Photo Lesson Overview on

CGIPix is an observation that Nikon, Canon and the rest no longer make cameras,
they make computers that you can attach a lens to.
Here is a basic overview of what it takes to create good, better or best pictures, you decide how much effort you want to put into your pictures.

An overview of what shutter speeds to use and when.

Shutter Speed

The shutter speed controls the exposure and how motion is captured. Exposure is based on three elements, shutter speed, aperture and ISO. The ISO is somewhat fixed, in that during daytime you'll want to use the low end of the dial at 100 or 200 ISO. So you're left with two elements to change, shutter speed and aperture. When you change one, the other one must also change to keep the exposure correct.

Handheld vs Tripod Shutter Speeds

A videographer once told me, "The difference between good footage and home movies is the use of a tripod." If you ever shoot videos, please, use a tripod with a fluid head, it will save everyone from the headache of watching the frame bounce around. For still images, it's the same, it creates an excess of blur if the shutter speed is too slow for the lens you are using. The general rule is that 1/60 of a second is the slowest speed to ever shoot handheld, or the reciprocal of the lens you are using. With a 300mm lens, 1/300 of a second is the slowest speed to use and get a good shot. There are a few ways to cheat with slower shutter speeds:

1-Shoot more frames - Many times I've shot a 300mm handheld, at 1/60 of a second, by shooting 10 frames to get 2-3 without blur. Steady yourself, and just fire away.
2-Technology - VR or IS, Vibration Reduction and Image Stabilization lenses will allow you to shoot slower without the blur. Remember, the subject movement can't be stopped, it's really only good for static subjects.
3-Brace yourself or the camera against an object, such as fences, car doors, walls, poles etc. It's not as good as a tripod, but it will help.

Slow Shutter Speeds

Slow shutter speeds can be seconds or even minutes, depending on the situation. A sturdy tripod is essential. Making water appear like glass can take seconds to expose properly, or making a nighttime scene look like daytime can take minutes. Some 35mm camera lenses will go to F32, so you can get a longer exposure through aperture. The other way to increase exposure is through neutral density filters, which just stop a specific amount of light from hitting the sensor or film. Watch out for shooting forest and landscapes using too slow of a shutter speed when there is any wind blowing, it can create blurred leaves, bushes or branches, depending on the wind speed.

Fast Shutter Speeds

Faster shutter speeds will freeze the motion, at 1/1,000 or a second and faster, all movement is pretty much frozen, except for super fast items such as bullets. Motorcycles, race cars, and people are sharp and the background is sharp.

Panning Shutter Speeds

Panning takes practice.

When an item is moving quickly, freezing it in motion makes it appear like it is standing still. If everything in the frame is tack sharp, was it standing still or going 100 MPH? The way to give impart the feeling of motion is to blur the background and freeze the subject. The only way to do this is to perfect the art of panning. Choose a slower shutter speed, like 1/250 of a second for a motorcycle, 1/60 of a second for a runner, and then follow the object as it moves. You have to shoot just like painting or swinging a golf club, you don't shoot and stop, you continue to move, even after the shot is taken. This helps you to align a second shot, and keeps you from stopping before the shutter is done.

By panning with the motorcycle, the bike is sharp, while the wheels and background are blurred. It gives an added sense of speed to the moment.

Movement Through Frame

Sometimes the opposite effect is desired, the background sharp, while the movement is completely blurred. This shot is sometimes used for pedestrians crossing a street, a dog running at a ball or to show how vehicles are speeding through a neighborhood. Here you would choose a shutter speed consistent with the moving object, for the people, a tripod and 1/15 of a second will blur them, with a dog, 1/30 of a second on a tripod, and for a car, 1/60 of a second handheld.

Movement in Frame

Certain things will need to have a balance of frozen and motion, a propeller on an airplane or the rotor of a helicopter is a good example. At 1/2,000 of a second, the propeller is frozen, and the plane or helicopter looks static, slow the shutter speed down to 1/250 or 1/500 and that will add some movement to the shot, while keeping most of the frame frozen.

Creative Use of Shutter Speed (and Aperture)

For the majority of shots, any shutter speed and aperture combination that will give correct exposure will work, but choosing the right shutter speed (or aperture) can make or break some critical shots. You have to approach each situation thinking of how much movement (or depth of field) will need to be shown to convey the mood and emotion that the shot requires. Too much movement and it becomes blurred and hectic, too little motion and it becomes static. Too much depth of field and it becomes busy, too little depth of field and it becomes shallow.

Here's a shot that combines everything in a good balance. The shutter speed was 1/200 of a second, shot at F8. Any faster shutter speed, and the wings would lose their movement, any slower, and the body of the bird could become blurred. The aperture was enough to keep the body in focus, from the beak to the feet, while the tail feather fall just slightly out of the range of focus (depth of field) and the background is completely blurred.
OK, so it was a 600mm lens, and it wouldn't matter if it was F8 or F22, the background would still be out of focus.

Here are some samples from the Photo Galleries:

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