Introduction to Camera Modes: Shutter Speed Mode

We have been talking about camera modes. Now is the turn of shutter speed mode. When you choose shutter speed mode on your camera, you set the shutter speed you want and your camera will figure out what the aperture should be. As I mentioned before, aperture and shutter speed are closely related.

Shutter speed is about the time the camera will stay open letting light coming in. The faster the shutter speed, the lesser light will come in; the slowest the shutter speed, the more light will come in.

When you set your camera on shutter speed mode, you are now able to change the shutter speed to tell the camera for how long the camera will take a picture and the aperture will adjust itself. Shutter speed is measured in seconds and fractions of seconds. In case of a fraction of a second, the bigger the denominator (the number below the line in the fraction) , the faster the shutter speed. So if you want, you can tell your camera to take a picture during 1 second, 1/2, 1/30, 1/250, 1/1000 of a second or whatever other options your camera have.

IMAGE (numbers and fractions on an horizontal line and below an arrow with two heads, one side stating slow, the other fast)

However, you still should pay attention to the aperture number because aperture has a limit and sometimes the shutter speed may be set too fast even for your maximum possible aperture and there won’t be enough light in your camera. The result would be a very dark picture. On the other hand, be also careful setting up your shutter speed too slow for the camera. There would be a moment that your aperture won’t be able to compensate too much light that your picture will turn out too bright.

So when using shutter speed mode take a quick look at the aperture number. Don’t go too fast or too slow with your shutter speed. Depending on the case and camera model, your camera will have its aperture number blinking or an L (for low) or an H (for high) to indicate that the shutter speed is too fast or too slow whichever the case.

Don’t worry too much for now about shutter speed. Your objective in this section of the book is learning how to change your shutter speed only, not what you can do with it. You will learn more about shutter speed along how to use it (and some very interesting tips for great pictures) in the exposure section. For now you should be learning how to set it.

Where is the shutter speed control? It also varies from camera brands and models. You may find a completely separate dial just for controlling the shutter speed or even the exact same dial for both, the shutter speed and aperture. If the latter were the case, you could also find that before rotating the dial, you would switch the aperture control to shutter speed control by pressing an additional button. Also remember that some non-DSLR cameras (especially point-and-shoot cameras) may not even have a direct controller to change the shutter speed. In some of these cases, changing the aperture number may be possible by navigating through the menu displayed on the LCD screen.

Exercise: Take your camera and 1) set your camera to Shutter Speed priority mode. 2) Change the shutter speed mode to different times so you can see how the numbers change and make sure your camera flash is turned off. 3) Take a picture set at shutter speed of half a second (1/2) and another picture at 1/500. Can you notice the difference? If you have a DSLR camera, you will also hear two noises (the internal mirror). The slower the shutter speed, the longer the pause between these two noises. 4) Take more pictures at some other different shutter speed times of your own choice.

Note: You may notice that taking pictures at a slower shutter speed times you camera will take longer time to take a picture and your picture may end up being blurry. This is normal when you have a slow shutter speed. There are ways to prevent this blurriness or even profit from slow shutter speed to get great pictures. You will learn more about it in the exposure section. For now if you get blurry pictures, don’t worry. The purpose now is learning how to set the camera modes. Taking wonderful shots comes afterwards.


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