Shutter Priority - What is it and when to use it

I wrote about Aperture Priority in my last post which gives the photographer control of the camera’s aperture while leaving the shutter speed and ISO up to the camera. This a good setting to use for most photography including portraits, landscapes, family, and vacation. However, this setting is NOT good for freezing fast-moving subjects. 

If you're intent is to freeze fast-moving subjects, consider using Shutter Priority. This mode is designated on the camera's mode dial as 'Tv' on Canon and 'S' on most other cameras. In this mode, you, the photographer have full control of how fast the shutter opens and closes while leaving other settings like aperture and ISO up to the camera. How fast the shutter opens and closes is called ‘shutter speed.’ Shutter speed is measured in seconds or fractions of a second such as 1/800 (of a second). Shutter Priority is best when you need to capture a fast-moving child, an athlete, a motorcycle or bird. In these cases, you’ll be using shutter speeds ranging from 1/250th to 1/3000th of a second. The faster your subject the faster the required shutter speed. 


 good shutter speed targets:

Shutter Speed Chart -  ©johnguillaume

Shutter Speed Chart - ©johnguillaume

Remember, the shutter speed also impacts the amount of light that your camera’s sensor receives. So, at 1/3000th of a second, you're not letting a lot of light onto your camera's sensor, so you’ll need a good amount of ambient light (and a fast lens - such a maximum aperture of f2.8 or faster) to capture an image with the proper exposure. In the absence of great light, however, your camera will compensate automatically by increasing the ISO value (ISO impacts the camera sensor's sensitivity to light). While there isn't anything inherently wrong with this, you should be aware that ISO values above 800-ish will start to introduce noticeable grain into your image. However, if a high ISO is what it takes to get the shot, then do it...sometimes you just don't have a choice. 

Let me know if you have any questions in the comments section below. 

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