Shutter speed definition
Shutter speed in photography defines the quality and the overall “look” of a picture. Together with aperture and ISO it makes an exposure – the major setting for every shooting.
A shutter itself is an itty curtain inside the camera’s corpus. When you release the trigger, i.e. press the shutter button, this curtain opens for a defined period and exposes the sensor or the film to the light.
The question is – what is that defined period and how long should it be?
How is it measured?
Shutter speed is measured in seconds or – even more often – in milliseconds. The exact symbol of this parameter depends on the gadget’s model and brand, but usually a “bare” number stands for fractions and full seconds are followed by a quotation sign. So, 1000 stands for 1/1000 or 0.001 of a second and 3” stands for 3 seconds.
The longest shutter speed is usually 30 seconds, the fastest one depends on the camera and may reach up to 1/4000 of a second or even less.
Fast vs slow shutter speed
Shutter speed defines two things: the brightness and the sharpness of the pic.
Quite logically, the longer the sensor is exposed to the light, the more photons it gets. Again, while the shutter is open, the cam keeps filming, i.e. imprinting the image, so if something is moving, it will be blurred.
High (or fast) shutter speed is needed while taking a picture of moving objects: sport events, waterfalls and other flows, birds, and animals etc. Low (or long) shutter speed photo is taken when you are working with landscapes or still objects. It may also be needed while shooting in poor light conditions, for example, at nighttime. Be aware that you’ll need a tripod or a gimbal as the gadget must be fixed and motionless.
How to set your camera up
If you feel confident, you may try different exposures manually. If you are less experienced, stick to an automated mode, but mind that your camera is not smart enough to realise what exactly you are shooting, so the final pic may differ a lot from your initial idea.
No worries, you still may improve it with the help of post-shooting editing. But there is a happy medium: set your camera to a shutter-priority mode. This way you can define the shutter speed, and the smart technique will adjust all other settings.