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Puerto Vallarta News NetworkVallarta Living | Art Talk | June 2009 

Photo Tip of the Week: Shutter Speed - Part 2
email this pageprint this pageemail usLarry and Linda Bennett - PVNN

Photo Tips of the Week are written by Larry Bennett, a professional photographer living in Puerto Vallarta. To view more of his work, click HERE or visit
Yes, just another day in Paradise, that’s one of my favorite sayings. I hope you have all had just another day/week in Paradise. We were discussing shutter speeds last week, so before you begin reading this week's article, you may want to re-read Part One of my Shutter Speed series.

Almost all automatic cameras today have some sort of pre-programmed shooting modes. These are all pre-determined and designed for specific situations such as action, landscapes, and portraits. The following information shows how shutter speed affects basic pre-programmed camera modes.

Action Mode
Action mode is an automatic setting mode where the camera is predisposed to use the highest shutter speed possible for the lighting situation. In this mode you cannot set the exact shutter speed you want, but you can lessen your chances of a blurry image due to slow shutter speed by using this mode.

Landscape Mode

Landscape mode is basically the opposite of Action Mode. Landscape is programmed to give the smallest aperture (largest F-Stop - highest F number) possible in order to ensure a large depth of field, less blur in your background.

This means that the shutter speed will be slower. If your camera does not allow Manual or Tv mode (shutter speed) and you want to shoot a nighttime or blurred motion shot, try the Landscape setting. This is about the only chance you’ll have to try to capture your image.

Night Mode

Night mode goes a step farther than landscape mode. Night mode not only prefers the slowest shutter speed possible, it also turns off the flash and sets the fastest film speed possible. This means that your shutter speed may be only marginally slower because the fast film speed decreases the amount of light needed to expose the image.

Using a tripod is almost a must, if you don’t want to carry a tripod, find a log, ledge, or rock, (anything solid) and shoot from there. You may also try a 2 or 10 second delay timer, this will give you a little more time to get out of the way and not have any chance of camera movement.

Portrait Mode

Portrait mode is a bit tricky when dealing with shutter speed. Portrait is programmed to have a shallow depth of field (large aperture - small F/Stop) with a more blurred background. When using portrait mode, try using a higher ISO, this will throw the background out of focus while obtaining a low noise image.

This means that the shutter speed will be faster due to the aperture setting BUT because the camera is using a higher ISO you will probably lose any shutter speed advantage. I know it sounds confusing, but try a few test shots and you will again see what I mean. When you want to be good at something it usually requires you to practice, practice, and practice some more. Being a good photographer is no different, it requires practice, practice, practice.


Manual setting is marked "M" on newer cameras and is the only mode with which you will need to adjust all of your other settings (ISO, aperture, white balance, etc.) This is by far my favorite place to be, manual is a control freaks domain.

Manual mode means that you are in control of the settings of your camera, this setting is where you can be the most creative. If you set the shutter speed while in M mode, you will need to make an adjustment to aperture yourself in order to maintain a correct exposure or white balance. Use your camera's built in light meter to ensure the settings (or values) are in balance.

ISO is almost always forgotten while in manual mode, but ISO can make or break your image. Don’t forget this setting, play with it, experiment with it, be creative. ISO will allow you a chance to obtain a wonderful image in low light conditions, shadows, etc. If you know ISO well you can even alter some colors by increasing or decreasing ISO.

Shutter Priority

The setting on your camera marked "Tv" is called Shutter Priority mode. This means that if you use Tv mode and set the shutter speed, the camera will adjust your aperture value to maintain a correct exposure. In this mode you also have ISO changing capabilities, use it.


Program mode is marked by a "P" (on the few cameras that have this option). I have always referred to P as A or automatic on steroids. In program mode, your camera responds to some preset conditions you programmed through the menu.

Generally, this mode allows you to set either the shutter speed or the aperture while the camera adjusts the other settings to maintain proper exposure. This is a great setting for night time shooting with a flash or just walking the streets on all kinds of conditions. P could always be a great go to place when mass confusion sets in.

Basic Guide

Now that you have a good understanding of what the shutter speed is and how to control your camera's shutter speed, you need some guidelines on what specific shutter speeds are needed in different situations.

Here are some photography tips for shutter speeds in specific situations. The speeds listed are the needed speeds to freeze the action under normal conditions. If you want to blur the action, decrease the shutter speed. To adjust for a very fast situation, increase the shutter speed. When shooting some moving objects, regardless of balance or metering suggestions, I like to raise my ISO to 400 (another opportunity to plug ISO.)

• Football, Soccer, Volleyball - 1/400-600
• Baseball, Softball, Hockey - 1/350-600
• Moving Automobiles - 1/600
• People Jumping or Running - 1/400-600
• Golf Balls, Tennis Balls - 1/1500-3200
• Whales in the Bay - 1/400-1,250
• Airplanes landing or taking off - 1/600-1500

As you probably already know, we have covered in two weeks what it would take someone 2 minutes to say, but the purpose of these tips on camera basics are for an in-depth look at a simple subject. Aperture shutter speed is a simple subject that can be further tested in your own backyard or home or where ever at your choosing.

Remember the test I described in last week's article to test apertures? If not, refer to last week’s article. Do this same test. Set up and shoot the same object, many images with each image being set at a different speed.

Shoot images of vehicles going down the road, people walking, kids playing football, or any action-packed image. Try the test and it will help you to understand more in-depth of what shutter speed is about. When you turn those dials, you will know why you are turning those dials.

Until next week, remember, just another day in Paradise and F8 and be there!

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Photo Tips of the week are written by Larry Bennett, a professional photographer living in Puerto Vallarta. These tips are to be just tips, refer to your cameras owner's manual for specifics on your camera. Readers are welcome to enjoy Larry's website at

Click HERE for more Photo Tips from Larry Bennett

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving
the included information for research and educational purposes • m3 © 2009 BanderasNews ® all rights reserved • carpe aestus