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Some Perspective On Fast Shutter Speed
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Some Perspective on Fast Shutter Speed

Not everything you’ll be trying to photograph will be standing still for you. If you want to freeze something in time, it often takes a fast shutter speed. How fast? Well, that depends on a number of factors. Here are some things to consider.

The very first thing that you should think about is the kind of lens you are using. Furthermore, are you holding the camera by hand, or are you using a tripod? The unfortunate truth is that our hands aren’t as steady as we would sometimes like them to be. If you hold a camera with a long lens, you’ll need to use a faster shutter speed in order to avoid image-ruining vibration.

Another factor that will influence how fast the shutter should move is how close you are to the subject. If you are in a low riding car, it feels like you are moving faster than if you are riding in a large truck, right? Because the car is closer to the ground, the ground seems to be moving by faster. The same principle applies to your camera. The closer you are to the subject, or for that matter, the closer you are zoomed in, the faster the shutter should close if you want the image frozen.

How fast is the image moving? How much of the image do you want frozen? While we are on the subject of vehicles, let’s suppose you are photographing a car. Can you see how you can get a striking photograph if the car’s body is sharp and the wheels are blurred? Of course, that would be quite an accomplishment! The shutter would have to close fast enough to freeze the car, but not so fast as to freeze the wheels.

One final question: do you plan to use flash? Something that you should be aware of is that if the shutter is moving too fast, it can outrun the flash cube. If that happens, you’ll have an image that is partially blacked out. The good news here is that flash can freeze motion just like a fast moving shutter. So, depending on the situation, you might not even need to crank the speed up. There is something else to watch out for though; your camera’s flash doesn’t have a very long range. An external flash unit is more powerful than what is built into your camera, and will reach farther, but range is still something to plan for.

The best way to learn about how to learn about the specific settings that are appropriate for a given situation is to read related photography books and to take your lessons out into the field. By looking at the settings that other photographers have used, you can get a feel for what to use. And of course, it is practice that transfers the lessons you learn into practical photography skills.

Cranking up the speed on the shutter will give you a frozen image. How much you want to speed it up depends on specifically what you want to accomplish. How much of the image do you want sharp? Do you want to completely freeze the image, or do you want part of it to be blurred? Do you plan to use flash? These are important things to consider. But with time, you can develop a feel for what to use.


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