Last month we enthusiastically embraced the first side of the Triangle Of Light, Aperture, and this month we’re going to move round to Shutter Speed.  The main purpose of this month is to see the effect that different shutter speeds can have on different elements within your photos.

Your challenge is this:

Find a willing moving subject that you can get reasonably close to.  It needs to be quite fast moving, such as a dog chasing a stick, a sports team running around or perhaps some moving cars (although if your neighbours call the police because you’ve started loitering at the end of the road with your camera, don’t blame me!)

Switch your camera into Shutter Priority mode – in this mode the camera will find the aperture best suited for your shutter speed to give you a well exposed image.  You should also be able to adjust the ISO in this setting.  Ideally you want your ISO number to be as low as possible, as the higher the number, the grainier the photo, so aim for a maximum of about 800 if you can, but preferably around 100-200.

For the best focussing results, now is the time to investigate in your manual whether or not your camera has a continuous auto-focus setting – AI Servo on Canon or Continuous Servo on Nikons (other brands are available, it’s just that I don’t know what they call them, sorry!).  This setting effectively allows you to track the movement of your subject from the point that you half press the shutter button until the time you take the photo, so you can start focussing on your moving object as they come into the shot, and press the button when you like the composition.

With shutter speed I suggest you start fast and work your way down.  Now the challenge with how shutter speed is displayed, is that the numbers seem to go from large to small and then large again, so here’s how to interpret them:

If you see a whole number on its own, eg 250, that means your shutter speed is 1/250 th of a second.  When you start to see a “ after the number, then it is being measured in whole seconds, with fractions in 10ths afterwards, so 1” is 1 second, and 0”3 is 3/10 of a second.

To work through your shutter speeds, start with a very large number (around 1000 for cars or 500 for moving people/animals) and work your way down.  As with the aperture you don’t want to be hitting every number on the way down, but every 3-5 should suffice.

For your next challenge, try leaving your shutter speed at a fixed amount (around 125 for cars, 30 for cyclists and 15 for runners/animals), then instead of letting the subject move past you, try following the movement of your subject and pressing the shutter as you move.

Finally see if you can locate some running water where you can actually see the movement, eg a waterfall (and a waterfall can be inches high, it doesn’t need to be huge numbers of feet high!), or a running tap.  Take your camera off servo mode and focus on a rock or something within your waterfall or on your tap if you’re going the indoor route, then try going from around 300 down.  If you’re using a tap, you may need some additional light to help you along, so a couple of desk lamps either side would help.

I look forward to seeing your results in a couple of weeks!

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