Digital Photography Tips – Shutter Speed and Aperture Combinations

Digital cameras have brought the age of “point and shoot” photography to everybody’s fingertips. It is so easy to take pictures now!

However, the skills required to take a good picture are the same as ever and apply whether you’re using a traditional film-based camera or a digital camera. The basic skills of composition and planning are the same for every shot and pretty much every camera. The technical skills for using an advanced digital camera, such as a bridge camera or a dSLR, are a little more advanced again.

However, this is one learning curve worth climbing.

With these more advanced cameras you have the opportunity to control individual functions including the aperture and shutter speed, two functions that control the amount of light entering the camera.

This gives you an opportunity to generate lots of different visual effects, to create some stunning shots and to control your art form.

The speed at which the shutter moves, the length of time that the shutter remains open, controls the amount of light that enters through the aperture.

Shutter speeds are expressed as units of time, as seconds or, more commonly, as fractions of seconds: 8, 4, 2, 1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250. 1/500, 1/1000. For any given aperture size opening, increasing the shutter speed reduces the amount of light entering the camera.

But, as you can read in more detail in the accompanying articles “Digital Photography Tips – F-Stops and Apertures” and “See Digital Photography Tips – Depth Of Field”, the aperture does more than simply regulate how much light enters the camera, it influences the depth of field which is in focus at any one time. This allows you to create shots with soft focus on a central object while fading out detail on an untidy or competing collection of background images.

If you increase the aperture setting to create a very restricted depth of field, you need to compensate for this by increasing the shutter speed and reducing the amount of light saturating your image.

So, a soft focus image shot at f/4, a relatively wide aperture setting, might need a fast-ish shutter speed of 1/1000. Closing down the depth of field further requires opening the aperture another f/stop to say f/2.8. This increases the aperture size by double. To prevent the image being over-exposed the shutter speed now needs to be even shorter, 1/2000.

To really understand these effects it often helps to look at images or photographs using the different settings. You might want to look out Sally Header on Squidoo who has a couple of very helpful lenses on Digital Photography Tips with some good photos to see.

But there are other, different photographic effects. In other circumstances, you might want to create a feeling of movement, motion, energy.

To do this you might want to decrease the shutter speed, allowing the action to move before you causing a blurring of the image on the screen as the object in focus moves. Again, in order to properly expose your image, as you decrease the shutter speed you will need to close down the aperture (increase the f/stop value) to compensate.

One final visual effect is obtained with super long exposures, particularly in dim, or even in dark conditions… who hasn’t seen the pictures of tail-light trails along a road. In these very restricted lighting conditions you’d need both a slow shutter speed and a slightly wider aperture to capture enough light. The shutter speed has greater influence on the length of the trails and it is a case of test and measure, trying different exposure times to get the desired effect.

One thing you must remember with any of the shots described here though is that as you decrease the shutter speed or increase the aperture size in any shot, you will need to use a tripod as natural shake will add unwanted blur to your images.

If you want to learn how to create great pictures, there’s no substitute for lots of practice.

Here’s to many more successful photo shoots!