Saturday, December 13, 2014

Shooting Modes: Part 2 - shutter priority

This month's Boost Your Photography: 52 Weeks Challenge is focusing the different creative shooting modes available on your camera: program mode, shutter priority mode, aperture priority mode, and full manual mode

Shutter Priority Mode

Shutter priority mode is useful in any situation when you want to control the shutter speed of your camera. In shutter priority mode, you set the ISO and shutter values, and the camera will choose an aperture, based on its calculation of the correct exposure. (Read more about correct and creative exposure in the article All about Exposure or about ISO in ISO Basics.) For many cameras, shutter priority mode is labeled S for shutter, but Canon cameras use the abbreviation Tv for time value.

Not sure what shutter speed to use when? Start with the article Shutter Speed: an overview for a quick introduction to various shutter speeds. Or read Shutter Speed Guidelines for a handy pocket-sized reference about recommended shutter speeds.

Common Situations to Use Shutter Priority Mode

Freezing Motion

Seagull in Flight, 1/500th of a second

When you want a moving subject to appear sharp, you need to use a fast shutter speed, otherwise some or all of your subject will turn out blurred. This is a common problem if you are interested in shooting wildlife, pets, or children. A general rule of thumb is to use a shutter speed at or quicker than 1/250th of a second, but very fast subjects (like birds in flight) may need a shutter speed on the order of 1/2000th of a second.


1/15th of a second - I was too shaky, even though the meerkat was still

If you are shooting without a tripod, practice, good posture, and steady breathing can help you keep your camera steady, but there is a limit. The general rule-of-thumb is that you can hand-hold for the fraction of a second equivalent to the focal length of your lens, so 1/50th of a second for a 50 mm lens or 1/200th of a second for a 200 mm lens. Image stabilization (IS, variously called vibration reduction or vibration control) can extend that speed slightly. Especially if you are shooting in low light situations, you may need to change to a higher ISO or a wider aperture to maintain the shutter speed that you want.

Intentional Blur

There are also situations when you might choose to use blur in your image. With panning, you move your camera in sync with your subject to blur the background. (Read more about Panning in Photography.) You can also move your camera while shooting for other creative effects. (Read more in Creative Reasons to Move Your Camera.) With waterfalls, you want a long shutter speed of at least a second or longer to add a smooth, silky blur to the flowing water. (Read more in Yes, Go Chasing Waterfalls.)

Playing with Light and Long Shutter Speeds

Longer shutter speeds allow you to use light and light painting for fascinating photography. Longer shutter speeds can blur traffic lights into interesting patterns (read How to Photograph Traffic Light Trails) or nighttime carnival rides (read Long Exposure Photography at the Fair(e)). You can spin orbs of light (read Light Painting: how to spin an orb) or orbs of fire (read Spinning Fire with Steel Wool Photography). You can even shoot swirling patterns in the stars (read Stacking Photographs: Beyond Star Trails). Each of these various techniques involves a tripod and a shutter speed measured in full seconds and longer.

Shoot in Shutter Priority Mode

This week your challenge is to try shooting in shutter priority mode. Seek out some situations that might require a specific shutter speed, whether it is a quick speed to capture a fast-moving subject or a long, slow shutter speed for artistic impact. See how controlling your shutter speed can help you get exactly the shot you want.

Share a link or a photograph in the comments below, or consider joining the BYP 52 Weeks Google+ Community to share your weekly photograph and see what others are capturing.

Boost Your Photography: Learn Your DSLR is available from Amazon. Get the most out of your camera with practical advice about the technical and creative aspects of DSLR photography that will have you taking beautiful pictures right away.
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