Does your footage look too choppy? Are action scenes a streaky mess? It might be because your shutter speed isn’t set properly. The shutter in a camera is a lot like a pair of shutters on a window. It controls how much light comes through and hits the camera’s sensor.
This week, we continue to look at exposure. There are three critical pieces to achieving good exposure and creative control with your shots. Fortunately, shutter speed is the easiest to learn, with just a few simple rules.
How much light does your camera see? The aperture of your camera is its portal to the light in your scene (and without light, there are no pictures or video). Controlling the aperture is essential to getting the right amount of light on to your camera’s sensor to capture the best shots.
There’s another side to aperture as well. As you open the aperture wider, you can narrow the depth of field in your shot, blurring more of the frame outside of your immediate focus area. This is often a hallmark of the “DSLR video” look. Mastering aperture is critical to high-quality video and photos.
When it comes to capturing great images, exposure is critical. Under- or overexpose your shot and you lose precious details. But setting the proper exposure isn’t easy; your light may move behind a cloud, or change over time. When shooting video, exposure requires an almost scientific understanding of light.
In last week’s installment of The Practicing Photographer, we joined Ben Long at a wildlife preserve, where he photographed buffalo and prairie dogs—and shared some wildlife photography tips along the way. This week, it’s back to the buffalo—but this time, they’re on Ben’s computer screen. Something went wrong during Ben’s wildlife shoot: A lot of his photos were slightly overexposed and washed out. Camera light meters aren’t perfect, and when they don’t read a scene accurately, exposure problems result.
Fortunately, Adobe Photoshop—and other imaging programs, such as Lightroom, Aperture, and iPhoto—can often fix exposure problems. And if you shoot using your camera’s raw mode, you have that much more adjustment flexibility. That’s because raw mode saves every bit of data that your camera’s sensor recorded. By comparison, when you shoot in JPEG mode, your camera’s internal software—in its zeal to create a compact image file—throws away roughly one-third of the information that the sensor recorded.