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Blog 49: Shutter Speed at SFMOMA

Reading time: approx. 3 min

Posted: 24-Nov-2016.

Going to museums can yield a lot for your creativity because you are surrounded, mostly, by thousands of years of accumulated artists accomplishments and thus gives you a chance to rethink of your own journey! This blog is somehow connected with my previous blog (blog 48: 5 by 8 room … 31 pictures later) because they occurred in the same location; Museum Of Modern Art “MOMA” San Francisco.

While walking around in MOMA, I entered a room … just have a look:

What you saw is a room with a light source keep bursting beams of lights in a very “rapid fire” manner. This is a perfect venue to explain in practical terms the camera shutter speed use. 

Let’s put this in use: Fast beams of light, how to capture them? You should increase you shutter speed i.e. try 1/500 or 1/2000 of a second shutter speed. You will be able to “freeze” the light beams and you would get something like:

1/125 of a second

1/40 of a second

However, if you “open” the shutter a little bit i.e. 1/13 or 1/4 of a second or less, more light will enter to your camera sensor or film and the picture would be like:

1/13 of a second

1/4 of a second

To recap:

Faster shutter: less light entered + more ability to freeze things.

Slower shutter: more light entered + less ability to freeze objects.

As a photographer, you need to get your technical info “mastered”. This will allow you to go to the next level with your camera and use this “technical” knowledge and convert it into “whatever you interpret as art”:

More technical stuff below (geeks only):

Shutter speed definition: Google says: the nominal time for which a shutter is open at a given time. Let’s go even further and into more basic stuff. What is a shutter? Google says: a device that opens and closes to expose the film in a camera. A film? Basically it is a “thing” which opens and closes; allows light to enter while it is open. How do you use it? Usually when you are outside in a bright day, you don’t need much light because there is plenty of it already so your shutter needs to open and closes fast (fast shutter i.e. 1/1000 which you will read as one over one thousand of a second – it is this fast). So “fast shutter” when you have plenty of light. But what if you are indoor in a low light condition or you are photographing a sunset or the blue hour and there are limited resources of light, you would opt to open the shutter for longer periods (slow shutter i.e. one second or 5 seconds or even 30 seconds). This will allow you to gather a decent amount of light hitting your camera “digital” sensor or your analog “film” camera.

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