Learning Photography: Shutter Speed

by Sarah Cooper on August 16, 2008

Shutter speed is a really versatile setting to experiment with. You should find this setting labeled with Tv or S on your digital camera.

Adjusting the shutter speed is exactly what it sounds like — deciding how long the shutter will stay open, which dramatically changes the look of your picture. A faster shutter speed can freeze the motion of a hummingbird’s wings. A slower shutter speed can create a whole new world of motion and light.

You’ll get better result from a slower shutter speed in most cases by using a tripod or monopod. The slightest movement can blur a photo when you’re using a longer exposure time. (Tip: if you find that even snapping the picture on your camera causes a little wobble, you can get around this using the two second delay timer. You aren’t touching the camera by the time it takes the photo.)

If you’re trying to capture a unique look for a house, one that will stand out in a sea of similar listings, try taking the exterior pictures at dusk. Experiment with exposure times to find one that brings the house to life. You’ll get a sky rich with gradient blues and each light will bloom with a warm golden glow. It’s easy to imagine yourself going home to such a welcoming house after a long day. The fact that it’s obviously a little different from the average listing photo helps an online buyer slow their browsing enough to take a good long look.

The photos in the Real Estate Show below are City Lights and August Nights by Teresa Boardman, Clark County Fair After Dark, Shutter Speed Indoor Test – 1 Second and Shutter speed Indoor Test – No Flash by Dale Chumbley, Long Exposure Fourth of July Fireworks and Long Exposure Fourth of July Fireworks by Jeff Turner and Dancing Lights by Tall One and A Matter of Time by myself to illustrate some of the different looks you can achieve by adjusting the shutter speed on your camera.

Also in this series, see Learning Photography: Light Sources.

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