Understanding Shutter Speeds

The time element and the second way to control the amount of light entering the camera is to regulate the length of time the aperture remains open. This is done by controlling the shutter speed of the camera. When you press the shutter button, two curtains inside the camera body, just infront of the sensor, slide apart to open the shutter. After the proper exposure time the curtains slide shut to close the shutter.

• The amount of time the shutter stays open is measured in fractions of seconds and on certain occassions in full seconds.

• The longer the shutter is open for, the longer the exposure and more light enters the camera.

• The less time the shutter is open for, the less amount of light enters the camera.

Each shutter speed is twice as fast as the previous speed.

• Alternating from 1/30th sec to 1/60th sec halves the amount of time the shutter is open.

• Decreasing the shutter from 1/125thto 1/60th second doubles the amount of time the shutter is open.

Shutter speeds range from 1/8000th sec, 1/4000th sec, 1/2000th sec, 1/1000th sec, 1/500th sec, 1/250th sec, 1/125th, 1/60th sec, 1/30th sec, 1/15th sec, 1/8th sec, 1/4 sec, 1/2 sec, 1, 2, 4 seconds, 8 seconds, 15 seconds and finally, 30 seconds.

Shutter speeds above 1/500th sec allow very little time to expose the photograph and are rarely used in underwater photography. Typically, 1/500th sec and above are left for topside action like sports photography, however there are always exceptions to this general rule.

Shutter speeds in the range between 1/30th sec and 1/250th sec are considered the norm, but undewater there are many exceptions to this rule in that gravity is substantially reduced, which means we can hand hold a camera at shutter speeds much slower than we would choose to on land. Experienced photographers, including myself, regularly shoot both macro and wide angle photographs at 1/15th sec — but more about this later in the book.

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