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Part two of three on getting the most out of your DSLR.  If you have not read part one please read it first.  This will allow you to fully understand the progression of shooting photography in Manual.

Part 2 - Shutter Speed

What is Shutter Speed?

Shutter Speed is how long you expose your film or image sensor to light. Newer DLSR cameras shutter speed ranges from 30 seconds to 1/4000th of a second. While most 35mm DSLR's range from 1 second to 1/1000th of a second.

The longer duration the shutter is open the more light is exposed to the film or image sensor.  The shorter duration the shutter is open the less light is exposed to the sensor.

How do I adjust the shutter speed?

There are two ways to adjust your shutter speed. On older manual 35mm DSLR cameras you can adjust your shutter speed by turning the dial on the top.  With Digital DSLR's you hold the release button half way down and rotating the thumb dial.

Why adjust the shutter speed?

Shutter Speed allows you to compensate for different light situations. 

What is the right Shutter Speed for my situation?

Most situations call for a shutter speed between 1/125 to 1/500 of a second or 125 to 500 on the dial. 

On my Nikon DSLR there is a light that appears in the lower left part of the frame that lets you know when you have the proper shutter speed for the situation.  When using this feature be aware of your shutter speed number.  Once you get outside of the 125-500 range you start to drop image quality.

What do I do if my pictures are still to light when shooting at 1/500?

Adjust your ISO Setting to the next lower number.  This is common when taking pictures in the morning where the sun gets brighter as the day goes on.

What do I do if my pictures are still to dark when shooting at 1/125?

Adjust your ISO to the next higher number.  This is common when taking pictures in the afternoon, with the sun getting lower on the horizon.  Also when taking pictures indoors.

Do I need to adjust for a flash?

You do not need to adjust your shutter speed when using your flash to fill a shadow.

Shooting with your subject close to the camera you will want to keep your shutter speed around 1/200.  This will help you avoid getting blown out from your flash.  If you are getting glare back from your subject adjust to a faster shutter speed.

What do I do when taking pictures in complete darkness

When your exposure time gets slower than 1/80 you will need a tripod.  Set your ISO setting at 1600 or higher.  Adjust your shutter speed and take a couple test pictures to find the desired effect.  Some outdoor photos like street lights you may be using a shutter speed around 1 to 5 second duration.

A couple tricks to shooting longer shutter speeds.  Number one is TRIPOD!  The camera will need to be secure to eliminate any vibrations.  Second is using a remote release.  If you do not have a remote release set your camera on ten second delay.  This will allow you to push the release button and not have any vibrations in the photo.

-Richard Traugott
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