Basics of shutter speed: film vs. DSLR.

Learn more about shutter speed, the mechanism behind it, and how it affects your photos.

The satisfying “click” you hear when capturing a photo is the result of one special thing: shutter speed. Shutter speed plays a major role in photography — whether you’re shooting on film or with a digital camera — and understanding its use will help you capture quality images. Read on to learn more about the basics.

What is shutter speed?

Capturing an image requires light. The “shutter” is an element within the camera that moves up and down to let that light in. It moves the same way every time, but the length of time it remains open changes depending on your settings. This is known as the shutter speed.

When the shutter is open for a short amount of time, only a small amount of light is let in. Conversely, the longer the shutter is open, the more light gets in. Shutter speeds are measured in seconds — or in most cases, fractions of a second.

Together with ISO and aperture, shutter speed makes up the third pillar of photography.

Shutter speed in film vs. DSLR.

In a film camera, a picture is taken when the shutter opens and exposes the film to the light. On a DSLR camera, the mechanism behind shutter speed happens a little differently.

When you look into a DSLR’s viewfinder, you’re actually looking at a series of mirrors. When you press the button to take a picture, those mirrors move and expose a digital sensor to the light. Once the sensor is exposed, the mirrors return to their original position.

Regardless of whether you’re shooting with a film or digital camera, the principle behind shutter speed remains the same — that is, it controls how much light gets into the camera.

Discover helpful photo tips and more as you start experimenting with shutter speed.

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