Shutter priority is a digital photography basic which will enhance your control over how your pictures turn out

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Shutter priority is another of the photography modes available on a DSLR camera. This enables a photographer to adjust the shutter speed while the camera automatically adjusts the aperture to suit the shutter speed



If you wish to see the digital photography basics concerning shutter speeds, aperture settings, ISO and white balance in a previous page, click this link to view those discussions.

As I have said previously you need to get to know and understand the different modes on the camera.

The best way to learn is to find out what settings there are and how to adjust them, and then get your camera and ‘play’!

Shutter priority

On an SLR camera you usually have a mode setting ‘S’ or ‘TV’. This is for shutter priority.

The changes in shutter speed affect –

The amount of light and for how long that light hits the image sensor.

The faster the shutter speed the less light and the less blurring will be experienced for faster moving subjects.

A lot of photographers will select shutter priority when taking photographs of moving subjects like animals or sporting events. That way they can concentrate on the shutter speed while allowing the camera to adjust the aperture to ensure a balanced exposure is achieved.



Shutter speeds with longer exposures is chosen to create an impression of motion. For example, a waterfall will appear blurred and fuzzy.





If the camera is panned with a moving subject, the background will appear blurred.





When photographing sports or high-speed phenomena, shutter priority with short exposures can ensure that the motion is effectively frozen in the resulting image.

A fast shutter speed will ensure a crisp or sharp picture

A guideline for choosing between setting your camera to either 'Tv' or 'Av' would be for example shooting animals – select 'Tv' so that you can concentrate on getting the fast moving shot. Shooting landscapes use aperture priority so that you can ensure the entire scene is in focus with the highest depth of field.

A rule of thumb for ideal shutter speed:

Shoot at a shutter speed that's the inverse of the focal length. So if you have a 200mm lens, get as close to 1/200 second as you can (that's usually about 1/250 second). With a 50mm lens, you'd get as close to 1/50 second as you could, and so on.

The reasoning being that the greater the zoom the greater the impact of a shake or vibration - you must have noticed on news broadcasts on television when they have zoomed the camera onto a very distant scene, the scene is shaking a lot?

It is simply that the shake is amplified more and more as you zoom.

Again the thing to do is to experiment, take lots of pictures on different speeds of the same subject, and see what the camera does with those settings.

It is all about practice and getting to know your camera.


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