All posts tagged as shutter speed


WORKSHOP: Basic DSLR Mechanics

Your camera is designed to do one thing: take photos. Other bells and whistles are nice but, at the end of the day, your lens, sensor, and shutter button are all that matter. Here’s a very quick breakdown of what happens inside your DSLR when shutter button is pressed.

After you attach the lens to the body, this is is how light passed through the camera and into the viewfinder, allowing you to see what you’re shooting at in real-time.

The next couple of diagrams show what the mirror does when the shutter button is pressed. The mirror flips upward so light can pass through the lens and directly to the sensor for the image to be captured. The longer the mirror stays up, the more light the sensor can absorb – and the brighter your image will be. Check my other Workshop on light control to learn more about shutter speed and manipulating your sensor’s access to light. For shutter speeds like 1/30 (or one-thirtieth of a second), the mirror will stay up longer, allowing for a bright photo. Shutter speeds like 1/800 (or one-eight-hundredth of a second), the mirror will shut up and down a lot faster, minimizing motion blur at the expense of light.

This graphic shows the movement of the mirror when the shutter button is pressed. Photographers with mirrorless cameras are missing exactly that – a mirror. For mirrorless users, light passes directly through the lens and onto the sensor; however, mirrorless camera must rely on a digital viewfinder (rather than an optical one shown here) to see what they’re shooting at. For older mirrorless cameras, this usually consumed extra battery life that a standard DSLR wouldn’t need. Mirrorless cameras today have mostly fixed this issue.

Another way to look at it is like this: Take a shutter speed of 1/30, for example. 1 ÷ 30 = 0.0333 seconds. That means your mirror will stay up for 0.0333 seconds before coming back down. At a shutter speed of 1/800, your mirror is retracted for only 0.00125 seconds (because 1 ÷ 800 = 0.00125). That’s not a lot of time for light to pass through your lens and onto the sensor. Images at a higher shutter speed will be less blurry but, since light is hitting the sensor for less time, images will also be significantly darker.

Photography is a lot about manipulating light. Actually, it’s all about light. The goal is to balance your shutter speed with aperture and ISO to capture the best amount of light.


WORKSHOP: Your DSLR & Light Control

Let’s get right to it – the three major factors that determine the quality of any photo you take with a DSLR (or any camera with manual settings).


Your aperture determines how blurry the background of your photo will be.

Higher Values: The higher this value is (eg: F32), the more in-focus background objects will appear. Higher aperture values will darken your photos as the lens allows less light reaching the sensor to reduce blur. To compensate of loss of light, lower your Shutter Speed and/or increase your ISO.

Lower Values: As values get lower in number (eg: F1.4), background objects will appear blurrier, giving your photos a “bokeh” effect. Lower aperture values will also brighten your photos. If your photos appear too bright, you may want to keep your ISO setting at the lowest value and your Shutter Speed higher.

Notice how the trees and hangar are blurred in the background but the aircraft is in-focus and sharp in the foreground?

Shutter Speed

Your shutter speed determines how blurry your photo will be when challenged with movement.

Higher Values: The higher the Shutter Speed, the less blurry your photos will be. As your Shutter Speed reaches higher values (eg: 1/1000), the shutter on your camera will open and close faster, causing less and less light to reach the sensor. This will make your photos darker since light has less of a chance to reach the sensor in time. You can compensate for this by increase ISO or lowering your Aperture.

Lower Values: The lower the Shutter Speed, the blurrier your photos will come out – if there is movement. Lower Shutter Speeds (eg: 1/2) keep the shutter on your camera open for a longer period of time, allowing more light to reach the sensor. However, if your hands are shaking or the subject you’re photographing is moving, lower Shutter Speeds will blur your photo as the sensor is exposed to light longer. If too much light is entering your sensor, increase your Aperture and keep your ISO at its lowest setting.


This is basically “fake light.”

Higher Values: Higher ISO values (eg: 25,600) will make your camera sensor more sensitive to light, but will increase the grain or “noise” in the photo. Higher ISO values are best used in low-light conditions such as indoor events or astrophotography, where shakiness and movement needs to be suppressed with higher shutter speeds or the use of a tripod.

Lower Values: Lower ISO values (eg: 50 or 100) will make your camera sensor less sensitive to light and will decrease the amount of grain or noise in the photo. Lower ISO values are best used in daylight conditions as you want to minimize the amount of light in your photos.

roy michael antoun photography