Jun 20 2007

What Every Shutterbug Should Know

Published by at 10:48 am under Equipment

If you are a beginning photographer, one of the parts of your camera that you need to understand is the shutter. When you take a picture, the shutter is the part of the camera that exposes the scene to the film, making it possible for light to create an image (which you later can develop and print). Therefore, without the shutter, you cannot have a working camera.

The shutter is found either directly in front of the film or in the lens, depending on the kind of camera you own. Shutters are mechanical devices, and operate either by the use of a spring or, if you have a newer camera, by the use of electromagnets. Electromagnetic shutters are usually more precise, so the newer and more expensive your camera is, the better chance it will have a shutter run by electromagnets.

On many cameras, you can manually choose a shutter speed. Shutter speeds are measured in seconds, and the natural progression is each new setting is twice as fast at the previous one. So, the shutter speed progression on your camera might look like this: 1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/15, 1/30, 1/60 and so on, all the way up to 1/4000 or more. (Shutter speeds can also be higher than one.) The faster you shutter speed, the more quickly you will capture an image, so faster speeds are used for times when there is a lot of movement, such as during a sporting event.

Most of the amateur cameras on the market have a focal plane shutter, meaning that the shutter is located just in front of the film. In professional cameras, the shutter is in the lens, so that each lens has its own shutter with specific shutter speed progressions. A focal plane shutter works by having two blinds and an open area. When you are not taking a picture, the first blind covers the film, preventing it from being exposed to the light. This blind moves either vertically or horizontally when you take a picture, and is replaced by the second blind. The speed at which the second blind replaces the first is the shutter speed. The flash on your camera is timed perfectly to coincide with the gap between the two blinds, so your scene is illuminated.

Manually setting the shutter speed can help you prevent blurry and out of focus pictures. However, even if you do not know much about shutters, you can still change the settings on your camera. Many have features to turn your camera on “night setting” which changes the shutter speed to over one second, or “action setting” which changes the shutter speed to be faster. Consult your manual to find out how these shutter speed settings work on your camera.

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