Sunday, June 19, 2011

Cameras - What is Shutter Speed/ISO

Shutter speed? Is that a un-related sequel to the movie "Shutter Island" related to fast cars? Nope. We're talking about camera shutter speed.

Shutter speed is basically the speed in which the shutter opens and closes. It's simple really. Shutter speed affects the amount of light entering the sensor. Shutter speed, can be used as a powerful tools to exaggerate, or freeze motion. You could freeze a bird in mid-flight, or show a milky waterfall.

If you were to increase your shutter speed, as in a "long shutter speed", you could take a picture of a waterfall, and exaggerate the water falling in a milky white fashion. Not only can you just take a picture of waterfall, but you could take night images. If you increase your shutter speed, more light will enter the sensor, resulting in a "brighter" image. You could light up a city or a bridge at night with a long shutter speed.

Although if you use a long shutter speed, you must use a tripod of some sort. Increasing shutter speed will result in blur, and if unless you want a very bright blob of light in your picture, you must use a tripod for longer exposures.

Shorter shutter speed, or "very quick shutter speeds" can be used to freeze flying insects flying towards your face. Sadly, it doesn't work in real life, and only works on film, so remember to dodge. The problem with this is, if the lighting isn't bright enough, you may end up with a under exposed picture, and everything could be very dark.

In summary:
Slow Shutter Speed

  • Blurring effects
  • Brighter night scenes
  • Increased exposure


  • Blurry pictures without a tripod
  • Over exposed pictures

Fast Shutter Speed

  • Freezing effect
  • Little to no blurring


  • Dark/underexposed pictures
Also, ISO.

ISO? We ain't talking about Tron now. We're talking about how sensitive the camera is towards incoming light.

Generally ISO can make images look brighter, but despite of that, you want to generally keep ISO as low as possible. No matter what camera, the higher ISO, the greater chances, and the great amount of  "image noise", or that famed "grain" in all of your dark pictures.

  • Brightens pictures
  • Decreases picture quality (Image noise)