Using shutter speed priority – Part I

Creative Photography with a seasoning of Mindfulness.


Using shutter speed priority – Part I

The next mode you will want to learn to use is TV – shutter priority.

While aperture priority controls how much light is let in to the camera, shutter priority controls how long the light is allowed in.

The shutter setting is an increment of seconds; for example 5 seconds, 3, 1/2, 1/100, 1/640
These will normally be displayed as 125 = 1/125 second, 600 = 1/600 second…

Why use TV mode?

One of the reasons – necessities – is to stop movement in your image.
The movement I’m speaking of here is camera shake.
The main reason to not keep an image is when it is not in focus, or not sharp.

Cardinal TV 640 = 1/640

When you are holding your camera instead of using a tripod, the movement of your body and even your breathing can cause an image to be out of focus.
For me, 1/125 is a pretty safe setting to hand hold and get sharp images.

Some factors that influence Camera movement are;

  • Shutter speed
  • Focal length or zoom
  • Age
  • Generally how you are feeling;
    Climb a long flight of stairs at my age and you need to catch your breath before becoming still again.
  • Body posture = feet spread slightly and firmly on the ground.
  • Camera Grip = elbows tight in on the body.
  • Breathing out slowly while gently pushing the button to take the picture.

When practicing using TV mode, try setting the shutter speed to 1/125 second and check your image to see if everything is in focus.
If so, then dial to 1/100 and try again. Wash, rinse and repeat until you find the slowest setting where your images are still sharp.

Let’s see what happens at different settings.
Both of these images were hand held.

Shutter speed 125 = 1/125 second.

This image was created with a setting of 125 = 1/125th second.
It may not be the sharpest image, because that requires a tripod and a few other tricks, but it is relatively sharp.

Shutter speed 15 = 1/15th second.

I kept using a slower shutter speed until I saw this this picture, which is definitely not worth keeping.
This was taken at 15 = 1/15th second.

Another thing to note is that the slower the shutter speed, the brighter the image, correspondingly the faster the shutter speed, the darker the image will be.

This aspect of photography is known as exposure and depends on three settings;

  • Shutter speed – how long is the light allowed to reach the sensor.
  • Aperture – how much light is let in to the sensor.
  • ISO – how sensitive to light should the sensor be.

You will be facing these three settings soon when you learn to use
M – Manual mode.
In manual mode you take complete control of your exposure by setting all three parameter.

Back to stopping movement.

As you just saw, one of the reasons for using and setting the right shutter speed is to stop movement, camera movement.

Subject Movement

Let’s look at another type of movement; subject movement.

Birds – animals in general – are not patient models for photography.
They have a sense of time which is completely different from a human model.

When walking in the forest, relatively dark, and over clearings, relatively bright, I employ TV mode for 2 reasons;

  • I can use a slower shutter speed in the forest; 125 = 1/125 second. Through clearings I can speed up the shutter; 500 = 1/500 second, making the image darker.
  • If an animal visits, I can speed up the shutter and attempt to keep him / her sharp and in focus.

A case in point is the Cardinal image above.

I’d love to say that luck has nothing to do with good images, but this is simply not true.

You can however, stack the deck in your favor by being in the right camera mode at the right instant and learning where all the buttons are and what they do.

Walking through a suburban area on a very sunny day, this beautiful animal sat still just long enough to zoom in, prop the camera on the shoulder of someone, dial in a faster shutter speed (640 = 1/640) and capture the moment.

Creative Photography

Just as AV mode discussed earlier, TV mode gives you control over the camera and you get to decide what image you want to create.

We will revisit Shutter speed mode again to see more examples of stopping subject movement and manipulating time to NOT stop subject movement, instead you will learn to capture movement in your images.

So get back outside now, find something in motion and play with shutter speed settings.
Carpe Diem – capture the moment in increments of a second!

Any questions, comments and critic is welcome!


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