I hope you are ready for your first lesson in mastering your digital camera! I’m assuming you are familiar with the on and off button. You may have also found the “menu” button and possibly got overwhelmed with all the options. While there may be a ton of choices in there we will focus on the basics that have been built into cameras since they were invented – the Shutter and the Aperture. These two controls work together to adjust the amount of light that reaches the sensor (or film back in the day) and create an image. This is called an “Exposure”.
Let’s start with Shutter. What is the shutter you may ask. Simply put it is a curtain that is drawn over the sensor of your camera much like a shade over your window. It keeps the sensor dark just like the darkroom had to be completely dark as not to ruin the film. When you “press the shutter” button to take a picture you are actually moving the shutter curtain aside so the light can go through your camera body and reach (expose) the sensor (or film). The picture that is created by doing this is dependent on how long the shutter curtain stays open before it closes again. Adjusting the length of time the shutter stays open controls the amount of light that reaches the sensor. This is called “shutter speed”. You may choose to leave your shutter open for one second, several seconds, one minute, several minutes or more commonly just fractions of seconds. If you leave your shutter open for a long time such as one second you will allow a lot of light reach the sensor. This is useful for night photography when we need every little bit of the light that is left going in. But in direct sun we only need fractions of seconds such as 1/2000 of a second.
The direct result of a shutter speed is capturing the motion in our photos. Fast shutter speed such as 1/500 second or more will freeze motion and capture drops of water mid air perfectly sharp. Slow shutter will create dreamy waterfalls that look like cotton candy (pretty) or will cause your baby’s moving arms to look like ghosts (not so pretty). When your pictures come out of the camera with streaks and smudges around people it is because the camera didn’t have enough light to expose the sensor properly which led to a slow shutter speed which consequently caused anything moving to be recorded as a blur.
Using shutter speed, aperture and a few other controls to create the effect you desire is one of the many steps to creating a beautiful image that was first born in your mind and shared with the world through your camera.
Keep experimenting with your shutter! Put your camera on Shutter Priority and play around with the numbers taking a photo with each one under the same light. You’ll have fun and you’ll learn the different effects that your shutter can create for you.
Next lesson is Aperture. In the meantime I’d like to share these images of two amazing kids that I had the pleasure of photographing back in May. They were so much fun to work with! And talk about gorgeous (her)/handsome (him)