The chief reason for wanting to take control of shutter speed is to control how movement is captured on camera. Let’s take a look at some of the principals involved.
Shutter speed is one of the three settings we can adjust to change how light or dark a picture looks. It needs to be balanced with aperture and ISO sensitivity in order to get a ‘correct-looking’ exposure, and which shutter speed you use is important, since it affects how motion is portrayed.
The golden rule is this: anything that moves while the shutter is open will blur. So, if you photograph water flowing over a waterfall, for example, with a shutter speed of 1/2 sec, then the water will look silky smooth and blurry, since it was moving on a similar timescale to the shutter speed. But photograph the same waterfall with a shutter speed of 1/4000 sec, and you’ll see every droplet of water frozen motionless, since it wasn’t able to move much when the shutter was open.
This principal can be put to work in a number of creative ways. You can try blurring objects a little to give them a sense of motion, or you can freeze them so you can see subtleties of movement you’d normally miss. The length of the shutter speed you need to use to blur or freeze a subject depends entirely on how fast it’s moving: experimentation is key!
When photographing airplanes and helicopters, try a shutter speed that lets you freeze the aircraft, so it looks sharp, but its propellers or rotors blur slightly. (A helicopter with static rotor blades always looks like it’s about to fall out of the sky!)
© Peter Steffen
Moving and motionless objects in the same frame always look really good – think water flowing around a rock in a river, or crowds of people streaming past a single person standing still. This is the approach used to shoot fireworks, too: letting the light trails blur through the sky while the shutter is open, and the rest of the scene stays still and sharp.
© Denise SilvaNow includes image credits.
The easiest way to take control of shutter speed on your FUJIFILM camera is with shutter priority shooting mode. This lets you pick whatever shutter speed you like, while the camera chooses an aperture to match. But before you rush out and try to blur everything in sight, a word of warning: long shutter speeds don’t just blur subject movement, they blur camera movement, too. This means you should support your camera (preferably on a tripod, but any sturdy platform will do) when shooting in this way, otherwise the tiny vibrations from your hands register as blur across the whole frame – which does not look good.
- 1/30 sec
- 1/4 sec
- Taken with 10-stop filter
Your Next Steps
- CHALLENGE Pick a moving subject and photograph it using slower shutter speeds to blur its motion. Don’t forget you might need to support your camera on a tripod. Post your results to social media with the hashtag #MyFujifilmLegacy. You can also submit your work here for a chance to be featured on our social media channels.