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Working With Shutter Speeds - Book Excerpt - Creative Lighting Tips And Techniques
The following excerpt is from a wonderful new digital photography book, Creative Lighting: Digital Photography Tips and Techniques by award-winning professional photographer Harold Davis. The book covers both natural light and studio lighting. However, it is not a cookbook covering studio lighting setups; nor is it a book that emphasizes the pixels over the overall visual impact that a photograph can make.
Each of the photos in Creative Lighting can be used to generate ideas for your own work — how you can use existing light, alter light, or create lighting to make spectacular photos of your own. The author includes the story behind each photo in the book, as well as full technical data about the captures.
Working with Shutter Speed
When you set the shutter speed on your camera, as I’ve mentioned, you are actually setting a duration of time. A slow shutter speed lets more light into the sensor, and a fast shutter speed lets in less light. For example, a shutter speed of 1/2000 of a second allows very little light in to be recorded, while a shutter speed of ten minutes allows a great deal of light in.
It’s important to understand that shutter speed is badly misnamed. This setting doesn’t control a speed at all; rather, it controls an interval of time. Once you realize that the true nature of the setting is duration rather than speed, you won’t have any trouble understanding how to set your shutter.
The goods news is that it is easy to work with shutter speeds when you calculate exposures because the setting has an entirely linear effect. A shutter speed of 1/2000 of a second lets in half the light as a shutter speed of 1/1000 of second, and 2 seconds lets in twice as much light as a shutter speed of 1 second. The simplicity of this arithmetic makes exposure changes involving shutter speed very easy to calculate.
Just like with aperture, if you want to change the shutter speed setting for creative or technical reasons while keeping the exposure in balance, you need to effect an equal-but-opposite change using one or both of the two other exposure controls, aperture and ISO.
The main visual impact in a photo of changing shutter speed is how motion is rendered. By motion, I’m referring to two different kinds of motion: camera motion and subject motion.
Camera motion is a simple phenomenon to understand. Depending on a number of variables including lens focal length and whether image stabilization technology is in use, shutter speeds that are too slow produce photos that are blurry and not tack sharp.
Of course, sometimes moving the camera can produce—either on purpose, or taking advantage of serendipity—interesting effects (for example, see the image of surf below).
When it is the subject that is in motion, the choice of shutter speed determines how objects that transmit or reflect light, and are in motion, are rendered. Fast shutter speeds stop movement crisply, while slow shutter speeds can create an appealing motion blur.
200mm, 2.5 seconds at f/25 and ISO 100, tripod mounted
I made the creative decision to use as long an exposure as possible to render the flowing water as poetically as possible. Considering the lighting conditions, with my lens stopped all the way down (to f/25), this meant an exposure of 2.5 seconds. With a shutter speed duration of 2.5 seconds, you can see that the fastest moving water becomes completely blurred. On the other hand, water that is moving more slowly—for example, slow drips beneath the rocks—is rendered more crisply, almost the way we “see” it without a camera.
If you’ve ever photographed moving water, you’ve probably noticed this effect. Shutter speeds of about 1/ 250 of a second or faster create crisp trails of water, apparently stopping in its tracks. Shutter speeds of about 1/10 of a second or slower turn flowing water into long, delicate white tendrils.
There’s one exception to the principle that the shutter speed controls the rendition of motion. That’s when the effective duration of the exposure is actually controlled by a light source, and not by the shutter speed setting. Most commonly, this occurs when a photo is lit using flash, for example in the studio. In this case, the effective duration of the exposure is the length of the pulse of the strobe lighting. Studio lighting is discussed starting on page 162.
In a less common situation, if you are photographing lightning, your shutter speed is essentially irrelevant so long as the shutter is open when the lightning strikes.
200mm, 1/160 of a second at f/16 and ISO 100, hand held
In this studio shot of models, the effective duration of the exposure was determined by the strobes, not the camera’s shutter speed, which was set to the maximum shutter speed for synching with flash (1/160 of a second for my camera model).
28mm, 1/4 of a second at f/22 and ISO 100, tripod mounted
I was standing at a spot where a small, seasonal creek comes down to the beach. My camera was on the tripod, and I was making an exposure. In the middle of the exposure, a wave came in and I had to grab my tripod and camera to move it out of harm’s way. In the photo you can see the view straight down on the surf (my original photo), as well as the curve of the bluffs surrounding the beach (the second portion of the exposure after I placed the tripod down on safer ground).
While I didn’t intentionally move my camera to create this effect—I only moved it to save it from the surf—I find the results a bit eerie, mysterious, and surreal. I’ve tried to duplicate the idea by intentionally moving the camera during an exposure of the surf, but so far none of my intentional efforts with camera motion have come out as well as this accident.
18mm, circular polarizer, six exposures from 1/2 of a second to 8 seconds (exposures combined in Photoshop), each exposure at f/22 and ISO 100, tripod mounted)
This complex exposure involved putting together a number of different captures so that each area in the photo appeared to be well lit. I chose the separate captures that were pieced together to make the final image based on how they rendered the water in motion. The result is as I pre-visualized, with the water in the foreground more blurred than the water further away.
Here are the links to the other free excerpts:
• Understanding Exposure
• Overexposure And Underexposure
• Using A Histogram In Photoshop
• All About Aperture
• Working With The ISO
• Using Exposure Controls with Lighting
• White Balance And Color
• Pre-Visualizing the Impact of Lighting
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Adobe Deals & Special Coupon Offers
Visit the Adobe Coupons & Special Offers Page to see the latest deals from Adobe. Find upgrade options at the Adobe Store. Get up to 80% off at the Adobe Education Store. Find out about monthly or annual subscriptions. You can also download a free 30 day trial of any Adobe CS5 product.
onOne Photoshop Plugins Sale - Plus Exclusive 10% Discount
onOne has launched a big sale that has reduced the prices of every one of their plugins. Visit onOne for full product descriptions. And if you decide to purchase one of their plugins, use our exclusive discount code - PSSPPT06 - for an additional 10% discount. Here's a list of the sale prices (before our 10% discount is applied):
Perfect Photo Suite $299.95 / $149.95 (upgrade)
Perfect Photo Suite 5.5 includes all of the onOne Software products and works with Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom and Aperture. Five of the products in the Suite even work as stand-alone applications now.
Perfect Resize 7 $199.95 / $69.95 (upgrade)
The next generation of Genuine Fractals is still the industry standard for image enlargement. Works with Photoshop CS5, Lightroom, and Aperture or as a stand-alone application.
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Perfect Layers is the fast and easy way to bring a layered workflow to Lightroom and Aperture. Perfect Layers works with Lightroom and Aperture or as a standalone application.
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Getting great color in your images is not as hard as you think. Works with Photoshop CS5, Lightroom, and Aperture or as a stand-alone application.
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For removing unwanted backgrounds, Mask Pro is the Photoshop plugin recommended by Advanced Photoshop magazine. Works as a plug-in for Photoshop.
PhotoTools $99.95 / $69.95 (upgrade)
Instantly give your photos the professional look. Works as a Photoshop plug-in.
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Add the perfect finishing touch to your photos or create an album layout design. Works with Photoshop CS5, Lightroom, and Aperture or as a stand-alone application.
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Nik Software The Complete Collection (Plugins Bundle)
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Color Efex Pro 3.0
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PhotoTools 2.5 Free Edition - Add a professional look to your photos with the PhotoTools 2.5 Free Edition plug-in for Photoshop. Includes 26 professional-grade actions and photographic effects to make your images stand out from the crowd.
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Perfect Presets for LightRoom - Designed to provide a streamlined workflow and make you more creative, these presets for Adobe Photoshop Lightroom were designed to help you get the most out of Lightroom.
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Perfect Presets for Camera Raw - Designed to provide a streamlined workflow and make you more creative, these presets for Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) were designed to help you get the most out of your Raw images in Adobe Photoshop.
Free Photoshop Templates - Album templates, layouts, backgrounds and edges to save you time in Photoshop.
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