Photography 101 - Basics About Shutter Speed and Aperture

Apr 3 07:20 2010 Autumn Lockwood Print This Article

Camera aperture and shutter speed are undoubtedly the 2 most misunderstood photography topics. In this article, get a detailed overview about these two topics so you can fully understand how to use them to take great photographs.

Pre-set modes like "Sports" and "Night Portrait" make it easy for us to just point and shoot. If you're new to photography,Guest Posting two of the most important things to learn are aperture and shutter speed settings as these will give you a lot of creative control. If you're wondering which cameras have these settings, some digital compacts have them while most of the bridge (prosumer) cameras do and all SLRs have them.

At first it may seem it a little confusing using manual camera settings, but the improvement in the quality of your pictures will be well worth it.

All About Camera Aperture

The aperture works much like an iris in a person's eye. Just like your irises widen or narrow to let in more or less light through the pupils, the camera's lens diaphragm widens or narrows to let in more or less light through the lens. The aperture is the size of this opening.

Aperture lets the photographer (or the camera's exposure computer if it's set to automatic) increase or reduce the amount of light that gets through to the sensor, thus helping determine how bright or dark the picture will be.

The aperture also controls the depth of field of the image.

To better understand how this works, make a fist with your hand and hold it in front of your eye. Then gradually open your fist. Notice when the opening in your hand is small everything you see is in focus? But when your fist is open wide, the object closest to you is sharper than the background?

A small aperture is great for taking pictures like landscapes where you want everything in focus.

An Aperture Priority setting on your camera allows you to set the aperture within the camera's range of f-stop numbers (or called f-stop for short). These f stop numbers represent ratios meaning that the larger the f stop number, the narrower the aperture. So the larger the f-stop number on your camera, the larger the depth of field.

The reason the setting is called "priority" is that when you set the aperture, the camera adjusts the shutter speed so that the exposure is just right. Another way to look at it is, the aperture setting will have priority while the shutter speed plays a secondary role.

All About Shutter Speed

While the aperture controls how much light at one time falls on the image sensor, the shutter speed controls the length of time the camera allows in the light.

You may have noticed how people in pictures taken in the 19th century rarely are smiling. Shutter speeds were so slow back then that people had to hold perfectly still for several minutes – not to mention in all those stiff clothes they wore for picture day. No wonder they  looked so stern!

The shutter speeds most commonly used today are 1/500th of a second to 1/60th of a second. The Shutter Priority setting lets you choose speeds (within the camera's range) specifically for the effect you want.

For shutter speeds slower than 1/60 you will probably need a tripod or other camera support because when the shutter is open that long the camera records the tiniest jiggle, causing the photo to be out of focus or outright blurry.

If you want to freeze action (like what Sports mode does), set the camera's Shutter Priority to a fast speed. Only with this manual setting, you can be more selective. For example, a soccer game may require up to 1/500 to freeze the action, while if photographing a pet sitting quietly, a shutter speed of around 1/125 will freeze the small actions, like a slight twitch of the tail.

When using settings like Shutter Priority and Aperture Priority you get more creative control which often means you can end up with much better pictures.

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About Article Author

Autumn Lockwood
Autumn Lockwood

Autumn Lockwood is a writer for Your Picture Frames and loves to shop for photo frames. Shop online and see our large selection of gorgeous jeweled picture frames  and unique gold picture frames in a wide variety of styles, colors and sizes. Visit our website or call us at 1-800-780-0699.

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