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How to Capture the Perfect Picture


My journey of learning to capture the perfect picture required that I learn the importance of light. One of my first tasks to solve was the control of motion in my images.

Travel photographers have to be skilled at both still and moving objects. Luckily your camera has an easy way to allow you to get great pictures of both still and moving objects.

Luckily you can control the shutter speed in your camera to either freeze or blur motion. In this blog post, we will explore shutter priority mode and how it is different from other modes found in digital SLR cameras.

We will also cover what a shutter is, how it works, and why shutter priority mode is beneficial for capturing the perfect photo.

What is the shutter?

Graphic of camera inner working mechanisms

When you take pictures with your camera, light first hits the lens. Then it goes to the mirror inside of your camera.

When you take a picture of yourself, the selfie will show an image twice. The mirror reflects all incoming light so it can travel to both eyes simultaneously. The mirror flips up when you take a photo, and light can hit your camera sensor. This is when a picture gets taken! The shutter then opens for a period of time to let in as much light as possible before closing again.

Your shutter’s length depends on how long you have it set to stay open. Different cameras have different shutter speeds, measured in fractions of a second (i.e., “60 seconds or one minute). The longer your camera is open, the more light it lets in, and the brighter and clearer your photo will be.

The shutter is one of two things that control how much light comes through your lens and hits the camera’s focal plane. A focal plane is a place where a lens sees the most detail. The focal plane is behind your lens and in front of the sensor. This is an area where power is transferred from batteries to your camera. It can be a part of the digital single-lens reflex camera or interchangeable-lens mirrorless system camera.

What is the mirror?

In photography, a mirror redirects light into the camera and forms an image on film or an electronic sensor (or, in digital cameras, it goes directly toward the sensor). The images are usually inverted. Mirrors are also included in other optical instruments, such as astronomical telescopes.

Mirrorless cameras do not have this type of system, instead, the light goes directly toward the sensor. This lends itself to smaller and lighter camera designs that can be used with larger lenses without adding too much weight or size to your kit.

What is Shutter Priority?

Shutter Priority Mode is a semi-automatic exposure mode, which allows the user to select shutter speeds ranging from 30 seconds to one second and lets the camera set aperture values based on its automatic light readings or EV meter reading of scene brightness. Shutter speed controls how long your sensor will be exposed to light coming through your lens

Setting shutter priority

Image of settings on top of NIKON DSLR camera

The Shutter Priority is set on the mode dial on the top of the camera. This dial will have a value of Tv for Sony and Canon cameras and S for Nikon and Pentax cameras. The image above is a Nikon DSLR camera. When you select Shutter Priority, you will choose the length of time that the camera will keep the shutter open allowing light to reach the sensor. The camera will choose the aperture size of the lens based on the shutter speed and the ISO value you have chosen.

Creative uses of shutter priority mode:

Freezing the moment of an action

These are the images we all know about; ones that have captured a frozen moment in time. These usually are sports images, a goal that was scored, or a punch that connects. The pictures are interesting. We can’t freeze the moment in our eyes.

Focusing on a specific part of an image.

If you want to focus on a specific part of the image, try using a specific shutter speed, it shuts off all light coming into the camera while your picture is being taken. A fast shutter speed allows less light to come in than a slow shutter speed. This is good because it will make your subject look crisp and clear.

Capturing fast-paced action at the peak moment when all elements come together perfectly.

When many things are happening, it is important to have a shutter speed that captures it. When someone is running really fast, you must have a shutter speed that gets them. Shutter priority mode allows you to control what time interval your camera opens and closes its lens’ aperture in milliseconds/microseconds (or any other unit). If you want to pause the picture and see the details, you need a fast shutter speed.

When you take a photo with a high shutter speed, then the subject or object will look faster. If there is only a little motion in the photo, you can use a slower shutter speed to take pictures.

The key is to learn how your camera’s metering system works. The sensor tells it the brightness of the picture. This happens in a matter of milliseconds.

Blurring out backgrounds to highlight foregrounds and subjects like sports, wildlife, or people around you that move quickly (i.e., kids playing).

Blurring out backgrounds with shutter speed can be very useful when taking pictures in low-light conditions, such as at night or indoors without a flash; however, there are other times that you may want to blur out your background instead. For example, if someone moves during the time that you take a picture with your camera, then chances are that they will be blurred out. This is also ideal for taking pictures of fast-moving subjects like sports or wildlife.

Capturing light trails from cars or stars at night with long exposures (i.e., nighttime cityscapes).

Image of blurred street traffic lines in night photography for teaching camera techiques

A long exposure will allow you to capture the light trails of moving objects, so you can have a creative picture. To do this in shutter priority mode, use an ISO setting of 100 or lower and set your aperture at f/22 for a large depth of field. The longer the exposure time is, the more pronounced that movement will be in your picture. You can choose from various shutter speeds, depending on the look you want to achieve.

These are just a few examples, but there are endless creative uses for shutter priority mode depending on your specific interests in photography. Learning to use shutter priority mode can open up a new world of possibilities for your photography.

If you’re a photographer, shutter priority mode may be one of the most important modes in your arsenal. In this post, we explored how to explore and use it for creativity as well as the other aspects of photography that is going on behind the scenes when shooting with shutter priority. Now that you have an understanding of how all these elements come together go out there and see if you can find some new creative ways to capture those moments! Are you ready to expand your creative photography?

The other mode that can be used to explore your creativity is Aperture Priority. You can explore it in this post.

Here are some things that you will find helpful as you begin your creative journey

When you go out to take your first creative picture, you will not want to look up your settings in the camera manual. In its place, a set of cheat cards will be very helpful

In order to get the creative picture that you want with changes to the shutter speed, one of the first tools that should be in your bag is a quality tripod.

No one is born a photography professional. Whatever one does is to start out with an entry-level camera to learn your craft while making mistakes as you proceed down your learning path.

Another mode to consider in getting your perfect picture is Aperture Priority.

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