Camera lens diaphragm shutter
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

Those stepping out of auto mode will need to learn about three important settings in photography: aperture, ISO, and shutter speed. These are commonly referred to as the “exposure triangle,” as one must achieve a balance between all three factors to create a well-exposed image. Today we will be talking about shutter speed, how it affects an image, and how to use it to your advantage.

To learn more about other photography terms and concepts, you can also check out the link below.

Also read: Photography terms explained: ISO, aperture, and more

What is shutter speed in photography?

To take a photograph, a camera needs to let light into the sensor. Cameras have a shutter, which stops light from reaching the sensor until activated. When a shot is triggered, this shutter will open up and expose the sensor to entering light. The time this shutter stays open is referred to as shutter speed.

More: What are the M, S, A, and P modes in a camera?

How is shutter speed measured?

The Exposure Triangle

Shutter speed is typically measured in seconds and fractions of a second. A shutter speed of 1/100 will expose the sensor for a hundredth of a second. Likewise, a 1/2 shutter speed will last half a second. You can also leave the shutter open for multiple seconds, commonly referred to as a long exposure shot. Most cameras can go down to about 1/4000 of a second and up to about 30 seconds or more.

The effects of manipulating this setting

A shorter shutter speed will help “freeze” the moment. This will make for crisper photos, but it allows less time for the sensor to capture light, making the image darker.

When light is not sufficient, you can brighten an image by elongating the time the shutter stays open, but this could also create motion blur. You can capture detail with a longer shutter speed, but you’ll need both your subject and camera to be very still. You can use a tripod to keep your camera static.

Also: How to use manual mode on your smartphone camera

When should I extend shutter speed?

Most photographers like to keep the shutter speed as short as possible. If this is the case, you might want to manipulate ISO and aperture to better expose an image without sacrificing crispness. Alternatively, you can add artificial light to the scene. Check the link below to see some of our recommendations on photography lights and other accessories.

More: The best photography essentials you can buy

As you advance in your photography knowledge and skills, you will realize extending the shutter speed can also create amazing effects. You can do this to smooth out waves in the ocean, for example. People also love capturing light in motion, a technique that requires a longer shutter speed. A little bit of motion blur can also portray movement, such as a blurred-out passing car.

Consider using an ND filter

Camera filters and polarizers
There is such a thing as having too much light.Edgar Cervantes

There is such a thing as having too much light. Imagine taking a shot on a sunny day, and you want a long exposure shot; let’s say it is a 5-second one. You also want to keep the aperture wide open to get that nice bokeh. This leaves you with one other setting to manipulate: ISO. The only problem is that ISO can only help you so much, since you can’t go lower than base ISO (usually 100 or 50) to darken an image.

A neutral density (ND) filter is essentially a dark piece of glass that stops light from reaching the sensor. This accessory attaches to the front end of a lens. It’s perfect for shooting daytime long exposures. It will allow you to extend shutter speed without having an excess of light hitting your sensor.

Photography is a complex art, so we have put together a series of tutorials and in-depth material for you to learn more!