Photo 101: Week 3 Assignment - Shutter Speed

This week's photo course was cancelled on account of inclement weather (aside: I'm going to start using the word "clement" when the weather's actually nice.), so we have another week to experiment with shutter speed. I don't know what to tell you about our shutter speed lesson, partially because it seems pretty simple a concept, and also because I sort of forgot some of the finer points of the lesson already since it was 9 days ago. What I can tell you is that I'm happy to be one of those camera-fiddlin' types who presses all the buttons and checks into the tripod-mounted camera over and over before carefully pressing on the remote shutter release and looking at the back of the camera to survey the beauty / horrors of his art.


Shutter speed is a way of creatively stopping, or showing movement. It controls the time the camera shutter is open -- the longer it's open, the more light gets in (at a fixed aperture) and the more blur you get. Conversely, a fast shutter speed will show stopped motion (think sports, cars (sports cars), or flying birds) in your photographs. When taking pictures (or "making them", as the true photographic artists say), you choose an appropriate shutter speed to convey the image you desire. You also have to choose an ISO, which for film users, generally means the "speed of the film" used. In digital terms, it's how sensitive the camera's sensor is to light. Outdoor shots in bright sunny conditions can have relatively low ISO values, whereas higher ISO values will be required for darker conditions. High ISO values also introduce "noise" into the picture, so you have to be careful about cranking up the ISO to get bright pictures. Great tutorials on shutter speed and ISO are here, in case you want to hear it from a professional.

The assignment this week was to take matching photos of a scene (with predictable movement) in medium light conditions (like 9AM or 4PM, or indoors with good lighting), with both fast and slow shutter speed. Fast shutter speed photos were to have low ISO settings (200), and slow shutter speeds at higher ISO (800). Tripods would be necessary (and I have a borrowed tripod that is trés swanky, but more on that later...).

My challenge would be finding time to get out at the right time of day, or to find good photo fodder indoors (which means in the house, really). I wound up getting some shots of traffic which I was not overly happy with, and some satisfying pictures of a waterfall and small river, which showed me that I also had a speck of dust on my sensor which only showed up in my slow shutter speed shots. I have since rectified this (I think.) and will try to duplicate the river shots and have them printed and displayed for your enjoyment and/or mockery.

Lastly, if anyone knows of a great place to get good used camera gear (other than eBay, thank you very much), let me know. I'm obsessing like mad over here, people!

And if you've taken awesome pictures using creative use of shutter-speed, post them in the comments!

Posted bythemikestand at 10:49 AM  

1 stepped up to the mike:

Steph said... 2:55 PM, January 30, 2008  

There's a camera shop on Hunter Street near Mr. Happy's studio. He bought a second-hand camera for me there. I don't know what they carry, just that they are there.

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