shake is going to render my entire image soft or blurry. That means that every single time you half-press that shutter button to meter, you have to take note of your shutter speed to find out if it is fast enough to get a good shot. Now if you are on a tripod, this isn't going to matter, but when we are shooting handheld, you have to always note shutter speed to make sure it is fast enough for handheld shooting.

Now I am out here in bright daylight right now. It's full-on afternoon daylight. So I am going to meter on these flowers here, and I see that I get a shutter speed of 1/250th of a second. That is plenty fast for handheld shooting. There are going to be other times though when you might see that your shutter speed is a little bit too slow. Let's take a look at one of them. Take a situation like this. This should feel somewhat familiar to you. I am in a restaurant. Some friends are here. I just want to take some pictures of them. It's much, much lower light in here than it was outside.

In fact, it's so low that when I meter, my shutter speed is reading a third of a second. A third of a second is way too slow for handheld shooting. At a third of a second, any tiny, little shake is going to appear in my image as blurriness. So this is why it is so critical that you always, always, always, always take note of the shutter speed after you meter, because this is a fairly normal situation we are in, the kind of situation where you are going to want to take pictures. The inside of your house is probably like this, the inside of your office, inside of a restaurant, any kind of social situation where you are wanting to shoot, you are going to very potentially be facing a lower shutter speed problem.

Now, how slow is too slow? To be honest, there is a fairly exacting formula you can use for calculating the minimum shutter speed that's allowed when shooting handheld. We are not going to go into that right now. You can learn about that in the lenses course. We are just going to, for now, use a blanket shutter speed, and say, if your shutter speed is reading less then a 60th of a second, you are in danger of camera shake. You are possibly in the realm of shutter speed that is too slow. So what do you do? I come into a place like this. My friends are here. I want to shoot them, and my camera meters a third of a second.

Well, there are a couple of things that we are going to learn later that you can do. We don't want to get to those yet. First, I want you to develop this habit, in the meantime. When you face this kind of situation, when your shutter speed drops below a 60th of a second, you need to decide to either, well, this is too slow, I am just not going to take this picture, or you have got to work really, really hard to stabilize your camera. In this case, because I am standing up, stabilization is pretty easy. I put my elbows at my side. I keep them there. I put my camera in this hand. It is being buttressed by this elbow. My other hand goes here.

I raise the camera all the way to my eye. I don't hold the camera out here and put my head up to it. I come all the way up here. This is a very, very, very stable way to shoot. I can also try to set the camera on something. Stabilize it this way. If I am sitting down, I can rest my elbows on the table. It might technically be bad etiquette, but for photography it is a great thing-- anything you can to get the camera stable. Now a little bit later you can learn some exposure tricks to get you out of these low-shutter-speed situations, but I don't want you to go there yet. Right now your goal is to develop a muscle-memory-ingrained habit that every single time you meter, you read that shutter speed and find out if it's fast enough for you to get the shot you want.

Noting shutter speed
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Noting shutter speed provides you with in-depth training on Photography. Taught by Ben Long as part of the Foundations of Photography: Exposure

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