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What Speed for Shutter Speed Priority Mode?

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What Speed for Shutter Speed Priority Mode?

Postby sjj1805 » Thu Mar 12, 2009 3:11 am

Having looked at various books, magazines Web Sites etc.
This link gives the typical advice for setting the shutter speed when using Shutter speed Priority:
Shutter speed and the difference between fast and slow shutter speeds

Earlier today I was out on the local Nature Wildlife Reserve and had my camera in Aperture Priority Mode - the mode I tend to use most often.
The next most used mode I tend to use is fully manual.

I noticed a few "Action" shots - there was a railway line running along one of the boundaries of the nature centre and so a passing train would make a good action shot. A few flying geese would provide another action shot.

I turned the dial from Av to Tv and then realised that the last time I had set the camera to TV (Shutter Priority Mode) was a poor attempt at taking a shot of the full moon on a clear night sky. (Must get back to my books on that one!)

So there I am stuck out in the middle of nowhere and my camera is set to something like a 3 second exposure. I had to think quickly what shutter speed to set the camera to in order to get the sort of action shot I wanted.

:idea: Inspiration set in :D :D :D

1. Set the camera to Av (Aperture Priority Mode) and select your depth of field (Small number - lots of blurred stuff, Big Number lots of in focus stuff) and then focus on the area that your "Action shot" is expected to take place.

2. The Camera now decides the best shutter speed for that aperture setting. Make a mental note of it.

3. Turn the Dial to Tv (Shutter Priority Mode) and then set the speed to that indicated in step 2 above.

4. Now you can adjust the speed. Want to blur the action to get that feeling of speed? knock the speed down one or two notches.
Want to freeze the action dead in its tracks - knock the speed up one or two notches.

Perhaps it is not the "Text Book" way of doing things but it works.
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Re: What Speed for Shutter Speed Priority Mode?

Postby df » Tue Sep 14, 2010 10:45 pm

That definitely does work. You can also guess at a starting point, watch your meter (assuming that your camera gives you one) and adjust for extreme over or underexposures. Don't forget, you can adjust your ISO as well, something many seasoned shooters forget as with film once it was loaded you're stuck shooting the whole roll at that speed or wasting the end of the roll.

As for the full moon shot with detail in the moon - the moon is lit by the sun, so the sunny 16 rule comes into play. f/16 for aperture and the reciprocal of your ISO for shutter speed. So if you're shooting at ISO 100 you'd shoot for 1/100th, for ISO 400 you'd shoot for 1/400th. Get it close if you don't have that exact position.

For getting the moonshine (detail in the dark side) switch to f/11 or f/8 and 1/ISO.

This just addresses the exposure of the moon itself.
Regards, Dan

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Re: What Speed for Shutter Speed Priority Mode?

Postby Chevvyf1 » Mon Mar 14, 2011 10:38 am

THIS is great thanks ! Just what I want and have printed on one A4 page for my son who is just starting out with DSLR ! Succinct and in a nutshell
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Re: What Speed for Shutter Speed Priority Mode?

Postby bigfatron » Sun May 08, 2011 10:43 am

An old topic but i'll chip in my two penneth. It depends on desired effect like you say. I do a reasonable amount of aviation photography and the odd bit of motorsport. If i'm after panning shots where the background is blurred i'll be shooting <1/500s. If i'm after prop blur on propellor-driven aircraft i'll be doing <1/250s. It helps that the camera I have has an auto ISO mode as this means if the right exposure in Tv mode means an aperture > than the maximum aperture for my lens it'll automatically drive the ISO up to compensate.


To freeze action I tend to go for shutter speeds in excess of 1/1000s, although quite often i'll switch back to Av mode for this and shoot at an acceptable ISO wide or near-wide open. For alot of birds in flight you really need to go quick as the tips of their wings move very fast indeed. For instance below was taken at 1/1000s and there is still some blur towards the end of the wing. Whereas the second in better lighting was at 1/3200s and stops it pretty dead.


One other consideration is the rule of thumb on hand-shooting, that typically you want to maintain a shutter speed >= 1/focal length (e.g. if you're using a 300mm lens it becomes tricky to eliminate camera shake handshooting at slower than 1/300s). This is where good technique, a very steady hand, a tripod/monopod and/or optically stabilised lenses come into their own. For instance, the shot below was 1/200s @291mm and was using some rocks as a makeshift monopod. I probably should've gone slower still but it was my one chance of getting the shot on the day so I went conservative to get something versus a blurred nothing!


As for the moon, what df says is pretty on the money. I think I normally use something like 1/200s at about f11 for full moon shots, and you obviously need longer with earlier phases (which I think are better anyway as alot of the detail is lost in the glare of a brighter moon). You've already discovered that most cameras are pretty rubbish as metering such shots so you'll find anything taken after dark is best shot in full manual if your camera allows. Getting exposure right then becomes a mix of experience plus trial and error.
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