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Shutter Speed and ISO 101: An Introduction

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Shutter speed and ISO

Whether or not you are taking photographs or video, there are are many tools that can help you create quality-looking results. Two of these twos are the shutter speed and ISO. By understanding these features, you can have a better idea of how your camera works, and what it can produce.

Quick Definitions

The shutter speed of the camera is a measurement-typically in fractions of a second-of the speed that the shutter opens and closes on a camera. When you hear the click of the camera, that is the shutter opening and closing, etching what it sees through the lens and imprinting it on film or in digital memory.

The ISO measures your film or digital camera’s sensitivity to light (using a image sensor). An acronym for  the “International Organization for Standardization,” the ISO number can be as low as 50 to as high as 2000. Depending on the lighting situation of your photo, you can adjust the ISO to increase or decrease light sensitivity.

Using a Digital Camera

How They Work

The shutter speed is an important measurement to understand when capturing motion. The faster the shutter speed (the smaller the fraction of a second), the less blur will be seen in a photo, while a slower speed (a larger fraction of a second) increases the blurry result. However, by setting a faster shutter speed, you trade off the amount of light that is allowed through the lens. Typically, a fast shutter speed means less light, and therefore a darker photo, and vice-versa for a slower shutter speed.

ISO however, can help with the lighting. The higher the ISO number equals an increased sensitivity to light, while the lower the number is a decrease in sensitivity. by increasing the sensitivity, you increase the amount of light exposed to the camera. However, a higher ISO usually results in a grainer, noisier photo, while a low ISO number can give a crisper, clear photo at a better quality.

Putting Them Together

ISO and shutter speed are two out of three pillars to exposure in photography and videography (the third being aperture). When utilized together, they can allow for more freedom and creativity in taking higher quality photos or video for any sort of subject.

Let’s say you want to take a photo of your child playing soccer in an indoor stadium. The higher shutter speed will allow you to capture your child running without a blur, but the photo might be too dark. You can then set the ISO at a higher number in order to allow more light in, capturing your child in-motion, without a blur.

While many cameras have features to automatically set and adjust the ISO and shutter speed automatically depending on the the environment, sometimes the features can cause photos or video to look grainy or “noisy”-looking, washed out, or too dark. By choosing to manually control the shutter speed, ISO, and aperture, you can capture photos just the way you want to.

For more tips on improving your photos or video, contact us.

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