Shutter Speed | Freeze Frame vs. Flow Frame

This is part 2 of a 5 part series on the Exposure Triangle.

Three variables control the amount of light that reaches your camera sensor. Represented in the exposure triangle, these variables work together and affect the quality and composition of your image.

Understanding and learning to control your exposure through ISO, Shutter Speed and Aperture is the foundation of photography. Consciously controlling your exposure opens up a world of creative possibility.

Today, we’re exploring Shutter Speed.

Shutter Speed is simply the length of time your shutter remains open during a shot. The longer the shutter remains open, the more light will reach the sensor.

Fast Shutter Speeds are good for bright light and freeze motion.

Slow Shutter Speeds are good for low light but require a tripod under about 1/60 second. If I’m in the studio, I generally shoot on a tripod when my shutter speed is below 1/100. Very slow shutter speeds blur motion.

Shutter speeds are measured in fractions of a second. Each increase or decrease in shutter speed doubles or halves the amount of light hitting the sensor.

Here’s a visual representation. Notice how the image gets DARKER as the shutter speed increases from 1/15 of a second in the middle to 1/30 second and 1/60 second.Shutter Speed Comparison

Fast shutter speeds “Freeze” motion, allowing you to capture sporting events and other motion-filled scenes.

Not much in cheese photography requires a super fast shutter speed unless you’re cheese rolling or capturing some gamboling baby goat. Shutter speeds of 1/320 – 1/640 are plenty fast to freeze that frame.

For food photography, use a fast shutter speed to capture a drip or drizzle mid drop.

Shutter Speed - Capturing Drips and Drizzles | Cheese Photography 101

Slower Shutter Speeds “Flow” motion. I used a tripod mounted camera at 1/15 second to capture this bit of motion blur.

Slow Shutter Speed to Capture Motion

Slow shutter speeds are essential for low light situations, provided you have a tripod. Shutter speeds below 1/60 second will show camera shake when handheld.

Like ISO, for most of my shooting, Shutter Speed takes a backseat to the third corner of the Exposure Triangle, Aperture, which controls Depth of Field, that gently out of focus background often found in food and fine art photography. We’ll be discussing this key variable in the next installment.

Lesson: Vary your Shutter Speed to Freeze or Flow Motion. Remember to use a Tripod if your shutter speed is below about 1/60 sec.

Bottom Line: Shutter Speed is there to help you freeze and flow motion and shoot in low light situations. Use Shutter Speed as a tool in conjunction with ISO and Aperture – the other aspects of the Exposure Triangle – to achieve your perfect shot.

See previous Cheese Photography 101 posts on Hard and Soft Light, Reflecting Light and Using Bounce to Improve Cheese Photography.

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