Closet Photographer - What is a shutter and why do I care about it's speed?

Last month we covered the basics of Aperture; One of the two major factors in the exposure of an image. This month we are going to be focusing on the other half of the equation; Shutter Speed.  

Let's take this from the bare basics here. So, what is that Shutter thing? The shutter is the material which opens and closes to expose the film or sensor to light in order to capture  the image.


Shutterspeed refers to the length of time the shutter stays open allowing light in. A fast shutter speed allows the shutter to stay open for a very short period of time while a slow shutter speed leaves the shutter open for a longer period of time.


There is no perfect shutter speed for every situation. Other factors such as the level of light, the aperture and the effect you are trying to schieve all factor in to the choice of shutter speed.


For example:


Level of light: In a clear sunny midday image there is abundent light to expose the image properly so a fast shutter speed is possible but a candle lit room at night has minimal light and requires the shutter to stay open longer to properly expose the image


The Aperture: A larger opening of an aperture such as F1.4 allows much more light in to expose the images than an aperture of F22 with a much smaller opening which limits the amount of light let in to expose the image


The Effect: A fast shutter speed (with sufficient lighting) allows you to stop motion in the image of your child running across the yard allowing you to capture the smile on their face and their hair streaming out behind them whereas a long shutter speed would allow the rest of the yard to stay in focus while your running child becomes a blur of motion (usually used to indicate speed)


Over the next few weeks we will be exploring the relationship of each of these on shutter speed in greater detail to help you understand not just what the term means but what it really means for your photos.