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Swing batta batta swing!
This time we’re going to finish our discussion of “the exposure triangle.” We’ve already covered aperture and depth of field in part one and in part two we talked about ISO and light sensitivity.
The third side of the triangle is shutter speed.
The triangle is just an analogy–a way of trying to simplify the mystery of exposure. Granted, some are about as comfortable with The Exposure Triangle as they are flying into The Bermuda Triangle…but no worries. I promise you won’t get sucked into the time/space vortex—or wherever it is that those planes have ended up!
On to shutter speed: Imagine you’re in the living room. Heck, maybe you ARE in your living room. What do I know? But anyway. You are in the living room. Open and close your drapes. Really fast. No. REALLY fast! Like, in 1/125th of a second.
That’s what your camera’s shutter is. It’s the curtains opening and closing. Light comes in through the shutter–which works like a set of curtains–and hits your camera’s sensor. Or film, if you still shoot film. Aperture is how wide you open the curtains……”Shutter speed” is how long you leave the curtains open.
Short durations, or fast shutter speeds, allow you to freeze motion, like in the softball shot above. I don’t have the metadata for that shot handy but the shutter speed was probably at least a thousandth of a second. I chose that setting so that I’d be able to freeze the ball right before it hit the bat. I wanted a slightly blurry background, so the aperture is probably about f/8.
Remember. To freeze action, use a faster shutter speed. Meaning…a shorter duration. 1/1000th of a second is faster than 1/125th.
I work with my camera on aperture priority most of the time, because in the journalistic stuff I shoot, depth of field is usually what I am most concerned about. I want to call attention to certain subjects. One way to do that is by using selective focus….and I do that by controlling the depth of field. So, aperture priority.
The exception is when capturing motion, or illustrating motion using selective blur, is more important than depth of field. Then I switch to shutter priority.
Perhaps you’ve seen our dogs Mocha and Abby on SRFD.
They’ve had several cameos over the years.
Anyway, the shot above was shortly after Abby joined the family. She and Mo loved to play rough. (By the way, don’t worry about Abby. She’s twice the size of Mocha now.)
When they were going at it in the family room, above, I wanted to freeze the action
so I used a faster shutter speed.
But often you don’t want the entire photo razor sharp.
A little blur gives the image life. It conveys motion and action and drama.
Like in this shot of birds on our back deck. I like the blur.
I love to experiment with motion blur, whether it’s birds fussing, or someone giving a speech.
A little blur–in the right place—is a good thing.
So how do you get that? Set your camera to shutter priority and choose a shutter speed of 1/60th, 1/30th, maybe even 1/15th depending on how fast your subject is moving
and how much blur you want. In the shot above the camera was still and
parts of the subjects were moving faster than the other elements.
Another factor is whether YOU are moving….or, more accurately….whether the camera is moving.
Trish and I shot this one of our son and his fiance on their motorcycle one night. One cold night.
I remember it was cold because I was hanging out the window shooting. It’s even possible that I might have gotten into the bed of the pickup and let Trish drive….but don’t tell anybody.
I’m sure that—-IF I had done that—it would have been some kind of violation.
The bike isn’t moving that fast really…maybe 30 miles an hour…and Trish and I were doing about the same speed. Since the bike was moving and the camera was moving….the background is blurry because it is stationary. The shutter speed on this one was about 1/60th of a second.
Again, the motorcycle and camera were moving at about the same speed.
You can get a similar effect even if your subject is not doing 30 miles an hour.
Or, if you’re shooting a racing sport….a heckuva lost faster than that.
You can employ the same technique, known as “panning”—meaning, moving the camera at the same speed as your subject—even if the subject is just someone walking down an aisle toward a stage.
I shot the two frames above at the 2011 Top Cops Awards and I think the movement helps convey some of the excitement of the evening, more than a completely tack-sharp frame would have.
To get a similar result, dial up a shutter speed of about 1/30th and move with your subject. As they walk, you move your camera at the same speed, keep your subject in focus and shoot multiple frames. The downside of motion blur is that it is often a crap shoot.
Either it looks great….or yeah, not so much.
So practice, practice, practice.
I practice all the time. This shot was taken during a photo class in Florida that got a little dry. I noticed some lights on the floor of the auditorium so I sat on the floor and shot a few closeups of them.
Then I started playing with slow shutter speeds and was moving the camera around during the exposure
just to see what it would look like.
The shot above is nothing exciting….and I may never use it for anything other than this blog.
It was just purely an experiment to get more familiar with my gear.
But remember this—-every great photographer I’ve ever met or read about has used this phrase at some point; “I wonder what would happen if I tried….”
That’s why I’m always encouraging you in these photography posts to try new things!
OK, so…..back to the triangle.
The three sides work together. You control the exposure by adjusting one or more of the three sides.
Not much light on your subject? You’ll need a higher ISO so that you’ll be able to get something other than the widest possible aperture….so that you’ll have enough of the shot in focus.
If you want it in focus.
A bright sunny day…..and you are wanting very little of your shot in focus?? Use a low ISO, large aperture and a high shutter speed so that the curtains are not open very long.
The exposure triangle is about more than just “special effect” type shots like some
of those we discussed earlier. Simply put, understanding exposure will let you tell your camera what to do to deliver the kind of “look” you want your photos to have.
No more spraying and praying, hoping you get at least one good frame.
I shot some of our foxgloves tonight to get some images to illustrate this point.
This flower bed is on one of the less attractive sides of the house. AC units, breakers, etc.
This shot was at ISO 1600. The aperture was 22 and the shutter speed was 1/125.
That much depth of field shows a little more detail of the house than I’d like.
This one has the same ISO—1600…but the aperture was 3.2 in order to get a blurrier background.
Since 3.2 lets in more light (because the curtains were open a lot wider than at f/22)…I upped the shutter speed to 1/6400 to compensate.
Often, if you increase one, you want to decrease another.
To use the triangle analogy, if you shorten or lengthen one side…the other 2 sides are also affected.
So there you have it. The three sides of the exposure triangle. Aperture, ISO and shutter speed.
Hopefully this was helpful and you’re not flying around in the vortex somewhere.
If you see Amelia Earhart in there, tell her hi for us!
Keep shooting and keep learning….and have fun!
Let me know if you have other topics you want to tackle.
And as Tricia says….Thanks for stopping by.