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Lighting Digital Field Guide by Brian McLernon

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Chapter 3. Controlling the Light with Shutter Speed

In just a moment in time, with a click, a lasting memory is captured forever. But just how long that moment is recorded is controlled by the photographer and his or her choice of shutter speed. The shutter is a device in front of your camera's image sensor that controls the duration of time that light is allowed to strike the sensor. The amount of time the shutter is open determines the amount of light that reaches the sensor as the scene is captured. Shutter speed also controls other characteristics such as the depiction of movement, speed, and time. This chapter explains controlling light with shutter speed, including special techniques such as time exposures, freezing action, and panning the camera.

Controlling the Light with Shutter Speed

Along the banks of the McKenzie River in southwestern Oregon, I made this image from my favorite campsite. I purposely chose a long shutter speed to produce the silky effect to the moving river. If you look very closely, you can even see a small bird on the large rock poking out of the water. Exposure: ISO 100, f/4, 1.3 seconds.

Choosing a Shutter Speed

Several times in my manual digital photography classes and workshops I remind my students that their subjects can often clue them in to what the camera settings should be. As they look through their viewfinders I gently ask them if anything important in the frame is moving, and if so, ...

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