The Manual Modes…don’t shudder at the shutter

Okay, so I have been getting emails and comments wanting me to spend some time on the “Manual” modes.

I am very happy to do this :)

So here we go.

I will just give a one sentence on the “P” mode or Program.

This is almost like Auto, it will act like Auto unless you tell it differently.

And with that said, let’s go right into the other modes.  I do want to just do one at a time, so we will see how much I can cover in one week.

Let’s start with the “S” mode on Nikon or the “Tv” mode on the Canon.  This is your Shutter mode.  Remember, when it comes to using your manual mode, you are in essence controlling how much light you are letting into your camera.  The Shutter mode is no exception.  When you control your Shutter, you control how fast or slow your camera exposes the picture you are taking.  You are controlling how long the light is hitting your image sensor.

This may seem a little overwhelming, and it can be.

Now, I don’t want to scare you off.  But I want you to understand that just by reading your manual or this blog or others’ blogs about shutter speed, you will not be able to truly understand unless you go out and practice a lot with it.

One great thing: when you are in your shutter mode, your aperture mode will work automatically on it’s own, so you don’t have to worry about that ;)

You will find that as you take your pictures, using different shutter speeds, you will get REALLY over-exposed pictures, REALLY dark pictures and REALLY blurry pictures.  This will happen until you are able to understand when to use a fast shutter speed and when to use a slow shutter speed.


So let’s start with the extremes.  These are easier to work with as it is easier to gage about where to put your speed.  The more light you have, when you are outside, the faster you shutter speed should be.  The faster your shutter speed is, the more you will FREEZE time.  However, if you don’t have enough light, you will get a dark picture with a fast shutter speed.

Here is an example of a fast shutter speed:

The water has even stopped for the camera.  Time is frozen at that one moment.

On the other hand, pictures you see of the stars or headlights at night are all done with a slower shutter speed. (and a tripod)

Thus, the slower your shutter speed, the more light you let in and you will tend to get a a picture that moves.

For example:

This first picture was taken by my dad, Nick Jorgensen (I know, he is amazing)

See how the water has a flowing motion to it?  That is because the shutter was open for a longer period of time, allowing the water’s movement to be captured.


Here is one I took:

This also had to be slow, so I could capture the entire strike of the lighting.


You can get some really fun pictures when you play around with your shutter speed.  So go out and see what you can capture and then come back and tell us all about it.

Let me know what you tried.  Let’s see what worked for you and what didn’t work.

Remember, you may take 100 pictures and only get one good one.  But it will be worth getting that one great picture! I promise!

Next week, I will continue to talk about the shutter speed…we will go over, in detail, what settings you should use to get certain images.  This week I just want you to play around and discover on your own how the shutter works in your favor.