Camera Basics: An Introduction to Shutter Speed

You might have recognized these numbers in your DSLR cameras where ½ second is slow shutter speed while 1/1000 second, the highest at 1/8000 second is fast shutter speed. While the different shutter angles are seen on a cinema camera. Are they different? Let’s find out more. 

What is Shutter?

A shutter is a device on the lens of the camera that opens and closes to control the amount of light entering the camera. It acts like a wall that opens to capture an image and closes when it finishes. Once you click the button to capture an image, the shutter will open up and expose the light to pass through the lens and closes again. That’s the basic function of the camera shutter. 


Mastering Shutter Speed - Outdoor Photo AcademyImage: Google

How does Shutter affect photography/videography?

Shutter affects two things:

  1. The brightness of the image – the faster the shutter where lesser light is exposed, the darker the image. And the longer the shutter where it exposes more light, the brighter the image will be. 
  2. Motion blur of the image – the faster the shutter, the cleaner/sharper the image. The longer the shutter, the more blurry the image will be. 

Fast shutter = shorter exposure to light  = dark and sharper image 

Slow shutter = longer exposure to light  = brighter and motion blurry image

A Beginner's Guide to Shutter Speed | Skillshare BlogImage: Google

Is Shutter Speed the same as Shutter Angle?

Shutter Speed and Shutter Angle define the same thing just that they’re measured differently. The only difference between them is that Shutter Angle is measured in degree while Shutter Speed is measured in time – usually measured in fractions of a second. Shutter speeds are rather more practical in still photography while Shutter Angles are usually used in film/video.

In this digital era, Shutter Speed is likely used. ½ means half a second and 1/500 means 1/250 of a second. The smaller the number (higher denominator), the faster the shutter speed while the bigger the number (smaller denominator), the slower the shutter speed.

What Is Shutter Speed? Ultimate Photography Guide | CreativeliveImage: Google

Bigger fraction = faster shutter speed

Smaller fraction = slower shutter speed 

Shutter Angle brings back to the days of analog technology using their motion picture cameras where there is a shutter mechanism that is adjusted to a certain angle. A smaller angle means faster shutter speed while a larger angle means slower shutter speed. A 360-degree shutter means that the film is entirely exposed at 360 degrees and so on. 

When shooting a film/video, the proper cinematic Shutter Speed is at a 180degree – 180-degree shutter rule. The rule explains the connection between Shutter Speed and frame rate at which your shutter speed is double the amount of your frame rate (also known as frames per second/FPS) So for example, if you are shooting at 25 Frames per second, your Shutter speed should be kept at 1/50. No matter what frame rate you choose, your camera will keep that ratio between frame rate and shutter speed locked in. It will give more natural motion than we see with our normal eyes. 

So for example, when the film is recorded in 25 Frames per second, it is equivalent to 1/25 of a second. The 360-degree shutter, a less recommended (depends on the feel) angle will give more motion blur than what a normal person would see as it gives an imaginary yet dreamy effect.

180 degrees, on the other hand, recorded in 25 Frames per second will double the shutter speed at 1/50th of a second – the common angle for a cinematic look. And 90 degrees recorded in 25 Frames per second which is equivalent to 1/100th of a second is usually used in fighting/running and war scenes as it gives an intense/dynamic feel.

Confluence Mobile - Arnold RendererImage: Plowboylifestyle

Wider shutter angle = slower shutter speed = more motion blur

Narrow shutter angle = faster shutter speed = less blurry 

How do you convert the angle to shutter speed or vice versa?

Shutter Angle to Shutter Speed = (Frame Rate x 360) / Angle

For an example, 25fps x 360 / 180 = 1/50 of a second

Shutter Speed to Shutter Angle = (Frame Rate x 360) / Shutter Speed

For an example, 25fps x 360 / 50 = 180 degrees

Overall, experimenting with the shutter is the only way to explore the feel of your short film/video. A 180 degrees shutter angle which equates to the shutter speed of 1/48 (or 1/50) of a second at 24 fps (or 25fps) is the best way to achieve a consistent yet cinematic feel. Stay tuned for more interesting blogs ahead!

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