Learning with experts

One Photo: 5 Exposures


Understanding Shutter Speed


You see much written about aperture, but less so, about its close relation shutter speed. Shutter speed is just the other side of the coin. The Yin to apertures Yang!


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While we usually associate aperture with depth of field, shutter speed tends to be more closely linked with time and movement.

The longer the shutter remains open, the more time the camera is able to record.

At 1/2000th sec. you can freeze a humming birds wing, at ¼ sec. you can blur flowers in the wind, while using a 2 minute exposure, you can change waves on the sea, to a soft fog.

With any picture taking situation, you have at least 5 combinations of aperture and shutter speed that will result in a correctly exposed photo.  Which one you prefer, is down to personal choice and how much creative motion blur you like.

A correct exposure, is simply a balance of between shutter speed and aperture. Once the photographer understand the implications of this unison, they are 90% there in mastering their camera.

f/5.6 for 1/2 sec. is the same as


f/8 for 1 sec. which is the same as


f/11 for 2 sec. which is the same as


f/16 for 4 sec which is the same as


f/22 for 8 seconds


Depending on your lens, each picture taking opportunity offers at least 5 shutter speed/aperture combinations (possibly more with a more expensive lens) The only difference being the amount of motion blur captured in each image


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In these images of Hellenium flowers (above) photographed on a windy day, the first image on the left was take at f/8 at 1/60th sec. using a 70-200mm lens with an ISO of 100 The second image on the right was taken at f/16 at 1/15th.  However it was only when I set my shutter speed to 1 second at f/32 did i get the image i wanted (see large image at the top of the page)

If you would like to learn more about mastering Light & Exposure  or are interested in learn how to create Long Exposure images please see our course by Tony Worobiec and Nigel Hicks

Geoff Harris

I am a photography journalist and photographer and currently work as the Deputy Editor of Amateur Photographer (AP) the oldest weekly photographic magazine in the world. Before that I served as the editor of Digital Camera, Britain's best-selling photography magazine, for five years. During my time as editor it became the UK's top selling photo monthly and won Print Publication of the Year at the 2013 British Media Awards. As well as being lucky enough to get paid to write about photography, I've been fortunate to interview some of the greatest photographers in the world, including Elliott Erwitt, Don McCullin, Martin Parr, Terry O'Neill, Steve McCurry and the late Mary Ellen Mark. This has been a wonderful learning experience and very influential on my photography. Beyond writing, I am a professional portrait, travel and documentary photographer, and reached the finals of the 2016 Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year competition. I am a Licentiate of the Royal Photographic Society and hope to take my Associateship whenever I can find the time.

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