Understanding How Light Plays into Photography

High speed cameras

Shutter speed on a camera is one of the pillars in photography. It can make a huge difference between blurring and freeze frames and other dramatic effects by using super slow motion cameras or ultra high speed cameras.

Camera Shutter
First of all, you need to understand what exactly a camera shutter is. The best way to describe it is to relate it to a curtain in front of the camera that stays shut until the camera takes the picture. Once the camera clicks, the curtain opens and exposes the light to the curtain or the shutter. When the sensor has collected all of the light, the shutter then closes and shuts out further light.

Shutter Speed
This is also sometimes called exposure time. It’s the amount of time a shutter is open and exposed to the light. When the shutter speed is fast, this is how freeze action is created. When you are using slow motion cameras, the slow shutter speed can make the moving objects seem blurry such as moving vehicles where a sense of speed is needing to be portrayed or to capture a waterfall against a still background.

Measuring Speed
Generally speaking, shutter speeds on fast or slow motion cameras are measured within fractions of seconds. For example, a quarter of a second compared to 1/250th of a second. An extremely effective and modern DSLR camera could handle speeds up to 1/8000th of a second and even faster.

Equipment Needed
When working with shutter speed you don’t really need an extra equipment. If you want to use a tripod then it may be easier if you are a beginner but if you don’t love tripods then it is very doable to hold the camera by hand and still be able to take good pictures with shaking the camera. There are also various hand exercises that you can do in order to avoid camera shake.

Photography is about capturing the light effectively. You have to be able to get the right amount of light as well as control the sensitivity of whatever you are capturing. The amount of light varies by four different factors. These factors are intensity, duration, distance and modification. Let’s look into each one a little bit.

Intensity – this refers to the brightness. Photons are emitted by the light source and the more photons there are, the brighter the light is. Darker photos received less photons and lighter photos, more. In essence, intensity means how many photons are collected by the camera.

Duration – this refers to how long the light is a source. While the sun is a constant light source, you can turn off and on artificial lights in order to increase or decrease the amount of time that photons are exposed to the camera. Basically, this means how long photons are collected by the camera.

Distance – referring to the distance that is between the light and the object. There is quite a bit of math involved in photography that can get fairly complicated here and would need an entirely new article to explain!

Modifications – there are many ways that the light can be modified. For example, if you are taking pictures outside during the day, you can move your shoot to the shade to allow the clouds or trees to dim the sun. You can also use reflectors, diffusers and other effects to create shade when necessary.

Hopefully this article has helped you to see there is a lot more to taking good photographs than simply pointing and shooting. A lot of vision research and studying that goes into truly understand the photography industry and how to really be a great photographer. Understanding angles, slow motion cameras, high speeds, photons, lighting and various equipment all goes into being able to stand out from other photographers. Photography is becoming quite a trendy profession but not everyone really has the knowledge to make it. Having an eye for a good picture is only scratching the surface of what a person needs in order to be a successful and long term photographer. If you don’t have these other skills and information then your photography career will most likely be a short one. But if you take the time to figure out your craft, you could really make it big time.

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