Camera Shutter Speed and Aperture Settings Explained

For those of us who use the common or garden variety of point and shoot cameras, terms such as shutter speed and aperture settings can sound complicated and daunting. So we try and simplify things a little bit here. We will try to understand why shutter speed is important and what impact it has on photographs. We will also look a little bit at the aperture and its settings.

What is shutter speed?

Shutter speed is also known as exposure time in photography. Simply put, the shutter speed of the camera is the amount of time that the shutter of the camera remains open, and it is this that determines how much light will reach the film or the image sensor of a digital camera. Lowering the shutter speed will increase the exposure value or the amount of light that reaches the camera whereas a faster shutter speed will decrease or shorten the exposure.


Low vs. high speed

Most often, photographers lower the shutter speeds in order to suggest movement in a picture. Slower shutter speeds will give that blurry look to indicate movement as in the case of a waterfall, firecrackers etc. Take for instance a picture of a road with vehicles moving on it in the night with those streaks of light to suggest moving vehicles. Such a look will have to be achieved with the help of a lower shutter speed.

A high shutter speed will give you different results with the headlights of cars appearing not as streaks, but as dots. Similarly, when slower shutter speeds are used for shooting running water, this will give that foggy or ghostly effect.

What is aperture?

Aperture is the size of the opening in the lens through which the light travels. Apart from shutter speed it is the other factor that impacts exposure value. The smaller the aperture, the less is the amount of light that is admitted.

Impact of aperture size on pictures

The aperture setting will impact the depth of field or the number of items in an image that will be in focus. Aperture settings are measured in f stops – smaller stops help to keep more of any image in focus, whereas larger stops will reduce the depth of field and blur out parts of the image. So if you want to be able to take those professional looking pictures where the subject in the foreground is in focus, whereas the background is blurry, you can achieve this with the help of a large aperture and fast shutter settings.